Monday, November 25, 2013

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By Robert Cunningham, AngelsWin.com Staff Writer - 

Disclaimer: This trade discussion is purely speculative in nature and presents an unlikely example of how the Angels can improve their roster for 2014. FanGraphs WAR stat is used to help evaluate player value, but it is merely a useful guide for this analysis.

This series of articles are meant to entertain, generate discussion and to show that there are multiple avenues to improve the team!

Teams Involved:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Cincinnati Reds


Team Needs:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim –

With the recent acquisition of 3B David Freese and RP Joe Smith the Angels main focus is starting pitching. Although another lefty reliever might be nice, any other position needs would only be realized through additional trades. Team budget is a concern (even if Arte Moreno breaks the luxury tax threshold for 2014) so any trade would need to keep the team payroll relatively neutral or decrease it. Improving their overall farm system is a secondary goal to the primary objective of contending in 2014.

Cincinnati Reds –


The Reds are coming off of a contending season and have many of the same pieces in place that they did last year. One glaring issue is a growing divide between the team and 2B Brandon Phillips. It is expected that the Reds will move him in trade creating a need for a replacement. The Reds might also need a back-end starter if they move one of their current starters in trade for other pieces. Another outfielder might be a priority depending on how the team feels about Billy Hamilton starting the 2014 season. Team budget is a concern so payroll neutrality is probably a necessity. Improvement of the farm system is a secondary concern to 2014 contention.

Players Involved:

As a side note to the previous articles this series attempts to look at trades through a value perspective. This simply means that a total dollar value for each player is established, based on the WAR metric, which includes future salary obligations and other mitigating factors such as player scarcity and the ability to obtain a Qualifying Offer when the player hits free agency. Teams sometimes look past true value and make trades based on a particular position need, a long-term strategic view, or to rid themselves of clubhouse personality problems.



Note: For an explanation of the above chart and how player values are evaluated, please see my previous articles in this series, here.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim –

The Angels are coming off a disappointing season and know that in order to compete they need to acquire young, controllable pitching and one of the only ways to accomplish that is through trade of some of their position players.

One of those players is Howie Kendrick. Since early June there has been increasing chatter that Kendrick and the remaining two team-friendly years on his contract could be moved. It is also likely that Howie, at the end of his contract when he enters free agency, will receive a Qualifying Offer which would net a draft pick, increasing his value.

Tommy Hanson might be a possible non-tender for the Angels. It is a borderline call but as a pitcher in the back-end of the rotation, his measly projected $3.9 million arbitration salary is reasonable, especially in this scarce pitcher market. Hanson would essentially be a one-year rental with possible upside.

Prospect pitcher Mark Sappington (AA) is a probable future late inning reliever. He could use at least one more year in the Minors to iron out his control issues. If all things broke right he might be a rotation candidate but will likely end up in a MLB bullpen.

Cincinnati Reds –

The Reds are coming off a solid, yet disappointing, season where they fell short of their playoff goals. The team is still in a good position to compete but they have a growing issue with their 2nd baseman Brandon Phillips that is driving the team to move him.

Homer Bailey is a mid-rotation type pitcher that is in his last year of arbitration control. Although it is possible the Reds try to resign him, it is also just as possible that they use him as a trade piece and then either sign a free agent starting pitcher or trade for one.

Finally, top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson (AA) is a flame-thrower with command issues. He has a high ceiling as a front of the rotation starter but he needs more development time in the Minor Leagues before arriving in the Majors.

The Trade:




How Does This Improve Each Team?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim –

The Angels move their next most valuable trade piece (Bourjos being the first), in Kendrick, to the Reds along with Hanson and Sappington.

Reds management freed Phillips who has been upset with them ever since they negotiated a new contract for Joey Votto, without taking care of him first. Brandon could certainly use a change of scenery and although his bat is average, his defense is still above average at second base.

What this trade does do for the Angels is allow them to acquire a #3 starter in Homer Bailey. It could even lead to a contract extension for the young hurler. Advanced peripherals love the progress Bailey made in 2013, so this could be a great buy opportunity if the Reds bite.

Perhaps even more importantly the Angels acquire a young, cost-controlled starting pitching prospect in Stephenson. Robert has a great fastball, curveball, and changeup and could join the rotation as early as 2015 (and probably a late season call up in 2014) as long as he reins in the walk rate.

Essentially the Angels swap two MLB players for two MLB players with one prospect exchanging hands. We are swapping two years of Kendrick, one year of Hanson, and prospect Sappington for four years of Phillips (and his large salary and increasing age/declining skills), a year of Bailey, and prospect Stephenson.

The net cash results of this trade would require the Reds to eat about $6.8 million of Phillips salary for 2014 to balance out the trade. The Angels would pick up the remainder of his salary over the following three years. This would basically be a cash neutral trade for both teams after this exchange.

If the Angels were to win the bid on Tanaka, it would give them a starting five rotation of Jered Weaver, Masahiro Tanaka, C.J. Wilson, Homer Bailey, and Garrett Richards which would be a significant improvement over the 2013 rotation.

Even if they don’t get Tanaka, there are other options such as Arroyo, Jimenez, et.al. whom could slot into the 4th/5th spot in the rotation.

Cincinnati Reds –


The Reds get rid of their clubhouse problem by moving Phillips and his large contract off of their books for the 2015-2017 seasons.

This allows them to acquire a more offensive-minded second baseman in Kendrick who can provide better value over a shorter 2-year time frame. This creates a nice bridge to a 2nd base prospect like Henry Rodriguez.

Also the Reds pick up Tommy Hanson who is relatively inexpensive, at $3.9 million, compared to other options on the market and would probably do better pitching in the National League. There is also some upside if he throws well for an entire season.

Finally the Reds pick up a young pitching prospect in Sappington that could eventually become a back-end bullpen piece in the next couple of years.

Conclusion:

This trade would allow us to keep a veteran 2nd baseman in the mix while acquiring a mid-rotation starter that we might be able to offer a contract extension to before he hits free agency. Finally we get the young, cost-controlled pitching prospect that we want and need in Robert Stephenson.

I could easily see Phillips starting on a regular basis. If he starts to experience trouble against RHP, he could be placed in a platoon with Taylor Lindsey (and this is the slant the Angels should take in negotiating a trade for Phillips).

Although we are taking on another burdensome contract, it would be quite possible to move him at a later date if someone like Alex Yarbrough (or Lindsey) proves ready to take over the position.

The important thing to remember is that we are buying low on a player (Phillips), one year of a mid-rotation starter, and a top prospect for two years of Kendrick, one year of Hanson, and an above average prospect of our own.

This trade would solve all of our remaining problems except for the final starting pitcher we need. It all depends on how desperate the Reds are to move Phillips and how much salary they will eat to facilitate the move.

A sample lineup might look like this:



This more than likely wouldn’t be the final configuration for the 2014 roster, if this trade was to go through, but it gives a glimpse of what we should probably expect next season.

More and more it appears that our rotation will be built on a trade for some type of established starter (such as Bailey) or a young MLB ready pitching prospect plus a free agent acquisition.

Although this scenario is extremely unlikely Jerry Dipoto will need to continue to think outside of the box in order to improve without adding too much additional payroll. It is a real challenge over the next 3 years until contracts like Hamilton’s start to come off of the books.
Love to hear what you think!

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