By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
We just spent a lot of time discussing the Angels as sellers (and probably rightfully so) but what if Billy Eppler does the opposite and positions the team as buyers? Or even both, as sellers and buyers?
There is an argument to be made that with the probable return of Mike Trout after the All-Star break combined with the return of RHP Cam Bedrosian and the feasible reinstatement of RHP Huston Street, SP Tyler Skaggs, SP Andrew Heaney, and/or possibly SP Garrett Richards, that the Angels could make a more sustainable run in the 2nd half of the season to compete for a Wild Card berth.
If the team treads enough water leading up to the deadline it would not be surprising for the Angels to make one or more lateral moves that may, on the surface, look like a sell-off but in actuality would be a move towards contention not only in the 2nd half but in future seasons. They could even be outright, in-your-face upgrades.
Billy Eppler currently has about $25M of open cap space in terms of Average Annual Value as team payroll sits at about $170M and the threshold is at $195M for the 2017 season. Josh Hamilton comes off the books this year so there will be a flood of cash available going into the off-season. Make no mistake the Angels are well positioned to increase salary now and after the World Series ends.
This simply means that the Angels have room to make a significant addition to the team now, if Eppler prefers, rather than wait for the season to end. Once the season is over the Angels still have options so Billy will approach this deadline as a market of opportunity rather than necessity.
This payroll flexibility should transform the team into a perennial contender over the next 3 1/2 years. Acquiring at least one long-term controllable player at the deadline could help our Wild Card chances if the price and player are the right fit for the Halos.
To illustrate some possibilities let us discuss some hypothetical trade scenarios that would be lateral, or an upgrade, in nature.
Proposed Trade #1 –
Angels send RHP Bud Norris to the Cleveland Indians and A RHP Joe Gatto and AAA 3B Kaleb Cowart to the Cincinnati Reds
Indians send AAA SS Eric Stamets and A LHP Juan Hillman to the Cincinnati Reds
Reds send 3B Eugenio Suarez to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Every position player the Reds have is controlled for four or more seasons except CF Billy Hamilton (controlled through 2019) and 3B Eugenio Suarez (controlled through 2020). The Reds are rebuilding so unless they are planning to extend either one of these players (which is possible) they are likely open to trade conversations.
Suarez in particular strikes me as a target candidate because the Reds have young Nick Senzel, recently promoted to AA, who tore up the lower circuit earlier in the season and is widely seen as their future at 3B.
Eugenio was originally a SS so the Reds could certainly move him there but Cincinnati, like most teams, would probably want to put the absolute best defensive player they can find in that position. Suarez is an above average SS but there are better defensive options that the Reds could acquire or, as is the case with Cozart, extend.
One of those players is former Angels farmhand Eric Stamets. Even back when he was with the Halos he was an incredibly gifted defensive SS. The knock was always that his bat was too light. However in Stamets age 24 season (2016) things began to change. Whether it was a mechanical fix, his body maturing, or some other factor or combination of factors he has improved his hitting profile.
This leap in offensive growth combined with his elite defense now places Eric in the conversation of an everyday regular player in the Majors. The only thing blocking Stamets in the Cleveland organization is a young man named Francisco Lindor. In Cincinnati Eric could spread his wings and would provide insurance for the Reds front office if they are unable to convince Cozart to sign an extension contract.
The Indians, who project to win the A.L. Central Division, have a pretty good core group of starters and relievers but could use some help in their bullpen against left-handed hitters in particular.
Someone like Bud Norris, who is currently running a 24.2% K-BB% against LHH’s (and a solid 18.7% vs. RHH’s) would add an even greater level of reliability to a very dangerous team, not to mention in a short series during the playoffs where relievers play a critical role.
Sacrificing Stamets and Hillman to acquire an additional closer at the deadline is not a terrible price to pay when you consider that Jason Kipnis has three more years of contractual control and Lindor four more years of team control. The bottom line is that the Indians will improve when and where they can to maximize their chances to make the playoffs and Eric is a luxury they can afford to part with in 2017.
The Angels would part ways with four prospects (two from the Indians) in order to obtain the three years of team control over Eugenio. In 2017 Suarez broke out, both offensively and defensively, playing the hot corner for the Reds. Eugenio’s remaining years of control align perfectly with the current remaining contractual years of Mike Trout.
More importantly Suarez gives the Angels an impact player at a position of need who can hit anywhere in the lineup and, based on previous history and actual 2017 results, is strong defensively which fits the mold of player that Billy Eppler likes to put in each and every position around the diamond. It also adds depth around the infield due to Eugenio’s positional flexibility.
Yes the Angels lose Bud Norris but it is fairly immaterial since Cam Bedrosian is back from the disabled list. Bedrosian is an improvement even. Also we lose a young SP in Gatto who has mid-to-back end rotation talent, a heavy fastball, and easy, repeatable mechanics but you have to pay to play in the trade market.
Finally we also lose Cowart who seems to be breaking out but has not consistently proven it at the highest level and is still too much of a wild card (read: risk variance) for a team that intends to compete through 2020. Moving him to Cincinnati gives him a change of scenery and a less stressful environment for him to get Major League playing time, until Nick Senzel is ready at third base, approximately 2 years from now.
Kaleb is a lottery ticket that a rebuilding team like the Reds could take a chance on because if he flames out they don’t lose much and probably incrementally improve their draft position. If he provides at least utility value or even excels they have more depth or a trade chip to help them long term.
Proposed Trade #2 –
Angels send RHP David Hernandez and 2B/3B Sherman Johnson to the Twins
Twins send AAA OF Zack Granite to the Diamondbacks
Diamondbacks send 2B Ildemaro Vargas and A RHP Wei-Chieh Huang to the Angels
For the Twins they have been abysmal against left-handed hitters and David would give them a reliable middle/back-end reliever to roll out against them. Sherman would provide middle infield depth and a possible solution at 2B when Dozier leaves after this season. In order to acquire Hernandez and Johnson they give up Granite to Arizona.
Zack will provide a long-term center field solution for the Diamondbacks if and when A.J. Pollock hits free agency after next season (or is potentially traded). The Twins have Byron Buxton so the loss of Granite, while painful, is mitigated by the improvement against left-handed hitters this season and Johnson’s future development and contributions.
Meanwhile, the Angels pick up a possible 2B solution that could be brought up immediately to help the Halos in 2017. Vargas has been tearing up AAA and plays above average defense at the keystone.
Arizona has Domingo Leyba in AA who can be called up at some future point in time when the Diamondbacks ultimately make a decision on the future of Brandon Drury at 2B or if they move him to 3B in the event Jake Lamb is traded this off-season.
Additionally the Halos pick up Huang who is a longer term pitching (likely a reliever) prospect for their future.
Again the Angels loss of Hernandez is mitigated by the return of Cam Bedrosian (and to a much lesser degree by the possible returns of Street, Bailey, Heaney, Richards, and Tropeano in the 2nd half) and their production at 2B will likely improve with the addition of Vargas and in 2-3 years with the hopeful emergence of Huang.
Proposed Trade #3 –
Angels send 1B C.J. Cron and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Royals
Royals send 3B Mike Moustakas and A C Meibrys Viloria to the Angels
It has been clear for months now that the Angels view C.J. Cron as a potential trade chip and if Billy Eppler believes the team can compete for a Wild Card spot in the 2nd half of 2017, a trade like this could be in the works.
The Royals themselves are on the verge of the Wild Card bubble and if they fall out of the race in the next couple of weeks, despite their bravado about going for it all, they won’t need a 3B in the last year of his control.
Additionally they will almost certainly trade their 1B Eric Hosmer creating a void to fill and Brandon Moss, their DH, has been incredibly disappointing in the first year of a two-year deal. They will need long-term options and Cron fits the bill.
Moving three years of team control for C.J. and a 2nd half replacement at 3B in Escobar is probably worth 1/2 year of Moustakas and a low-level, long-term prospect like Viloria for the Angels. It helps the Angels compete, if that is their goal, and the Royals rebuild for their future by adding Cron if they are out of the playoff race.
Proposed Trade #4 –
Angels send RHP Bud Norris and AA RHP Osmer Morales to the Brewers
Brewers send 2B Jonathan Villar to the Angels
The Brewers are currently the N.L. Central Division leader and Villar has been quite the disappointment in comparison to his 2016 season. He is only 26 years old and is just a few months removed from a .285/.369/.457 (.373 BABIP) slash line with 62 stolen bases (77.5% SB%). This season his BABIP is down a full 92 points which is a contributor to his woes (it should be noted Villar consistently posted .350-.360 BABIP’s in his Minor League career).
Just as importantly Eric Sogard, Jonathan’s replacement while on the DL, has been spectacular for the Brew Crew making Villar a potentially expendable asset and a potential buy-low candidate for Billy Eppler particularly when you consider that the Brewers have rapidly promoted young prospect Mauricio Dubon this season and he has been playing a lot of 2B down in AA/AAA.
Jonathan is making the League minimum in 2017 and has three years of arbitration control left making him an interesting target for Eppler to fill the keystone long term. If he is “running right” he is a switch-hitting, lead-off hitter with on-base skills that can create havoc on the base-paths which is a spot in the lineup the Angels need to replace once Maybin is gone (unless they really plan to sign him as a free agent in the off-season).
In return for Villar the Brewers add a strong reliever to their bullpen as they defend their current position in the standings and add a RHP with upside for their emerging future as a regular N.L. Central contender.
Proposed Trade #5 –
Angels send AAA 3B Kaleb Cowart, AA RHP Grayson Long, and A+ OF Brennon Lund to the Phillies
Phillies send 2B Cesar Hernandez to the Angels
Per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, the Angels inquired about Hernandez during the off-season in their broad search to acquire a defensive-minded keystone player before the 2017 campaign.
Unfortunately that fell through but that does not mean the conversation is dead, just delayed perhaps.
Scott Kingery, the Phillies likely future at 2B, was recently promoted to AAA and appears to be on the verge of being called up either this season or the next. In fact Philadelphia appears to be reaching critical mass in terms of competitiveness as early as next year but probably the following season in 2019.
Certainly they could keep Hernandez at 2B and possibly move Kingery over to the hot corner (he has been seen shagging balls at 3B recently) but that is likely more about positional flexibility, not a long term move. Cesar is slowly turning into a road block that the Phillies will need to address and the Angels have shown interest.
As Fletcher pointed out Hernandez is a very good defensive keystone player who can switch hit and is more dominant on his left-hand side which is an area the Angels need to improve upon. Cesar is not a huge stolen base threat but he can take the extra bag on a regular basis.
Sending Cowart gives the Phillies another option at 3B behind Maikel Franco whom the Phillies are reportedly shopping in trade as well. Long gives the Phillies a potential back-end starter with a touch of upside and Lund has been showing well recently and presents them with a potentially above average outfielder for their future.
Proposed Trade #6 –
Angels send RHP Cam Bedrosian, 1B C.J. Cron, AA OF Michael Hermosillo, A+ C Taylor Ward, and R RHP Chris Rodriguez to the Braves and C Carlos Perez to the Rockies
Rockies send A+ OF Wes Rogers and A RHP David Hill to the Braves
Braves send 1B Freddie Freeman and RHP Jim Johnson to the Angels
Atlanta values Freeman very highly and rightfully so. In fact they have stated he is off limits but that could always be front office bluster to raise his price.
The fact of the matter is that Atlanta has a large number of prospects that are at least 2 years away from making an impact in the Majors. This simply means that Freddie, despite his immense talent, may, for the most part, go to waste hitting cleanup for a 75-85 win team in 2018 and possibly 2019.
Now, the Braves could certainly wait it out and get some back-end value out of Freeman but that would be burning $20M+ per year in the meantime and not reaching the goal of the playoffs much less the World Series. Perhaps the smarter move for Atlanta would be to trade Freddie and reallocate that money to one or more of the players available in the 2018-2019 free agent class which would likely better fit their emerging window of contention.
This is certainly a long shot in the trade universe but it is the type of lateral upgrade the Angels could make to boost the team now and through Trout’s controllable years and increase the odds of reaching the playoffs.
Certainly the Angels will have to give up a lot of value to receive a lot.
First of all the Braves would receive Cam Bedrosian and his remaining 4 1/2 years of team control. The move would take Cam to his father Steve’s former team (and notably their home town) and allow him to chase his father’s legacy.
Additionally, unlike Freeman, Bedrosian is a strong candidate to receive a team friendly extension as a likely Super Two player so the Braves could probably buy out those likely four years of arbitration and tack on a couple of option years to keep him in Atlanta through their likely window of contention in the 2019-2023 time frame.
The Angels would also give up C.J. Cron and his remaining three years of arbitration control as a replacement 1B for the Braves. This would allow C.J. to get MLB playing time in a less stressful environment and the upside for the Braves is that if his bat takes off they would have a reasonably productive MLB 1B on their hands who they could either extend, use as a trade chip, or simply as a place holder for when they acquire/promote another 1B.
Also the Angels would be sending three Minor League prospects with good upside in Hermosillo, Ward, and Rodriguez. The latter in particular has front of the rotation upside, Michael has broken out in his recent games, and Ward could wind up a low-end regular player with some upside that would add value long term to the Braves future seasons.
The Rockies would get Carlos Perez to help provide better defense behind the plate in a year they are trying to win it all. Recently their young catcher Tom Murphy was optioned to the Minors due to poor performance and adding a veteran catcher like Perez, who would likely thrive in a hitter’s park like Colorado, would give them greater, experienced depth behind young left-handed hitting Tony Wolters.
In return Colorado would send two young prospects to the Braves that could provide value to them long term and would help ease the amount of value the Angels have to provide directly from their farm system.
Finally the Angels would get 4 1/2 years of control of a premier left-handed 1B in Freeman who would instantly transform the middle of our order hitting behind Trout (sorry Albert you’d get bumped to fifth here). Freddie is in his prime years (he’s 27 now) and has elevated his offensive profile in 2017 making him an even greater threat, particularly to right-handed pitchers which is an area the Angels need to improve in per the Methodology article.
In order for our bullpen to stay relatively intact the Angels would also acquire 1 1/2 years of closer Jim Johnson. This would maintain the quality of our bullpen in 2017 and give us a late inning option in 2018 to mitigate the loss of Bedrosian. It would also allow Eppler to explore an extension with someone like Blake Parker or Keynan Middleton (or both) to take over long term high leverage duties out of the bullpen.
The final tally is that the Angels are losing a lot of long term prospect and MLB player value but they are gaining long term control of an elite hitter and short term control of a good reliever. The net value to the 2017 season is increased tremendously and transforms the average Angels into a threatening Wild Card contender this year and a significantly improved team in the 2018-2020 seasons.
Proposed Trade #7 –
Angels send CF Cameron Maybin and RHP David Hernandez to the Nationals and A OF Jahmai Jones, AA RHP Jake Jewell, R RHP Chris Rodriguez, AAA 3B Kaleb Cowart, and A+ C Taylor Ward to the Marlins
Nationals send AAA RHP Erick Fedde, AA 1B Jose Marmolejos, and A LHP Tyler Watson to the Marlins
Marlins send OF Giancarlo Stanton to the Angels
More like why not, right? Ami-rite!?!
Actually this is a potentially unique opportunity for the Angels or any big market team to acquire one of the premier power hitters in the game.
First of all the Miami Marlins are on the verge of being sold to a new owner (a blessing for baseball probably) and as typical in sales like this the new owners generally like to enter the situation with a clean slate in terms of payroll. This means that many of the Marlins players could be on the market particularly Stanton and his mega-contract.
When you examine Stanton’s 13 year, $325M contract it clearly overwhelms you in both the commitment of money and length. That is an Average Annual Value of $25M per year which only the richest teams in baseball can afford. Luckily the Angels actually have that room right now and even more after the season ends.
The greater complication in this calculus is how much surplus value does Giancarlo really have and what does that equate too in terms of a return of prospects and players?
If you use a very basic dollars per WAR analysis with the assumption of a free agent dollar per WAR value for 2017 of $10.5M and increase it by 10% per year using a base, remaining, 2 WAR for 2017, 4.75 WAR for 2018-2020 and then decrease the WAR projection by 0.5 WAR per season after that, Stanton is virtually impossible to move for fair value because that comes out to about $280M in surplus. Basically 4-7 top prospects or some combination of MLB players and prospects.
There are perhaps only a couple of teams in baseball that could currently afford that in terms of prospects and players and it would gut those teams so much it probably is not worth it.
However there is a catch here!
Stanton, as pointed out recently by Angelswin.com member ‘Dochalo’, has an opt-out clause after the 2020 season. This simply means he can exit this current contract in favor of free agency and, assuming he is healthy and productive, he will almost certainly do so because he can very likely make more money at that time.
There has been great anticipation regarding the 2018-2019 free agent class featured by players like Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw. That group will raise the bar and shatter the ceiling on all future free agent contracts which is the primary reason Stanton can and should expect a larger payday the following year if he opts out.
Because of this very likely fact of Giancarlo re-testing the free agent market, any team that wants to acquire him will likely only be willing to pay for the opting-out-in-2020 version of Stanton and rightly so. Why fork out 6 high quality prospects and then watch him walk away after only three years, it does not make sense.
So what this means is that teams will only be paying for Giancarlo’s surplus value over the next 3 1/2 seasons. That surplus value, using the basic dollars per WAR calculation is about $140M which is more manageable, is essentially 2-3 top prospects or a larger quantity of prospects and players that meet Miami’s asking price.
Acquiring Stanton’s age 28-30 seasons (plus the last half of his age 27 season) would be good for any team including the Angels. In fact particularly the Angels because it aligns with Mike Trout’s remaining controllable years.
Oh and if Stanton does not opt out? Well the acquiring team should still get enough value out of the contract over those remaining years of control to have made the whole thing worth it. His production should last well into his mid-30’s and if that happens it was money well spent.
The problem for the Halos in all of this is Miami will almost certainly demand good prospects in trade and the Angels do not have many. What we may not have in quality we do have more in quantity, particularly if we use our best trade deadline chips to acquire additional talent from one or more teams to send to the Marlins (i.e. a lateral move).
You may be asking why the Nationals would do this and I would offer the opinion that they would do anything in their power to move Stanton out of their Division and weaken one of their rivals right now, so you would have to think losing three prospects is an afterthought if they win it all in 2017 (or succeeding seasons) with Maybin and Hernandez on board and a significantly weakened Marlins team.
Make no mistake this is a true long shot for any team much less the Angels. The opportunity is unique however as no one could have predicted Loria would sell his team now, making this opening a matter of being in the right place at the right time for those clubs fortunate enough to have enough payroll and enough assets.
Offering eight prospects of varying quality gives the Marlins a wide base of possibilities across multiple positions. It probably will not be the best offer they get but we are one of the few teams that can afford to add Stanton’s salary and that gives us a small, sliver of a chance if he is really available.
Do not hold your breath on this. I would hate to be responsible for a bunch of Angels fans passing out or the breakout of a mass sponge migration.
Proposed Trade #8 –
Angels send RHP Bud Norris to the Nationals and 1B C.J. Cron, C Carlos Perez, A OF Jahmai Jones, AA RHP Grayson Long, AA RHP Osmer Morales, and AA OF Michael Hermosillo to the White Sox
Nationals send A- OF Juan Soto and AA 1B Jose Marmolejos to the White Sox
White Sox send LHP Jose Quintana to the Angels
As another example of the use of lateral resources (converting Bud Norris into prospect currency) this is another stretch-your-imagination example of what Eppler would have to do to have a shot at a big name acquisition at the deadline.
It is obviously another quantity over quality offer that the Angels would likely make on some of these big names. Certainly a team like Milwaukee or Houston could offer up a couple of really premium prospects like Brinson and Hader or Martes and Tucker, for instance, that could prove too tempting to Chicago but that does not mean that the Angels do not have a chance at it.
Offering up Major League talent has its own value particularly when the White Sox are likely to move Abreu in trade as well creating a void at 1B or DH that they would need to fill immediately. Taking a flyer on inexpensive players like Cron and the defensive-minded Perez allows them time to develop their prospects of the future and potentially reap some trade value if either should blossom during their stay.
Although it is not the best offer in terms of quality it is not an insignificant one. I think any team would stop and think about an offer of 2 Major League players with long-term control and 6 prospects of varying quality. Whether they think long and hard is a different matter but that is the challenge of the trade market and the corresponding negotiations.
Other Long-Term (2+ years) Players Considered: LHP Daniel Norris, 1B Brandon Belt, 2B/3B Josh Harrison, RHP Michael Fulmer, OF Christian Yelich, 2B Jonathan Schoop, RHP Marcus Stroman, 1B Jose Abreu, OF Avisail Garcia, RHP Jeff Samardzija, RHP Jacob deGrom, 2B Scooter Gennett, RHP Carlos Martinez, OF Adam Duvall, 1B Justin Bour, UTIL T.J. Rivera, RHP Sonny Gray, OF Marcell Ozuna, RHP Gerrit Cole, OF Khris Davis, RHP Michael Wacha, OF Robbie Grossman, 1B Matt Carpenter, OF Denard Span, 1B Justin Smoak, RHP Dylan Bundy, 2B/3B Yangervis Solarte, and RHP Dan Straily
Although these lateral/upgrade trade scenarios may or may not be realistic (perhaps even ludicrous) they represent a cross-section of what Billy Eppler might be able to pull off as we near the trade deadline.
It will simply come down to the acquisition price. If he can pull off a mega-trade for someone like Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Quintana, Freddie Freeman, or Brandon Belt it would not only transform 2017 but the following seasons, from 2018-2020, in the Mike Trout window of contention.
Trading for one of those big names is not impossible. All of them, minus Quintana, have really significant money owed over their remaining years of control and all four of them have 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 years of team control left, making them valuable to the Angels in particular since that aligns well with our strategic plan.
Perhaps more importantly acquiring a big hitter like this would not impede our payroll in terms of possibly extending Mike Trout. The Angels have a lot of money coming off the books at the end of this year and there should be plenty of payroll available to make a run at keeping Trout here the rest of his career.
In the next section we will discuss some of the short term opportunities which also include some big names but also provide more inexpensive options the team could potentially acquire to improve 2017 and 2018.