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If I Were Eppler..., Part IV

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Jeff Joiner constructs a roster.

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Welcome to the fourth installment of the If I were Billy Eppler series, where HH writers explicate the transactions for their desired Angels offseason. Previous editions by various authors can be found here:

Part I: Jessica DeLine

Part II: H.T. Ennis

Part III: Noy Telinú

In order to rosterbate responsibly, guidelines for the series are as follows.

For the luxury tax payroll, $157.4 million is the amount of estimated present obligations for the 2020 season, when contracts, arbitration-eligible players, 40-man salaries, and player benefits are accounted for.

All in all, 25-man player salaries will be estimated at $175 million for the upcoming season, which is achieved by adding 10% to the prior year’s 25-man player payroll. See this payroll post for more information. Assuming no additional arbitration-eligible players are non-tendered, this gives the GM $34.3 million to spend during the offseason (Justin Bour, Luis Garcia, and Nick Tropeano have already been non-tendered, and this is reflected in these numbers).

As for proposed offseason moves, MLB Trade Rumors’ free-agent predictions and FanGraphs’ crowdsourced contract estimates are to be used as baselines for any free-agent signings.

Trades must be as realistic as possible. One popular tactic among baseball fans on the internet is offering a bunch of players you don’t like in exchange for some you do. In reality, that’s not how trades actually work, so that’s off limits. Furthermore, even if player values are equal, teams make acquisition decisions based on player tendencies, immediate needs, supply and demand, ability to develop talent, among other things: that is to say, trades made should be mutually beneficial. The Baseball Trade Values trade estimator can be used as another data point to estimate, though at the end of the day, each team has their own motivations and apparatuses to value players differently, and this should be taken into account.

Finally, if an arbitration-eligible player is to be involved in a transaction, MLBTR’s arbitration projections are to be used to calculate the player’s luxury tax implications since final arbitration numbers are not yet in.

Got it? Let’s go.


My offseason priorities

  1. Adding an ace
  2. Creating a deeper pitching staff
  3. Adding some thump to the lineup
  4. Keeping my key assets on the farm

If I’m Billy Eppler, I need to have two honest conversations. One with myself and another with the man who signs my paycheck, Mr. Arte Moreno.

The first conversation is the most difficult. I need to recognize that I have yet to properly identify and develop starting pitching talent. Outside of the unproven Griffin Canning, whose career is still unknown, I have missed badly on my other selections. As a result, I need two quality rotation pieces and some depth, not just one big signing.

The second conversation is with Arte Moreno. If my job depends on making the playoffs in 2020, I’m a desperate man with no regard for the next wave of talent. Adell and Marsh are on the trading block. However, if this year is to open a window of contention and show marked improvement, I’m much more pragmatic.

For this exercise, I assumed the second scenario between Arte and Eppler. This year needs to be a winner, but not an “all in” type of year. As a result, I raise the ceiling, add some considerable bats at areas of need, and push for a winner while still holding on to my few A level prospects. The future outfield of Marsh/Trout/Adell is just too promising to throw away.

I also wanted to plan on roster that worked with Maddon’s tendencies and around the “flex” type rotation needed to accommodate Ohtani’s schedule and likely innings limit. So, with that in mind I bring you.....


Sign Zack Wheeler

5 years, $90 million [$18M AAV]

Zack has the second most upside on the pitching market. Second highest fastball velocity (just like the real Eppler), outstanding spin rates, and an injury that is fully two years behind him. Look, I love Gerrit Cole but I need to a chance to win every night of the week, not just one. For the contract I literally split the MLBTR and Fangraphs. I pay Zack $14 million this year, $16 million next year, and $20 million each year after that.

Other Options:

Madison Bumgarner is a horse. Two freak injuries have limited his innings recently, but if anything that makes him more attractive to me. Just a few months older than Cole, he’s my second choice at likely the same contract.

Sign Tanner Roark

2 years, $18 million [$9M AAV]

Tanner Roark is a proven middle of the order arm. In the last three years he’s started an average of 30 games, had an ERA of about 4.5, right in line with his xERA, and averaged a hair over 2 WAR. In an era when a quality start is considered 6 innings of 3 run ball, he’s just about that. Good for 5-6 innings per start he gives the team a chance to win and at $9 million needs to be only as good as 1.5 WAR to be a decent signing. Let’s go $8 million then 10 million for his salary.

Sign Clayton Richard

1 years, $2 million [$2M AAV]

The Angels are almost certainly going back to the “flex” type rotation to accommodate Ohtani and limit his innings. I personally think the ability to transition from bullpen to starter and back is valuable. Steamer projects Richard to throw 105 innings of very mediocre baseball next year. Between 10 starts of 5 innings a piece and another couple dozen long relief/extra innings games, Clayton could be more valuable to the Angels than it appears both on the field and in allowing the Angels to keep an extra arm in Salt Lake.

Sign Mike Moustakas

3 years, $36 million [$12M AAV]

The Angels lineup needs some depth and adding the always dependable Moustakas to be 10-15% above average with the bat while playing a respectable third base is a nice way to make it happen and set up the trade below. To make the numbers work, Mike gets $10 million, $12 million, and $14 million as salaries.

Sign Cameron Maybin

1 years, $1 million [$1M AAV]

I’ll need to tweak a salary somewhere above, maybe convert a million of Wheeler or Moose to a signing bonus, but we need a solid 4th outfielder who can also be a good mentor for Adell in Tempe. Among the heap of nearly retired, fourth outfielder types Maybin is fun to root for, great in the community, and capable of playing all three positions. Plus he’s been better than league average with the bat since he left Anaheim.

I’d have him get some starts in right, particularly against lefties, and spell Upton late in games with the lead. Last year he put up 1.5 WAR in just over 250 ABs, and I think that’s about what he’d get here unless Adell starts the year in Anaheim.

(Edit: the non-tender of Stassi essentially covers this signing)

Trade Proposal:

Tommy La Stella and Jordyn Adams to the Cubs for Wilson Contreras and Kyle Ryan

Salary neutral once Noe Ramirez is non-tendered. Contreras is projected to make about $1.6 million more than La Stella and Noe makes about $1.4 million more than Kyle Ryan

Catching is the second largest need for the Angels behind pitching. Yes, it would hurt to give up a former first round pick with plenty of upside in Adams but Contreras is 27 years old and under control for 3 years. He’s also been 17% better than the average MLB hitter per FanGraphs at a position in which the Angels were roughly 40% below average last year. This is a huge jolt to the lineup. Basically, this is nearly the bat we all want in Grandal but much younger and in exchange for talent rather than a huge contract.

The Cubs move on from Addison Russell, move Baez to short permanently and have La Stella to cover second base and give injury/trade protection at third. Plus they add a toolsy prospect who is a few years away from MLB. The trade simulator accepted this, so I did my research.

Kyle Ryan and Noe Ramirez are each about 1 WAR players who pitch in the middle innings but Ryan is a lefty and holds a solid platoon advantage.

Non Tender:

Noe Ramirez, Max Stassi

Minor League Deal:

I think some minor league depth signings are key this off season and should be largely influenced by Callaway. His former pupil Danny Salazar would be at the top of my list.


Offseason in review:

So rather than hoping you get to see Cole the next home stand and be disappointed otherwise, fans should be able to go to each game with a reasonable hope of seeing a win. Wheeler is only 29 and should have several good years ahead, Roark and Richard provide predictable if not great innings and the Salt Lake team has Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, Dillon Peters and Jaime Barria waiting for the inevitable injuries. Plus this lineup should score more often than last year’s squad as I added significant offense at both catcher and third. And the defense up the middle should be top notch with Simba and Fletcher at the keystone and Trout patrolling center.

Finally this team plays right into Maddon’s hand. He’s always had a jack of all trades player he could move around the diamond so he could exploit pinch hitting opportunities and match ups. In this case, Fletcher is a better defensive/lower OBP version of Zobrist. Maybin can pinch run or take over in the outfield, there are lefties and righties to keep his lineup changing ways happy. In short, Joe can manage the way he enjoys managing.

Here are the team’s depth charts:

1B: Pujols, Walsh

2B: Fletcher, Rengifo, Moustakas in pinch

SS: Simba, Fletcher, Rengifo

3B: Moustakas, Fletcher, Rengifo

LF: Upton, Maybin, Goodwin, Fletcher

CF Trout, Goodwin, Maybin

RF: Goodwin, Maybin, Walsh

Projected lineup (no Ohtani):

  1. Fletcher
  2. Trout
  3. Moustakas
  4. Contreras
  5. Upton
  6. Simba
  7. Pujols
  8. Walsh
  9. Goodwin/Maybin

Projected lineup (w/ Ohtani):

  1. Fletcher
  2. Trout
  3. Moustakas
  4. Contreras
  5. Ohtani
  6. Upton
  7. Simba
  8. Pujols/Walsh
  9. Goodwin/Maybin

Bench:

  • Luis Rengifo
  • Kevan Smith
  • Matt Thaiss
  • Cameron Maybin

Starting rotation :

  • Zack Wheeler
  • Shohei Ohtani
  • Tanner Roark
  • Griffin Canning
  • Andrew Heaney
  • Clayton Richard as flex sixth starter/long reliever

Bullpen:

  • Hansel Robles
  • Ty Buttrey
  • Keynan Middleton
  • Kyle Ryan
  • Cam Bedrosian
  • Justin Anderson
  • Luke Bard
  • Clayton Richard as flex sixth starter/long reliever

DL:

  • Zack Cozart — would replace Thaiss if healthy.