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Is Andrew Heaney a non-tender candidate?

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

I’m confident the vast majority of you read this headline and thought “no way, the Angels need pitching” and are here to let me have it. But as I started researching my “If I was Eppler” piece for this year, I think there’s a legitimate argument to be made.

Yes, I understand, the Angels desperately need pitching. They need quality pitching. They need dependable pitching. And that is exactly why non tendering Andrew Heaney might make sense. He’s one of the reasons the team is constantly short of pitching.

Take a look at MLBTR’s rundown of projected arbitration salaries. You will see that Heaney is the Angels largest projected salary at $5 million. Not bad at all, but still a notable sum.

His raise to $5 million is based primarily off of service time, not on field performance. 2019 was another injury marred season for Andrew in which he managed to only throw 95 innings, which he did at a clip that was 8% worse than the average MLB pitcher per ERA+.

In his 5 years with the Angels, Heaney’s innings totals have been 105, 6, 21.2, 180, and last year’s 95. Granted there was a Tommy John surgery and recovery to account for the extremely low numbers in the middle, but that means 2 of his 3 “healthy” seasons have seen him throw an average of 100 innings.

While on the mound, Heaney’s production has generally been below league average. His breakout 30 start, 180 inning year in 2018 was 1% better than MLB average according to ERA+. For his career, he sits at 93 on that same metric, 7% worse than the average MLB pitcher over that span.

Now, take a look at the list of free agent pitching from the same site. It is loaded with middle to back end rotation types. A crowded marketplace depresses value, and this is where Eppler could strike not quite gold, but 150ish innings of pitching at least equal to Heaney’s.

Over the same time period Heaney has been an Angel, the Twins Kyle Gibson has averaged 179 innings with an ERA+ of 96. Last year those totals were 160 and 95, respectively. Equal in quality to Andrew, but far more dependable. His projected contract by Fangraphs is 2 years $20 million, or $5 million per year more than Heaney this year, likely less next year due to an arbitration raise.

Brett Anderson is pretty similar to Heaney as far as injury history, but turned in a healthy 176 innings that were 11% better than league average last year. He did so while earning $1.5 million.

The well traveled Wade Miley has averaged 161 innings of ERA+ 93 ball over Andrew’s tenure here. Last year he threw 167 innings of 11% better than average baseball for $4.5 million. Fangraphs pegs him for a raise to about $8 million per year over 2 years. That’s a pretty inexpensive upgrade for a more reliable arm.

None of these options are ideal. None will save the Angels 2020 season. All should be available for around Heaney’s $5 million. Keep in mind, Fangraphs is calculating what a player is likely worth while I anticipate the depth of meh pitchers will depress wages.

Heaney’s numbers, like those of the players listed above and many others on the free agent list, reflect a back end piece with the potential to be a hair above league average.

But Andrew has not proven to be durable, which is a huge problem on a team with very little depth. The 12 starts and 80ish innings he can’t handle each year get soaked up by waiver claims and guys who honestly don’t belong at the MLB level, certainly not on a team purporting to compete.

Considering the relatively minor cost of keeping Andrew, I doubt he actually gets non tendered. But it would be very tempting to get some reliable arm to replace him if I was Eppler. After all, the market has multiple options available that have proven more reliable while delivering equal results.

I’m sure there will be plenty of comments about Andrew’s upside. Yes, when his breaking ball is locating well he does look like a pitcher about to break out and live up to his potential. But he’s looking at his age 29 season and each year, each injury, makes that breakout less likely to happen.

I’d love nothing more than to see Andrew break out as an Angel, to live up to that billing he had as a prospect. But the hopes and dreams of a fan should not over ride logic and the logic says we need somebody more reliable.

And when somebody more reliable would be a lateral move economically, that raises a valid question: is Andrew Heaney a non tender candidate?


Is Andrew Heaney a non tender candidate

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