By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
Entering the 2018 Trade Deadline the Angels unfortunately have little to offer the buyer market.
Garrett Richards, who would have been a viable piece, is having Tommy John Surgery. Matt Shoemaker would have been a potential target, but he too got injured earlier in the season. Kole Calhoun might have been on the table, but despite his recent performance his value is wildly depressed.
Beyond that group you do have valuable chips such as LHP Tyler Skaggs, LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Justin Anderson, RHP Cam Bedrosian, SS Andrelton Simmons, CF Mike Trout, SP/DH Shohei Ohtani, and RHP Noe Ramirez, among others.
The problem here is that if you trade any of these players you are creating a hole that must be filled in 2019 and beyond. Some of those holes would be so big (Trout or Ohtani) that you could never fill it in free agency or trade.
Eppler wants the Angels to compete across the remainder of the Mike Trout window of contention and subtracting good players will probably not help the Angels 2019 squad do that, thus trading any of those valuable assets above is likely non-value added to our future.
That leaves a set of probable assets which includes RHP Blake Parker, C Martin Maldonado, LHP Jose Alvarez, and 2B Ian Kinsler. Besides Blake it is a rather uninspiring group in terms of not only value but total performance. Let us look at the probable assets and set some reasonable expectations.
As of the time of this writing, Parker, who just turned 33 years old a month ago, is currently running a K-BB% of 18.8% against LHHs and 21% against RHHs. Beyond the remainder of the 2018 season, he has two years of team arbitration control remaining, making him more attractive to an acquiring team. Blake is making a very reasonable $1.8M this season which means he is still owed approximately $1M for the last half. Because Parker has such good overall splits, his list of suitors could be extensive.
The Cubs, in particular, have not fared well against both sides of the plate. Additionally, the Giants and Athletics could use a dual-way threat like Blake in their bullpen. Finally, the Braves, Diamondbacks, and Cardinals could also be likely suitors. This list certainly is not comprehensive, but it does represent the most likely set of trade partners.
To be clear the Angels could simply choose to retain Blake and it would be one less hole to fill in 2019, particularly in a bullpen that has been inconsistent this season. However, the flip side is that Parker is on the wrong side of 30 and his rising arbitration cost would begin to impact team payroll after this year. If the Angels get a good offer for him, you must think Eppler would consider it.
Top 3 Trade Partners: 1) Cubs, 2) Giants, and 3) Braves
Potential Return: Blake is not a pure rental and has reasonably good cost control at this point in his career and his arbitration prices are likely to be suppressed if a team brings him in to pitch in a non-closer role. Parker could bring back a quality MLB-ready player or a Top-150 prospect in combination with one or two additional prospects of varying quality.
Machete is having another strong defensive season with an accumulated FanGraphs DEF value of 7.5. He is hitting better against RHP (86 wRC+) than LHP (67 wRC+) but his overall career splits are nearly identical. However, his offense is not what he is known for and there are many teams out there that could use him defensively behind the dish and take advantage of his excellent pitch-framing ability. He is making $3.9M in his last year of team control which means he has about $2M left for the last half of this season.
To understand which teams would benefit from a more defensive-oriented catcher like Maldonado we have to take a special deep dive using team catcher defensive values to determine which of them could use his services. In the end the following teams could benefit from Martin’s services including the Rockies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Cardinals, Nationals, and Brewers.
Because the Angels have not extended Machete at this point, he is almost certainly going to be traded by the deadline or the end of August waivers. Before that happens though the Jacob Realmuto situation will need to resolve itself and he is likely to be traded to a team with a better farm system which means that the Angels will more likely deal with the remainder of the playoff teams looking for an upgrade.
Top 3 Trade Partners: 1) Red Sox, 2) Cardinals, and 3) Rockies
Potential Return: Maldonado is a pure rental, as he is a free agent after this season. His $2M salary is not cheap but it is manageable for virtually every team in baseball, so it is not a roadblock. Martin will not bring back a truly significant piece, but he could command a good quality relief prospect or one mid-level prospect or two lottery ticket types from the low Minors.
Long an unappreciated lefty-killer, Alvarez has quietly performed since he was acquired in trade with the Tigers for Austin Romine in 2014. Jose currently is making $1.05M in 2018 which means he has about $600K left on his 2018 contract. However, he does have two more years of arbitration control and is only 29 years old, so his controllability will garner some interest.
Jose continues to perform well against left-handed hitters and is currently running an 18.6% K-BB% in 2018. His split against right-handed hitters is well below average at a 7.8% K-BB% so an acquiring team would be bringing him aboard strictly as a LOOGY which limits his overall trade value.
Looking at our playoff-bound team list the following teams might have interest and include the Cubs, Cardinals, Braves, Brewers, Giants, Athletics, Diamondbacks, and Phillies.
The relief market will need to settle a bit before Alvarez is potentially moved so he is more likely to be traded closer to the deadline or more likely, perhaps, in the August waiver period. If the Angels move Parker, Jose will likely remain on the squad for the remainder of the year as Eppler probably does not want to completely reshuffle the deck chairs for the 2019 bullpen.
Top 3 Trade Partners: 1) Diamondbacks, 2) Cubs, and 3) Mystery Team
Potential Return: Alvarez is a long-term controllable piece, but his value is limited overall by his inconsistent ability against right-handed hitters. His market heading into the 2018 Trade Deadline seems limited which makes me believe that unless a team suffers a significant injury he is more likely to be kept and moved in the offseason or retained for the Angels 2019 bullpen. If he is moved Jose would probably bring back a mid-to-low level type prospect or two lottery-ticket types from the low Minors.
The Angels 36-year-old, rental 2B has struggled mightily in 2018. His BABIP has been about 50 points lower than his career numbers and despite his low strikeout rate (9.7%) he is failing to find the holes, resulting in a wRC+ of 80 which is 28% lower than his career average. Basically, he is in full age decline and he may find it difficult to acquire a starting position in 2019.
On top of those negative numbers and outlook, Kinsler is making $11M this season and that means he has approximately $6M left for the year, making him an expensive rental. This in turn will make any potential return a low one, perhaps even just a cash trade to get his salary off the books.
Beyond the doom and gloom there are a couple of reasons he could find a new home by the end of August waivers. The first is that his usually good defense is still in place and there may be one or more teams that would find value in that. The second item is that his offense against RHP is still solid at a wRC+ of 96 year-to-date.
So what team needs a 2B that is potentially heading to the playoffs? Here we must take our 2nd table (vs. RHP) and filter it by 2B to generate the following list of teams that includes the Rockies, Brewers, Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Indians. All those teams have suffered poor 2B offense against RHP.
Top 3 Trade Partners: 1) Rockies, 2) Brewers, and 3) Mystery Team
Potential Return: Kinsler is a pure rental who can still provide sufficiently good offense against RHP and is above average defensively at the keystone. There are only two teams that are desperate for an upgrade at 2B right now, the Rockies and Brewers, and Kinsler is certainly not the only available keystone player available on the market as Brian Dozier will probably draw more interest for sure. Certainly, the Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Indians have probably thought about upgrading as well but Kinsler may not represent enough of an improvement for them. This means that Ian will probably, at best, bring back a lottery ticket type player based on his remaining salary for 2018 unless the Angels kick in some money.
There are certainly other Angels team members that would have significant value in trade but if you move any of them you will create another hole to replace on the roster for 2019.
Rumors have circulated that Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Cam Bedrosian, and Justin Anderson have all received inquiries leading up to the 2018 Trade Deadline and rightfully so.
However, Skaggs and Heaney have finally worked through their injury issues and seem to be performing at the level we hoped they would so does it really make sense to remove what could be a strong component of our 2019 rotation, particularly since both are lefties?
Additionally, Billy Eppler must be careful which, if any, pieces he moves out of the bullpen in trade. Parker is just as likely to stay as he is to be moved and replacing his production will require a free agent signing or trade to fill that gap. Moving young prospect Anderson with his 6 years of team control or Bedrosian who is still has 3 years of arbitration control after this season will create a new hole the Angels will have to address.
The bottom line is that the pieces that have value in trade also have potential value for the 2019 squad, unless they are in their last year of control, like Maldonado. Eppler’s vision of the 2019 team will be augmented by the decisions he makes now.
It is the author’s opinion that Martin Maldonado will be traded before the end of August and there is approximately a 60% probability that Blake Parker will be traded as well. Jose Alvarez will likely be retained for now and Ian Kinsler will probably be shipped off to the Rockies or the Brewers if they miss out on someone like Dozier.
The rest of our tradeable assets seem more remote as they can all make our 2019 team strong and we are trying to win in the Mike Trout window of contention. Certainly, Eppler might have a trade on the table for someone like Heaney for instance that makes a lot of sense in a 2019 retooling of the team, but it is hard to see how we can definitively move Andrew and sufficiently replace his production next season.
Angels fans need to prepare for the probability of little-to-no fireworks at the Trade Deadline this year.