By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
Optionally, rather than go long-term as in the previous article, Eppler could focus on more temporary opportunities in the trade market that could help us now and possibly next season to fill a gap at any position of need. Some of these are a lot more expensive than others but let me touch on a few of these stop-gap possibilities:
- Neil Walker – Walker accepted the Mets $17.2M Qualifying Offer last season and is currently on the disabled list. New York has surprisingly fallen out of the playoff race and you have to believe that they would love to get something back for the approximately $8.6M left on his contract. He would fill a big hole for us at 2B and very likely would not cost us too much in terms of prospect(s). He might be a September revocable waiver candidate for the Angels due to his current DL stint.
- Josh Donaldson – The Blue Jays are facing the same 2017 decision the Angels are and Donaldson could be in play as a trade chip for them if they give up on this season. His 2017 salary was $17M so he has about half of that left and he is arbitration controlled for one more season in 2018 where he could land a record-breaking arbitration contract (think $20M +). If Toronto does not push their chips in they may reboot for their future of Guerrero and Bichette. This would cost the Angels a lot more than Walker but Josh is a difference maker now and next season.
- Marco Estrada – Another Blue Jays rental-type, he is owed approximately $7.25M for the remainder of the 2017 season. Moving to Anaheim might suppress a couple of the home runs out to left field and he is a strike-thrower that would probably benefit in Anaheim.
- Jose Bautista – Another Toronto asset, Bautista is on contract for $18M in 2017 which means he is owed about $9MM the remainder of the season. Additionally he has a mutual option in 2018 worth $17M with a meager $500K buy-out and a vesting option for 2019 which he may or may not meet. Clearly the Angels do not have a need in the outfield but Jose has played some 1B in his past so this could be a not-so-clever way to improve production at that position. He, too, would not tear the Angels farm system apart if Eppler were to trade for him because of the money owed.
- Zack Cozart – The Reds had trouble shopping Zack last year at the deadline and during the off-season but that has now worked out to their advantage as he has exploded offensively this season while providing the high quality defense at SS for which he is known. In Eppler’s eyes this could be an investment in the Angels future. Cozart is closing in on his 32nd birthday and although he is still fine at SS, a move to 2B probably lies somewhere in his future. Billy might like to trade for Cozart now to play 2B and then possibly extend or sign him as a free agent to play at the keystone for the next 3-4 years.
- Yonder Alonso – If the Athletics fail to extend Yonder (likely) then they will need to move him and his newfound power (the result, in part, of changing his swing angle) before the deadline. The Angels have had poor production out of their 1B this year and Alonso has about $2M left on his 2017 contract making him very affordable. This would be a pure rental so if the price is too high the Angels will likely stick with what they have or pursue someone like Brandon Belt, Freddie Freeman, or Jose Abreu (more years of control).
- Ian Kinsler – Not my personal favorite Ian “Get off our grass!” Kinsler nevertheless plays good defense and typically hits well although his bat has been mostly quiet in 2017. Kinsler has about $5.5M remaining on his contract in 2017 and has a $12M team option in 2018 with a $5M buy-out (unlikely to be exercised). The advantage is that Ian is a veteran player with an approximate $9.5M AAV attached to 2017. The disadvantage is that his offense is declining and he is entering his twilight years at age 35.
- Trevor Cahill – If you have not been paying attention Cahill has been dominating in 9 starts for the Padres with K-BB% and GB% rates of 20% and 59%, respectively. He is only owed about $800K the rest of the season and could be a really under-the-radar jewel for a contender heading into the 2nd half. He will cost something but maybe not as much as you think.
- Asdrubal Cabrera – Another Mets middle infielder, he plays average defense at the keystone and is owed approximately $4.125M for the remainder of 2017 and $8.5M for 2018. He could be a stop-gap until someone like David Fletcher or Jake Yacinich arrives.
- J.A. Happ – Despite FanGraphs faith in their projected end-of-season look, Toronto appears positioned to possibly sell and Happ has about $6.5M remaining this year and $13M in 2018. He has been quite solid this season and would add a nice lefty arm to any rotation. He will command some prospects but not nearly as much as Jose Quintana for instance.
- Howie Kendrick – Go with what you know? Howie, in limited action, has hit well this year and could still play 2B or LF, if Maybin is traded. He is owed approximately $5M the remainder of 2017 and then is a free agent. Probably would not cost much in trade but I would rather see the Angels acquire Cesar Hernandez as a long-term asset.
- J.D. Martinez – Would likely cost too much in prospect value but he would be a huge addition if the Angels moved Maybin in trade. He is owed approximately $5.75M the remainder of the season and there is a distinct possibility Billy Eppler might have him on his radar as a free agent acquisition in the off-season so perhaps this is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Time will tell the tale.
- Andrew McCutchen – Certainly a bigger target, Andrew has approximately $7M left on his 2017 contract and has a team option for $14.75M in 2018 with a $1M buy-out. He will cost the Angels a lot despite the low years of control.
- Jason Vargas – If the Royals change their minds again about going for it Vargas, and his approximate, remaining $4M 2017 salary, might be attractive enough to add to our rotation. He likely would not cost a lot in trade.
- Alex Avila – This could be a real under-the-radar pure rental move as he hits RHP well and could catch or even play 1B (or split time). Approximately $1M left on his 2017 contract and probably would not break the bank to acquire.
- Daniel Nava – Dare I say it? Will a thousand Angelswin.com daggers come flying my way? With approximately $650K remaining on his contract the man they call the Matt Joyce of 2017 is hitting awfully darn well and would be a relatively cheap pick up if the Angels move Maybin in trade.
- Matt Adams – When Freeman went down Atlanta went looking for a temporary replacement and they grabbed Adams from the Cardinals. It turned out to be a good move as Matt began producing. He has about $1.4M left on his 2017 contract and is under one more year of arbitration control next season. He would probably not break the bank as a left-handed hitting option at 1B should Eppler try to upgrade.
- Lucas Duda – Another Mets piece, Duda has about $3.6M left on his 2017 contract and hits right-handed pitching well. He too could be an inexpensive upgrade if Eppler moves other pieces.
- Tyler Flowers – The Braves have received good offensive production from Flowers and he has been fantastic against RHP. Additionally, he has been the best pitch-framer in 2017 according to StatCorner.com, so that would be an added bonus. His biggest weakness is controlling the running game. Tyler has about $1.5M remaining on his 2017 contract with a team option for $4M with a measly $300K buy-out.
- Jed Lowrie – Although the Athletics may not want to trade with a Division rival, Lowrie has been producing and is owed a reasonable $3.25M for the rest of 2017 and has a team option for $6M with a $1M buy-out in 2018. May cost too much dealing with another A.L. West team however.
- Curtis Granderson – Another Mets player in the last year of his contract, Granderson has approximately $7.5M left in 2017 and runs reasonably good splits. He still has enough athleticism to play one of the corners and might be rejuvenated moving to a new home. Probably would not cost a lot to acquire if the Angels move Maybin.
- Jordy Mercer – The Pirates might be willing to let Mercer go and he could probably slide over to the keystone for the Angels. He has about $2.16M left for 2017 and has one more arbitration season in 2018 before free agency. Good defender with some on-base skills and could provide depth at shortstop.
- Nick Markakis – Solid on-base skills with about $5.5M remaining on his 2017 contract and has one more year after that at $11M. Can play either corner reasonably well still.
Whether or not Eppler decides to press in the 2nd half, the Angels current mediocre .500 team will not be like that much longer in my opinion based on rapidly increasing payroll flexibility. The only discriminator will be the trade price that Eppler has to pay now versus the trade or free agent price he can pay in the off-season and where the Angels currently sit on the win curve to potentially close the gap to secure a Wild Card spot.
This means that you may hear even more about the Angels scouting specific players because Billy is trying to get a handle on what the various options will cost him and whether it is worth it for him to expend the resources and capital now or later. The Angels have already been attached to Brandon Belt, Jose Quintana, and Dee Gordon and it would be unsurprising if there were more names associated with the Angels in the next couple of weeks.
Whether you want to accept it or not, we are heading into the middle of July and we are only 3 games back of a Wild Card spot as of July 9th, 2017. The team’s play is probably not sustainable in its current form but if one or more of our injured players return and Eppler is able to add either a significant pitcher or hitter or a couple of inexpensive reinforcements our ability to sneak into a one-game Wild Card playoff is not that absurd anymore.
Any time you have a reasonable chance to get to the playoffs without crippling your team you should do it. Billy has his fingers on the pulse of the team and where his injured players stand. Hopefully Eppler will be able to tactically push in some of his expendable chips and go in it, to win it, in a smart, progressive manner. Billy will not blow his wad uselessly but if he can grab a quality starting pitcher or hitter controllable through at least 2020 he would prefer to do it now and still give 2017 a fighting chance.
In the final submission I will share some final thoughts about the trade deadline, where the Angels are going, and how it relates to our plans for the off-season.