Thursday, June 15, 2023

If you landed here due to a Google search on an old blog article, we're glad that you did. But we want to let you know that most of our content moved over to our new & improved website which has a blog of its own back in 2013. 

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

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Dear Angels fans: This will be our last post from Blogger, so from this point forward all of our articles will be published on If you had our blog bookmarked, please just bookmark or will bring you to the same place and it's where you can find all of our content going forward. We will not fully sunset this blog, though all of our past articles have been moved over to our new website. 

We're excited about this move as The Sports Daily blog network has talented authors who provide quality content on a daily basis. This also expands our content to the east coast as NESN, the popular New England based network owns the network we now call home. 

Our forum URL has not changed and can always be found here if you do not have it bookmarked. Still today, boasts the largest Angels based fan community on the net and our articles are read by not only the fans, but the media, players (their families) and the Angels organization as a whole. 

Thank you all for being a faithful member, reader & supporter of We're very excited about this next chapter for us. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer - 

“Don’t be fooled by the rock pile that I’ve got! I’m still, I’m still C.J. on the block!” – Alternative J-Lo Lyrics

On January 19th, 2017, news broke out of Caracas, Venezuela, via Efrain Zavarce on Twitter, that free agent infielder Luis Valbuena was on the verge of signing with the Angels on a multi-year deal.

Days passed before the signing was officially confirmed with the two sides agreeing to a 2-year, $14.5M deal with a mutual option, per Jeff Fletcher, worth an additional $8.5M-$10M (based on PA’s) for a potential total contract of 3 years, $23M.

It was initially thought that Valbuena would act as a platoon partner to hitters like Danny Espinosa and Yunel Escobar but shortly after the signing announcement GM Billy Eppler dropped a small bombshell, declaring that Luis would receive bats at 1B in 2017.

Scene: C.J. Cron walks into his new clubhouse, “…. (Record scratch screech) …. You’re probably wondering how I got here?”

If you are a fan of the Primer Series (and frankly who isn’t, am I right? Amirite?!?!?) you may recall that in Part VI, First Base, the possibility of a Cron trade was proposed, in part, because C.J.’s offensive production could be replicated easily through free agency or trade.

Now certainly Billy Eppler does not have to trade Cron, as C.J. has one more Minor League option left which would allow the Angels to send him down to Salt Lake City to start 2017. Retaining him would give the Angels a tremendous amount of flexibility in the upcoming season and would give them solid options if Albert Pujols starts the year on the disabled list.

On the other side of the coin, C.J. does have a substantial amount of trade value primarily due to his four remaining years of control, his above average offensive production, and his very reasonable projected salary. The latter in particular will be attractive to small market teams and clubs with tight payroll space.

The free agent and trade markets this year had (and still have) a glut of corner infield bats, particularly 1B types, which created a difficult signing environment due to an abnormally large supply with a large but not equitable demand. Several teams including the Indians, Blue Jays, and Phillies, for instance, have already locked up many of the better hitters that were available. This leaves the Angels with a favorable market for Cron, due to his youth, ability, and price, but an unfavorable market in terms of demand as there are few teams left in need of his services.

In fact when you examine 1B and DH needs in both Leagues it becomes patently clear that there are perhaps only three teams left, the Royals, Rockies, and Rays, with a possible need for C.J.’s services. It is certainly possible that another team could enter the picture but they would have to make space for Cron by moving one of their current slated options off of 1B or DH.

In order to understand C.J.’s trade market we need to know how much surplus value he has. Using a rudimentary $/WAR system you can determine a ballpark number for Cron’s surplus value as seen below:

photo fIG1_zpsyvj95iht.png

C.J.’s estimated salary consists of the $550,000 he will make in 2017 and the projected arbitration salaries of $3.5M, $6M, and $10.5M he will make in 2018-2020. Remember that sluggers like him are often heavily rewarded in the current arbitration process.

Also, as part of this simple model, we have used a base free agent $/WAR starting value of $8,531,710, a carryover value from last year’s FA market, for 2017 and increased it by a standard 10% per year to determine future $/WAR values for 2018-2020. Again this is a rough approximation method; take it with a grain of salt.

After that it is simply adding in his projected WAR value of 1.5 WAR across all four seasons (this assumes no further improvement by Cron), multiplying by each individual year’s $/WAR value, adding them up and subtracting out his estimated salary to arrive at his full Net Worth of nearly $39M.

This basic model is good for getting a feel for relative values of players on the market but it does not encapsulate certain, more complex, economic, positional, and market factors that MLB teams consider in their valuations.

More importantly it is not the only way to look at C.J.’s value. For instance Luis Valbuena, who just signed for an average annual value of $7.67M per season, is a pretty equivalent player to Cron. You could point to Valbuena’s AAV as the marker for C.J.’s yearly value which would actually lower his surplus value too approximately $31M-$32M give or take.

In the end we will settle for a surplus value of $35M for the purposes of this article. However this only has meaning for a team that has a real need for C.J.’s services at 1B or DH. For instance the Reds already have Joey Votto so from a performance perspective it would make zero sense for them to acquire C.J. unless they are tearing down the team for a rebuild and are moving Votto this season.

Fortunately for the Angels the three teams mentioned above do have a need so let us examine each one and talk about a potential return. This will be a purely speculative exercise but it can start a conversation about realistic expectations in any potential Cron trade.

Remember that the Angels could still use another rotation and bullpen arm plus they could still choose to upgrade at catcher and possibly 3B as well so those are the needs we will focus on.


To start off we will take a look at Kansas City which has apparently determined to make one last World Series run before they lose a significant number of high-profile players to free agency after next year including CF Lorenzo Cain, 1B Eric Hosmer, and 3B Mike Moustakas.

Currently the Royals depth chart shows Cheslor Cuthbert as their lead DH option, followed by the recently waiver-claimed Peter O’Brien, and RF Jorge Soler. Eric Hosmer is listed as the primary option at 1B, followed by 2B Whit Merrifield, but Eric rated out as one of the worst defenders at 1B in 2016 making him a possible candidate to slide over to their DH spot.

In 2016, Kansas City ranked 14th vs. LHP with a wRC+ of 100 and ranked 27th vs. RHP with a wRC+ of 84. Clearly they need and want help offensively against right-handers and someone like C.J. could certainly aid them in that department.

So what do the Royals have that the Angels might want?

In a perfect world the first name that would roll off my tongue is 3B Mike Moustakas. He is in his last year of team control and, as noted above, will hit free agency after this season.

There could be a scenario where the Royals would trade him for C.J. and either move Cheslor Cuthbert over to 3B, his natural position, or, perhaps, the Angels could add 3B Yunel Escobar, who is also in his last year of control, to the trade and the Royals could simply option Cuthbert down to the Minors as a depth move to keep giving him regular at-bats in preparation to take over the hot corner next year.

Beyond Moose, the Angels would probably have interest in one of Kansas City’s starting pitchers. The name that really stands out to me is LHP Matthew Strahm who pitched well out of their bullpen in 2016 and is a capable starting rotation candidate.

There is also an outside possibility Eppler might be eyeing left-hander Mike Minor too but he is recovering from Tommy John Surgery and only pitched a total of 42.1 innings in 2016. He is probably a bullpen candidate more so than a starting option making him a less likely nominee overall.

Beyond Moustakas, Strahm, and Minor there is not much more that would likely be of interest to the Angels on the Major League roster. The Royals bullpen is currently a bit thin in depth (likely another reason they want Mike Minor pitching in relief) and the rest of their available position players do not match up well with Eppler’s needs.

The Angels might have interest in prospects like RHP Alec Mills, LHP Eric Skoglund, or OF Jorge Bonifacio but Billy probably has his sights set higher with the Royals.

Based on that let us look at both of the Mike’s and Matt’s relative surplus value:

photo Fig2_zps7uyhbaqf.png

As you can see this is why young prospects like Matthew Strahm are the bread and butter of all MLB teams, as the value you can potentially get from one moderately successful MLB player like him is significant.

Strahm’s valuation is probably a fairly accurate one from this point forward in strict terms of $/WAR. We should note though that most prospects like him will NOT be valuated that high at this point in their careers.

Only the most elite prospects in baseball will have a valuation close to the $75M listed above so, in reality, Strahm, at this point in time only, is probably worth closer to $30M-$40M simply because he is not a proven, tested entity in the Major League scene. For the purposes of this article we will assume a value of $35M which seems reasonable for the here and now, preseason 2017.

One year of a 3-WAR Mike Moustakas seems reasonable at an approximate $17M valuation too. Steamer estimates 3.1 WAR from him for 2017 even off of an injury plagued season so the 3 WAR input above seems acceptable.

Minor who, as a reliever and coming off a partial season after Tommy John Surgery and a shoulder issue, is marked at ½ WAR, working out of the bullpen, actually has a negative valuation so he would be a big gamble for Eppler if he targeted him in trade. 

If the Angels were to entertain discussions with the Royals it would likely revolve around a Cron for Strahm or Cron for Moustakas deal.

A straight up trade of C.J. for LHP Matthew Strahm would make a fair amount of sense for both sides. The Royals can probably afford to part with one starter (which may be the reason they acquired Karns in the first place) and the Angels can afford the luxury of moving Cron, now that Valbuena is in the fold.

However it is very possible that Billy Eppler has greater interest in Mike Moustakas. Not only is Moose an above average hitter he is also a good defender at 3B which is a stated goal for the team. He only has one year of control but he seems like a very likely target in free agency next offseason for the Halos, so bringing him into the fold now would give Eppler and Scioscia a “test trial” look at a player they may want to invest in long term.

Over the last two years, Moose, in a limited sample size, has reduced his strikeout rate, generated a significant increase in hard contact, raised his HR/FB ratios, has become less of a pull hitter and more of an all-fields approach guy, and has made great strides in hitting both left-handed and right-handed pitching. He appears to be on the verge of really hitting his stride and achieving his full potential.

It is possible that the Angels could convince the Royals to part with one year of Moose and six years of Strahm for four years of Cron, one year of Escobar, six years of a left-handed hitting utility player like Sherman Johnson (or Kaleb Cowart or Nolan Fontana) who could platoon as needed with Merrifield and Cuthbert next year and beyond, and perhaps a right-handed reliever like Mike Morin (2-4 years based on performance) or Deolis Guerra (3-5 years based on performance) for instance. If Eppler wanted he could add one or more additional prospects to sweeten the deal.

Kansas City would get a long term power option that would improve their team offensive production against right-handed pitching, a temporary one year replacement third baseman in Yunel to give Cuthbert more development time, a utility option in Johnson (or Cowart/Fontana) that can play good defense at 2B and 3B with another left-handed bat to platoon against RHP, and a mid-inning reliever to fill out their bullpen. The Angels upgrade for one year at 3B defensively (and probably offensively) and add a nice left-handed arm to their rotation for 2017 and beyond.

If Eppler managed this one it would be an impressive moment. Some may argue that the price of pitching is high this offseason but there is also an argument to be made for positional and payroll needs as well which are also big drivers of front office decisions particularly for smaller market teams like the Royals.


A while back Colorado made a surprising move to sign OF/INF Ian Desmond to a large $70M contract in order to play first base. Even further back, than that, the Rockies were heavily rumored to be shopping one of their outfielders as well.

The idea of pouring that much money into an athletic player like Desmond to play first base seems pretty ludicrous on the surface. The thought of course is that the Rockies will move someone like Charlie Blackmon in trade for other areas of need and then move Ian into center field.

This of course makes a great deal of sense (but hey Colorado does not have a very glorious, recent history of good moves so…) and the side effect of a Blackmon trade/Desmond move is that the Rockies would now need an everyday 1B (or platoon partner). Enter the Angels and C.J. Cron.

For 2016, the Rockies were ranked 25th in wRC+ vs. LHP (84) and ranked 16th in wRC+ vs. RHP (96). A hitter like C.J. would certainly improve their numbers against the latter and be around team average against the former.

In this scenario, beyond the need for a 1B, they may want to acquire a veteran catcher as both Wolters and Murphy have little Major League experience. Also the Rockies might want to upgrade over their utility infielder Adames who has shown poorly against RHP so far in his career. Finally the Rockies may be looking for additional rotation help, possibly a left-handed option but that is speculation on my part.

Clearly the Angels have Cron to offer for the former. Carlos Perez (~$30M in surplus value) may be of interest to the Rockies, or not, but it is unclear. The Angels currently have Pennington (~ $5M), Cowart (~$10M), Johnson (~$20M), and Fontana (~$10M) as utility options so they can afford to deal from depth. In terms of LHP the Angels could offer someone like Nate Smith but that would drain from our own depth in that department.

On the Angels side Eppler probably would love to acquire a starter, bullpen piece, or catcher from the Rockies. Players like LHP Tyler Anderson, LHR Chris Rusin, RHP Tyler Chatwood, RHP German Marquez, LHR Jake McGee, and C Tony Wolters are all possibilities. Here are their projected $/WAR values over their remaining years of control:

photo Fig3_zps3fkpfhxk.png

Clearly there are some disparities here that need to be addressed before proceeding.

Tyler Anderson is a 1st round draft pick and he does have a bright future but his actual trade value, right now, in 2017 is a fraction of the projected $108M listed above. Realistically his value is probably closer to $40M-$55M, give or take, due to his very limited MLB playing time. We will use $50M for this discussion.

Three years of Rusin, as a mid-innings reliever, and one year of Chatwood seem priced appropriately in the numbers above so we will let them be.

German Marquez, also a valued prospect, has very little MLB experience so his trade value, in preseason 2017, is also lower. Realistically he is probably worth about $30M-$35M in total value at this point in time. We will use $35M for this article.

McGee, based on his actual 2016 performance and his 2017 projection, makes sense but then, if you consider that if he had been available on the free agent market and had signed a one year deal, he probably would have received $8M-$12 or so from some team if he had been available, so we will use $10M as his value.

Finally Wolters, who only has one year of MLB experience under his belt and was only recently claimed off of waivers a year ago, probably does not have the full value listed above. Realistically, based on his pitch-framing success, he probably would be valued at about $20M at this point in time and that is what we will use here.

So if we are just talking about trading Cron, Anderson is almost certainly off limits. In fact Tyler may be unavailable period as he is the Rockies only lefty in their rotation as it is currently constructed.

A straight up trade of Cron for German Marquez might be achievable for both sides as the Rockies also have right-hander Jeff Hoffman available to join the rotation. This is a distinct possibility.

Beyond that any remaining combination may prove problematic to execute without the Angels or Rockies adding in other players and prospects or possibly involving a 3rd team in the trade. For instance Colorado will not move Wolters if they do not get Perez or another catcher back from a 3rd party.

Basically a trade with the Rockies will likely be a 3-way deal if it happens. It is easy to see, for example, a team like the Cubs, who reportedly expressed interest in Blackmon earlier in the offseason, get involved in a deal like this.

For example the Rockies could send Blackmon (~$30M in value) to Chicago and McGee ($10M) to the Angels, the Angels could send Cron ($35M) and Pennington ($5M) to the Rockies, and the Cubs could send two prospects like OF Mark Zagunis (~$20M) and RHR Felix Pena (~$10M) to the Angels. There are too many permutations and possibilities with too many teams, to list here, but you get the idea and can substitute in your preferred choices.

One final thought here is that the Angels could deal Carlos Perez (~$30M), rather than Cron, to the Rockies instead. In fact the Angels could send Perez and a utility player like Sherman Johnson to the Rockies and, as part of a 3-way trade, the Rockies could send Blackmon to the Cubs and McGee to us, and the Cubs could send Zagunis and Pena. The Rockies may not be comfortable with essentially two rookies behind the dish to start the season and acquiring Perez would allow them to start Murphy in the Minors to act as depth.

This would allow the Angels to deal Cron to one of the other teams listed in this article to fill out our rotation for instance. As indicated there are so many possibilities it is difficult to examine them all.


Finally we come to the Rays who have already made a series of moves designed to allow them to compete in 2017 and, as reported recently on, have shown an interest in adding a big bat to their lineup.

Adding offense makes some sense as the Rays ranked 11th in wRC+ (101) versus LHP and ranked 14th in wRC+ (98) versus RHP in 2016. A hitter like C.J. would improve the latter quite a bit (but damage the former if he does not improve).

When you examine the Rays depth chart there is very little that needs improvement other than 2B. Likely Tampa wants to slide Brad Miller over to 2B (he is a former SS) and add a bat at 1B rather than dip into the 2B market but they certainly have multiple options here to address their roster. We will proceed with the assumption that a productive 1B bat is needed, particularly against RHP.

Based on that what do the Rays have that the Angels need?

RHP Jake Odorizzi would likely pique Billy Eppler’s interest as he has three years of arbitration control remaining and is projected, per, to make $4.6M in 2017, which is favorable to the Angels payroll situation and solidly fills an area of need.

Another obvious candidate is RHP Alex Cobb who will make $4.2M in his last year of team control in 2017 before he hits free agency.

The Angels would love to get LHP Blake Snell but frankly he is the only lefty projected to pitch in the Rays rotation and he likely costs more than Eppler can pay in all frankness.

Beyond those starters the Angels might have some level of interest in RHR Alex Colome, RHR Brad Boxberger, RHR Danny Farquhar, RHR Erasmo Ramirez, and LHR Xavier Cedeno among others but it seems unlikely that the Rays will give up any of those players if they are trying to win in 2017.

Beyond those MLB players, the Angels might have interest in some of the following prospects too: RHP Brent Honeywell (unlikely), RHP Jacob Faria, RHP Chih-Wei Hu, RHP Jaime Schultz, and SS Adrian Rondon among others.

So based on all of this a straight up trade of RHP Jake Odorizzi (~$29M) for 1B C.J. Cron (~$35M) looks pretty good on paper even if you add in a 20% premium on pitching in this year’s market. This trade really relies on the Rays willingness to part with him and it seems like they would rather move Cobb, who is in his last year of control, over Jake, making this trade less likely overall but not impossible. Its simplicity is its strength.

RHP Alex Cobb (~$10M) strikes me as the pitcher the Rays most desire to move and, considering how Eppler has been taking the “two birds, one stone” approach to some of his trades this offseason, it seems more likely that the Angels might find common ground on Cobb than any other pitcher the Rays have on their roster.

There is a scenario here where Eppler trades Cron for Cobb and perhaps one of their high quality relievers or a nice mid-tier to upper-tier pitching or hitting prospect (or both possibly). Alex has a career 52.5% GB% which would fit well into Eppler’s strategy of putting the ball on the ground and excellent infield defense.

If this happens expect the Angels to acquire Alex Cobb (~$10M), a reliever like Xavier Cedeno (~$10M) with three years of control left, and perhaps a low to mid-tier prospect for C.J. Cron (~$35M). The Angels could add in a utility middle infielder to the deal as Nick Franklin hasn’t exactly been a shining example of defensive talent or they could add another player or prospect to extract the talent that they really need and want from the Rays in this potential deal.

Beyond Cobb they could try to do a swap of Cron for Honeywell straight up and that would be a fair deal overall but the Rays rely heavily on their farm system and trading away a future middle or front of the rotation starter like him would be a leap of faith for Tampa’s investment in the 2017 season that they may not be able to afford to take.


First of all it seems unlikely (not impossible of course) that a C.J. Cron trade will happen soon. The Angels probably want to see how Pujols progresses in his recovery before trading away a needed replacement. Of course there is nothing stopping Billy Eppler from trading C.J. and simply signing one of the remaining free agent bats on a one year deal so there are options for the team.

Out of the three teams mentioned above it seems like the Royals and Rays are a little bit more likely trade suitors than the Rockies based on the aforementioned fact that any likely deal with Colorado would probably need a third party involved which makes any negotiations more complex. Not impossible mind you just that there are more moving parts.

The bottom line is that the Angels not only have time on their side they do not have to trade Cron to complete their offseason. However if they want to maximize their chances of competing in 2017 moving C.J. will probably bring back the pitching that our rotation and bullpen need to compete.

Personally the author would like to see a deal with the Royals first (Strahm in particular), then the Rays (Cobb plus one of their relievers and a prospect), and then the Rockies (the three way trade with the Cubs to acquire McGee, Zagunis, and Pena). All three suitors have their plusses and minuses but all of them will add temporary and long term value to the team in all likelihood so they are all good choices in the end.

Friday, January 13, 2017

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer - 

Author’s Note: If you missed the previous installments you can find Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here, Part V here, Part VI here, Part VII here, Part VIII here, Part IX here, Part X here, Part XI here, and Part XII here.

Let me pose a question to you the fans: Did the disaster of the 2016 season give you digestive problems such as nausea, loss of appetite, motion sickness, or even pain?

If you said yes, please let me recommend, for you and the Angels, a healthy dose of ginger in the 2017 season.

Our favorite redheaded right fielder will return for another season of Gold Glove-caliber defense and an incrementally improved offensive profile to hit in the middle of Mike Scioscia’s lineup.

Kole, in 2017, will be entering his fourth year of team control and his second year of arbitration control as a Super Two player (meaning instead of three years of arbitration he receives four years). Calhoun, per, projects to receive $6.3M for the 2017 season.

This year’s salary will not be a problem for Billy Eppler to incorporate into team payroll but the Angels, after this season, will need to seriously consider reaching a decision regarding both Kole and Garrett Richards escalating salaries.

If Calhoun and Richards play for the entire season without injury both could receive raises for 2018 that would bring their salaries up to the $10M-12M range, which would decrease flexibility next year. Eppler can accommodate it, particularly if he cuts payroll in other areas, but it may be best to consider either extending Kole or consider trading him.

Based on long-term payroll and the window of contention we are in with Trout, buying out Calhoun’s remaining arbitration years with perhaps at least one option year would allow the Angels to stabilize their payroll while retaining the veteran Kole through his age 31 (or even 32 or 33 if we buy out one or two free agency years) season.

Once the 2017 season concludes it would not be surprising to see the Angels offer Calhoun a 2-year/$25M-30M, 3-year/$45M-50M, or even 4-year/$65M-70M extension contract. It would give Kole his first really big payday and provide his family with long-term financial security, while for the team it would solidify their outfield situation for the next handful of years while providing team payroll constancy over the same period.

If the Angels choose to go the trade route after 2017, Calhoun could certainly bring in one or more prospects or MLB players but we would then have to fill the hole and the production that he provided which is not insignificant, making continuing arbitration payments or an extension more palatable for Billy Eppler if he cannot acquire an adequate replacement outfielder.

Speaking of production, Kole, in 2016, had a tidy .271/.348/.438 slash line with the aforementioned high quality defense manning right field. Although he hit less home runs than he did in 2015, he created more runs with a wRC+ of 118 versus the 104 from the previous season. Part of those home runs were actually converted to doubles (23 in 2015 vs. 35 in 2016) which increased his slugging percentage slightly last season.

Also in 2015, per FanGraphs Jeff Zimmerman in a spreadsheet found here, Kole Calhoun had a corrected average exit velocity of 83.1 miles per hour. However in 2016 that number rose 3.7 mph to 86.8. Additionally the average launch angle off of his bat crept up slightly from 11 degrees in 2015 to 14.1 degrees in 2016.

FanGraphs batted ball data concurs with the exit velocity assessment showing that in 2015 Kole had a 28% Hard hit percentage and in 2016 it jumped up to 35.5% which is a marked improvement. Also you see an increase in Calhoun’s fly ball percentage as it jumped from 35.4% in 2015 to 39.9% in 2016.

If that increase in exit velocity holds for 2017 you would expect to see Kole’s BABIP remain steady around his 2016 number of .309 because he his hitting the ball harder which makes it more difficult for any defenders to not only reach it but handle it if they do manage to glove it. Exit velocity is a good indicator of extra base hit potential.

Another more important item is Calhoun’s strikeout rate coming in nearly 3% lower than his career rate in 2016 (17.6% vs. 20.3%). Not only did he lower it he also posted his highest walk rate in his Major League career coming in at a tidy 10%.

It feels like Kole, in his third full season of plate appearances in the Majors, is taking a small but important step forward in the evolution of his offensive profile.

Considering that he will probably move to the middle of the order in 2017 it will be important for Calhoun to provide a balanced approach at the plate because he will be asked to put on many hats as a run creator and producer next year. His ability to provide a quality at-bat and to spray singles and doubles all over the field will be a critical component for the team’s success.

Look for Kole to be a stabilizing influence on both sides of the ball and to take a larger role as a team leader in 2017. He has earned not only the fans respect but his teammates as well and he is a vital component to our success in winning a championship.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer - 

I will preface this article by stating that, in the past, I have not been a fan of signing the Orioles former rising star, he just seemed to be missing key components, such as pitch framing ability, good career offensive numbers against RHP, and the previous Tommy John Surgery on his throwing arm gave me concerns about his durability.

However if you look deeper at his numbers and his performances in 2015 and 2016, you see the possible makings of a trend that may be enticing to Billy Eppler and the 2017 Angels squad.

First let us examine Matt’s defensive numbers as seen in the table below:

 photo Weiters1_zpsm0lrem1i.png

There are a couple of interesting items to talk about here.

Matt’s pitch framing was actually good earlier in his career (2010-2012) but fell off in recent years. It is possible that he could work on this part of his game and improve but he will likely never be an elite pitch framer. He probably will not hurt a team too dramatically in this department.

Obviously the 2014 CS% of 8% is an outlier. That was the year he tore his UCL and ultimately required TJS so his career CS% of 33% is probably a much more reliable number in regard to his ability to control the running game.

It is not fully shown here but from 2010-2012, the Fielding Bible loved his Defensive Runs Saved numbers, averaging over 13 runs saved over that 3-year period. It is not a total stretch to believe that Wieters can reclaim some of that former glory as he is further removed from his injury. FanGraphs consistently gave him positive DEF scores over the years with some large variance year to year.

On the offensive side there are some really interesting details that may be a trend or could simply be an outlier.

First let us look at his 2015, 2016, and career batted ball numbers:

 photo Weiters1_zpsm0lrem1i.png

The first thing that leaps off the page is the dramatically high line drive percentages over the last two years. They are significantly higher than his career numbers which indicates a clear improvement, similar to Cameron Maybin, in hitting mechanics and/or his approach at the plate. This is definitely a plus for any acquiring team.

Additionally Matt has made improvements in his all-fields approach and ability to hit line drives up the middle of the field. More importantly he does this from both sides of the plate which is another added plus to his offensive profile.

Wieters hard contact percentage has also improved against right-handed pitchers over the last two seasons. Combined with his exit velocity increase of approximately 1.5 mph in 2016 over the previous year, you begin to see the signs of a player who is recovering and improving after a serious injury in 2014.

Beyond the batted ball data, Matt had mixed actual results from 2015-2016 that may have concealed the improvements in his batted ball profile:

 photo Weiters3_zpstbvucqph.png

If you stare at the chart too long you may begin to feel like you are in choppy sea waters. There are spurts of leaps and stutters over the last two years but the general trend seems to be heading in a positive direction.

In 2015 you can see the impact of his high line drive percentages in his BABIP. He did better against RHP that year but his overall contact rate both in (Z-Cont %) and out (O-Cont %) of the zone was lower than his career average which is reflected in his higher strikeout rates.

The following year, in 2016, he significantly lowered his strikeout rates and saw a corresponding increase in contact percentage but unfortunately more of that contact was outside the zone (i.e. chasing pitches he should not chase). This led to some of his BABIP issues and poor contact from the right side of the plate which resulted in more outs.

So it appears that Wieters is fundamentally sound and, other than the arm issue, durable behind the plate. He will be a slight negative in terms of pitch framing with possible room for improvement but the most value he will bring is with his bat which is above average against LHP and appears to be improving to league average versus RHP, which, for a catcher, is quite good.

In terms of a fit with the Angels, Eppler and Scioscia could roll out Matt against RHP’s and have Maldonado hit against his more dominant side versus LHP’s. On the days Martin catches they could slide Wieters over to 1B to platoon with C.J. Cron who is dominant against RHP but has faltered versus LHP so far in his career.

The platoon at catcher would move from a Perez/Maldonado combination (approximately a 76/95 wRC+ split for RHP/LHP) to a Wieters/Maldonado tandem (approximately a 90/95 wRC+ split for RHP/LHP). Also the full-time C.J. Cron 1B scenario (approximate 119/91 wRC+ RHP/LHP split) would move to a Cron/Wieters platoon (approximate 119/114 wRC+ RHP/LHP split).

This would be an upgrade over Perez against RHP without a doubt. The overall impact to offense is slight but noticeable providing better balance to the lineup. estimated in early December that Matt would receive a 3-year, $39M deal this offseason. In the current market that may be a touch high but it is probably in the ballpark.

Castro signed at $8M per year ($24M total) while the injured Ramos signed for about $6M per season so someone like Wieters might get more, particularly if he accepts a shorter contract. However with the market in a seemingly depressed state it does not seem like Matt will get more than $10M per season.

There is a potential fit with the Angels but it is not a great one. The recent 2-year trend in Wieters line drive percentage is particularly exciting from an offensive point-of-view and there seems to be room for Matt to recover more on the defensive side as well.

In the end if the Angels plan to spend this much money it might be more worthwhile to trade for Miguel Montero, if he is available, who has superior pitch framing skills and would probably not cost us a significant amount in prospect currency. He hits RHP well which would complement Maldonado and in turn allow the Angels to roll out Jefry Marte in a platoon role with Cron if they do not trust C.J. against LHP.

Of course Matt Wieters would be a cash only deal for the Halos which would relieve Billy Eppler from not having to dip down into the barren farm system to execute another trade this offseason.

The recent rumor that the Angels are interested in Wieters may just be Jon Heyman generating clickbait, Scott Boras drumming up the value of his client, or actual interest in the former Orioles star by the Angels.

In regard to the latter there is a positional fit and Matt would improve the team, perhaps significantly if his trends continue, so it is not a stretch that he could be in an Angels uniform by the end of Spring Training.

Monday, January 9, 2017

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer -

First of all let me start off by saying that the odds of the Angels interest level in Jose Bautista, much less signing him, are pretty low. This is simply a test case to identify any possible advantages and disadvantages his signing would bring to the Halos.

To start the conversation Billy Eppler would have to find a positional home for Bautista. The Angels are almost certainly not going to move a premier defender like Kole Calhoun out of right field and, based on Eppler’s early offseason strike in the trade market, Maybin seems set in left field and is likely to become our leadoff hitter.

Jose has not played third base in a long time and frankly Escobar’s bat is also valuable at the top of the lineup (likely the 2-hole) so the Angels probably do not want to downgrade even more defensively at third base despite the value of Bautista’s bat in the middle of the order.

This really only leaves first base and designated hitter and we know one of those spots is permanently (at least it seems like it) held for Albert Pujols. Of course this means that if the Angels really think Jose Bautista is a good idea, C.J. Cron would have to be moved in trade or relegated to a bench role.

Frankly taking Cron’s bat and moving it to the bench seems like a waste of a roster spot. He would only play on a part-time basis or as an injury reserve and would only see plate appearances late in a ballgame. Certainly he could bring a big bang against RHP and is still inexpensive enough that team payroll would not notice but this is a less than ideal scenario for the Angels.

What this means is that the Halos would have to trade C.J. in order to accommodate Jose Bautista at first base.

So for the sake of this hypothetical argument let us say that the Angels trade C.J. Cron to the Rockies for a relief pitcher and prospects, say LHR Jake McGee and one or two mid-tier prospects. This now opens the door for the Angels to sign Jose.

As we all know Bautista rejected the Qualifying Offer, which means the Angels will have to sacrifice their 2nd round pick in this year’s draft (their 1st round, #10 pick, is protected).

A 2nd round pick is of course a lot less valuable than a 1st round pick. Realistically speaking, this 2nd round pick is, in the author’s opinion, worth about $8M-$12M in 2017. For the purposes of this article we will assume the current value is $10M for simplicity’s sake.

Of course that pick could, in 2-5 years, turn out to be worth a lot more if the player selected in that slot pans out and becomes a star. However a lot of Minor League players never make it to the Majors particularly ones taken outside of the 1st round.

Basically Billy Eppler needs to decide if that 2nd round pick plus the money spent is worth the upgrade from Cron to Bautista and does it raise the floor of the team enough on the win curve to make a difference to the teams odds of competing and winning in 2017.

So how much money would the Angels have to spend to sign Jose to a 1-year contract?

Currently it has been rumored that Bautista wants a one year deal greater than the Qualifying Offer amount of $17.2M he rejected from the Blue Jays. FanGraphs Dave Cameron suggested that Jose could wind up signing a one year deal in the $20M-$25M range.

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system pegs Bautista at a 3.1 zWAR while Steamer thinks he will produce 2.7 WAR. FanGraphs Depth Charts essentially combines those two projection systems with inputs from their staff and shows him at 2.8 WAR, which is what we will use for the remainder of this discussion.

Assuming a $/WAR value, in the 2017 free agency year, of $8.5M/WAR combined with Jose’s 2.8 WAR projection yields a free agency price of $23.8M. This price is approximately what Bautista should sign for if you believe in the projection systems and the $/WAR number above.

So if Eppler has to fork out $23.8M for a one year contract, exceed the Competitive Balance Tax threshold and incur a probable $500,000 in taxes at the end of the season (this is a fairly negligible issue in this scenario though), and lose an estimated $10M, 2nd round draft pick, despite what Cron brings back it does not seem worth it right? Maybe.

The final thing you have to consider in these scenarios are the opportunity costs on the back-end of a signing as well.

If the Angels sign Bautista, trade Cron, and then make it to the playoffs how many people would even remember the fact that we lost a 2nd round draft pick in 2017? My suspicion is not many.

In fact you could make a sound case that spending the money now, preseason, is infinitely better than trying to buy a bat at the trade deadline where you will undoubtedly have to pay more in prospect currency (something the Angels do not have).

Your next question might be what happens if the Angels are not competitive and have to sell at the trade deadline?

The answer here is that Eppler would almost certainly have plenty of suitors for Jose’s services in a deadline market. Bautista’s ability to play corner outfield, first base or DH would fit with a lot of clubs and his bat would likely be highly sought after as well.

If the Angels found themselves in this spot they could eat as much money as they need to in order to increase the return of players and prospects that a big bat like Jose would probably command on a pure rental contract.

Here is where the Angels would probably get equal or greater value back for what they had to sacrifice to sign him. As an example we will use the recent Carlos Beltran trade the Yankees executed near the trade deadline in 2016 as a comparable for Bautista’s relative value. It should be noted that Jose is 3 years younger than Beltran and would be 2 years younger relative to Carlos’ age if he were traded mid-year in 2017.

In that trade the Yankees acquired three Minor League pitchers including RHP Dillon Tate, who was the 4th overall pick (1st round) in the 2015 draft, RHP Erik Swanson, and RHP Nick Green. All three are young and playing in the lower Minors (Swanson had 1 inning in both AA and AAA in 2015). The Yankees went after young, unestablished, upside relying on their excellent scouting department to identify value.

The Angels, if they did sign Jose and had to trade him at the deadline, would likely be able to ask for a 1st round draft pick from the 2016 draft as the centerpiece of any trade. The value of that pick is probably at least double the value of our 2nd round 2017 draft pick (i.e. about $20M in value), not to mention that those prospects are already climbing their way closer to the Majors and that is time saved to help win in the Trout window of contention.

This also does not account for the value of any other pieces the Angels could potentially acquire as complimentary value in a trade which would likely add about $8M-$12M. Of course this assumes the Angels eat some of Bautista’s remaining 2017 salary. Notably the Angels, instead of asking for three lower level prospects, could ask for one or two mid-level or higher prospects instead or even a MLB player.

So the opportunity cost here involves a lot of factors. Perhaps the most important one is the ability to trade Cron successfully and for at least fair value (for the record about a $20M-$30 surplus). Others include Jose’s actual contract price, the delta upgrade from Cron’s performance to Jose’s, the loss of our 2nd round draft pick, and the potential recompense of making the playoffs or receiving players and prospects back in a mid-year trade.

There is a compelling case to be made that the Angels should sign Bautista if Eppler can move Cron and convince Arte that exceeding the Luxury Tax by a small amount of money is acceptable (which frankly should not be hard to do in theory). The downside risk in this is actually fairly small.

Basically you are losing approximately $35M in current 2017 value to sign Jose (again assuming you get fair trade value for Cron) in order to gain the opportunity of 1) potentially reaching the playoffs, 2) selling Bautista off at the trade deadline for a probable maximum upside of $30M-50M in 2017 value, or 3) getting nothing because Jose has been injured or has massively underperformed in the first half of 2017.

The overall risk in this scenario appears manageable. Bautista has proven himself to be pretty durable over the last several seasons so the odds of injury is not as high as it might be with other players. Additionally the projection systems do not see a sharp decline for 2017 reducing that risk a bit. Risk is further reduced because it appears Jose is heading for a one year deal in free agency which avoids long term entanglement with an aging veteran.

Again this is a hypothetical long shot of an idea in the first place simply based on our current team payroll concerns and positional availability.

However there does come a time where the opportunity cost makes enough sense that it could encourage a team like the Angels to seriously consider it as an option. There is a reason they call Bautista “Joey Bats” and eventually there could be enough reasons the Angels would want to capitalize on signing him if his market remains depressed and they can make room for him.
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