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Angels do quite nicely in Martín Maldonado trade

The first and possibly last trade of the 2018 deadline for the Angels, Eppler moves an expiring asset to the monolithic moonwalkers (the Astros).

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Yesterday, the Angels traded their starting catcher Martín Maldonado to the Astros in a deal that was reported by both beat writer Jeff Fletcher and’s Mark Feinsand.

The trade, in summation:

HOU gets:

C Martín Maldonado

LAA gets:

LHP Patrick Sandoval

$250,000 in international bonus pool money

While the move itself might catch some as off-guard, the rationale behind it is quite sound. With the Angels far, far back (read: 10 games back of the second wild-card with two teams to leapfrog), odds are that they will not make the playoffs. In fact, while it’s not an exact science, the Angels’ odds, according to Fangraphs, to do so are under one percent. It’s not what you want. The timing was right for such a move—the YankeesGary Sanchez recently went on the DL and Houston was looking for a defensive-minded catcher capable of throwing out runners for the stretch run—and rather than letting Maldonado go for nothing in free agency, the organization decided to trade him to Houston for a piece that may help for the future.

In Patrick Sandoval, they did just that.

This year, Sandoval has thrown 88 innings with a 2.56 ERA, striking out over a batter per inning and walking less than two-per-nine.

Per Baseball America:

A 11th-round pick in 2015 out of Mission Viejo (Calif.) HS, just 20 miles south of Anaheim, Sandoval had his breakout season in 2018, headlined by a streak of 42 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. Overall, he went 9-1, 2.56 in 19 games (13 starts) between low Class A Quad Cities and high Class A Buies Creek. Sandoval pitches like a smart, crafty lefthanded starter. He has four pitches he can throw for strikes, although only his changeup is seen as having plus potential. Sandoval does a good job of spotting his 88-94 mph fastball that he can sink down in the zone. His changeup gets above-average grades with some scouts grading it as a future plus pitch as it has solid deception and generates swings and misses. He mixes in a bigger, mid-70s curveball and a low-80s shorter, tighter slider. Both are more notable for being reliable pitches that he can locate, as neither shows much ability to miss bats.

Both Sandoval’s repertoire and command have been much-improved this year, thanks to an easily repeatable delivery (as seen with video from April 2018 below).

Sandoval throws a four-pitch mix (fastball, slider, curve, changeup) from an over-the-top delivery, concealing the ball well until released from the hand. Sandoval’s 90-92 mph fastball looks to be heavy and its viability seems to be tied to his ability to pinpoint location of the pitch. Its fringiness seems to be the factor holding him back from a higher ceiling than a back-end starter.

He has an above-average curveball and while reports are mixed on the development of the change, most evaluators agree Sandoval has enough feel for the pitch to improve its movement.

While we can’t really compare the deal to others since there weren’t any other trades concerning catchers made, the Angels traded a position player who might be expected to produce a half-win in exchange for a 45 FV breakout southpaw with a promising chance of pitching in the back-end of a major-league rotation for several years. That’s even before mentioning the international bonus pool money, with which the organization’s pro scouting department has done well with in recent history.