Monday, November 8, 2010

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer

In the first article in this series, I analyzed which Angels’ prospects should not be traded for anything short of a mammoth deal. But, heading into 2011, the Angels have numerous holes to fill and will need to make some deals. While the Angels’ Front Office might not want to admit it, this team needs more than just some window dressing to improve itself. It needs to find a leadoff hitter, another middle of the order bat, a solution at third base and some help for the bullpen if it wants to make a serious run at the post season in 2011.

In order for the Angels to accomplish all of that, it seems likely that one or more trades need to be made. These trades need to involve both Major League players and Minor League players. The Angels will have to give up some talent in order to get some talent, and, in some cases, absorb some payroll in order to clear salary hurdles. And, to round out any deal, the Angels will most likely have to trade some Minor League talent.

Major Leaguers Available for Trade:

One of the biggest challenges that the Angels face this offseason is that they have too many redundant players at the Major League level and too many spots on the field filled by below average offensive forces. So, some addition needs to be made by subtraction. While the team slumped overall, many of the players on the Angels still have value to other clubs. They could be packaged to acquire a better player to work in tandem with a free agent signing, such as Crawford, Werth or Beltre, to help take the Angels back to the post season in 2011.

Since the value of Major Leaguers is easier to predict, and the ability to align needs is more apparent, below each Major League player I’ve included my best guess as to the likelihood that the player will be traded. These guesses are based on the conversations I’ve had with scouts and people familiar with the Angels organization. If anything, they are a measure of the desire by both the team to see them traded and the desire by other teams to acquire those players. With the Angels having numerous needs to fill, and, with a lot of avenues open for them to explore this offseason, I’m listing several players who could be moved for the right deal. In no way does this mean that I necessarily want to see them traded, but, this is more of a listing of who could be dealt for the right package.

Mike Napoli, C
Majors: .238/.316/.468 with 26 HRs and 4 SBs
Chance of Being Traded: Very High

As long as Mike Scioscia is the manager, catching will be a defense-first position. While offense out of the catcher’s spot would be beneficial, it is secondary in Scioscia’s eyes to calling a good game and handling the defensive duties. While Napoli is a powerful threat at the plate, he’s not as gifted defensively as Mathis or Conger. He’s due for a large raise in arbitration. He has value to many other clubs who favor offense over defense, and could net a good return on the investment. For all his fans, it’s a fair bet that he will be playing in another team’s uniform next season.

Brandon Wood, 3B
Majors: .146/.174/.208 with 4 HRs and 1 SB
Chance of Being Traded: Very High

Everyone knows how bad a year Brandon had last year. It wasn’t pretty. But, no one took it harder than Brandon did himself. Watching him take batting practice prior to each game, you could tell that he was struggling to rediscover the talent that he had. It is still in there, but, in all likelihood, it most likely won’t reemerge playing in Anaheim. A change of scenery may be what’s best for him and his career. Even with his horrid year, he still has some trade value. Although not as valued as he was 2-3 years ago, he could net a decent prospect or could land a player in a similar situation. An interesting trade for Brandon might be to trade him to the Marlins for Andrew Miller, a left-handed pitcher, and some cash. The Angels have need for a left-hander in the pen. And, like Wood, Miller is a work-in-progress who is out of options. A trade like this could be beneficial for both clubs and is the type of move that the Angels should explore once they’ve settled on their primary targets for the offseason.

Juan Rivera, OF
Majors: .252/.312/.409 with 15 HRs and 2 SBs
Chance of Being Traded: High

Not only did Juan Rivera’s offensive and defensive stats take a step backwards in 2010, his work ethic seemed to regress as well. That did not sit well with the Angels. The combination of Rivera’s poor defense, along with Abreu’s declining defense forced the Angels to promote Bourjos earlier than they had wanted. If the Angels can trade Rivera, even for salary relief, I expect them to do so. That way, they won’t be wasting money on the bench with Rivera if they sign Crawford or Werth and are unable or unwilling to trade Abreu. Rivera is owed over $5 million next year, so the Angels may have to absorb some salary in order to move him (my guess is about $2 million). At $3 million and with one year remaining on his contract, several teams might be interested and willing to take a flyer on him. Don’t expect much in a return for Rivera, but, do expect the Angels to work hard to move him as they pursue Crawford.

Fernando Rodney, RP
Majors: 4-3 with 14 Saves 4.24 ERA in 68.0 IP
Chance of Being Traded: Medium-Low

For all those who were glad to see Fuentes traded, September may have been quite a shocker. Fernando Rodney failed miserably as the primary closer. Not only were the Angels not pleased with his performance on the field, they were upset with his attitude. Unfortunately, many scouts told me that Rodney is “not the kind of closer that [they] would expect to play for a contending team.” He’s owed a lot of money in 2011 relative to his poor performance. While the Angels would like to improve their bullpen, they would have to absorb a lot of Rodney’s salary in order for that to happen. And, they wouldn’t get much in return. Odds are fairly high that Rodney will be back in Anaheim to give Walden a little more time to get seasoned before taking over the closer’s role. But, trading him this offseason would be a nice case of addition by subtraction.

Bobby Abreu, OF/DH
Majors: .255/.352/.435 with 20 HRs and 24 SBs
Chance of Being Traded: Low

Abreu, like most of the Angels in 2010, slumped badly. But, he still finished the year with 20 HRs and 24 SBs. He is likely to rebound, somewhat in 2011, especially if the rest of the lineup improves. Whether Abreu wants to admit it or not, his age has caught up to him to the point where he is DH more than an outfielder. As such, he could still be very productive for the team. While he’s a bit more costly than other DH options out there, his mix of speed and power still plays well for the Angels. And, he could get an occasional start in the OF next year so that the Angels can keep Hunter and Crawford rested. So, it’s not too likely that he will be traded. However, the Angels seem determined to sign either Crawford or Werth (with all speculation focusing on Crawford as the primary target), so they will need to clear a spot in their OF/DH situation. If they cannot trade Rivera, which would be the better move for the team, they may have to find a way to trade Abreu to clear payroll and to open up the spot for the free agent that they covet.

Howie Kendrick, 2B
Majors: .279/.313/.407 with 10 HRs and 14 SBs
Chance of Being Traded: Very Low

You have to give talent in order to get talent. And, talent that is still relatively young and under club control is highly desirable, especially in these economic times. As such, Kendrick represents a player with a lot of appeal to other clubs. Like most Angels, he struggled in 2010. But, like many Angels, he is expected by scouts to post better numbers in 2011. The Angels have a plethora of MIF types both in the Majors and in the Minors. As such, they are redundant parts. Kendrick is by far the most valued of the bunch, so, he would draw the most attention. If the Angels are unable to land Crawford or Werth, they may focus their attention on other solutions, which may require trading Kendrick.

Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Majors: .265/.302/.374 with 10 HRs and 5 SBs
Chance of Being Traded: Very Low

The combination of Brandon Wood’s poor performance last year and Maicer Izturis’ inability to stay healthy forced the Angels to make a trade—any trade—to improve their production from third base. Callaspo is not a prototypical 3B, and he doesn’t generate the offense to warrant holding down the job. Originally a 2B while developing in the Angels’ Minor Leagues, Callaspo is a redundant part for the Angels. If they land Beltre, or trade for another player at 3B, Callaspo has nowhere to play. Callaspo could have some value if he can show that the injury to his wrist, which sapped some of his power in the second half, is fully recovered. But, the Angels won’t be able to get much for Callaspo if they do trade him as other teams know the Angels need to clear their MIF logjam. If the Angels can greatly increase their offense elsewhere, then, they could get by with Callaspo at 3B for another season while they search for a better solution.

Erick Aybar, SS
Majors: .253/.306/.330 with 5 HRs and 22 SBs
Chance of Being Traded: Extremely Low

Part of a GM’s job is being able to see a multitude of solutions to the team’s problems. One of those solutions, although an extremely low possibility, could be to trade Aybar. Most of Aybar’s problems last year stem from putting him into a role for which he was not well-suited: the leadoff hitter. Aybar doesn’t have the plate discipline or the base stealing skills to be an effective leadoff hitter. He’s better suited for the bottom half of the lineup. Unfortunately, the 2010 Angels had too many players who were better suited for the bottom half of the lineup and at the same time, they also lacked a true leadoff hitter. So, Scioscia was forced to pencil Aybar’s name into that spot because he had nowhere else to put him and no one better to put into that spot. I believe that if the Angels improve their offense and return Aybar to the bottom of the lineup, he will rebound. His defense and strong arm overcome his shortcomings and mental errors. But, if a solution presents itself that required trading him, I could also see the Angels considering it, which is a change from their stance last year.

Scott Kazmir, SP
Majors: 9-15 with 0 Saves 5.94 ERA in 150.0 IP
Chance of Being Traded: Remote (Impossible?)

I don’t believe in miracles, but, nothing is impossible. Scott Kazmir will make too much money in 2011 to justify being a 5th starter. But, the only way to trade Kazmir is to take on another team’s salary dump, which probably won’t meet any of the Angels’ needs. Most likely Kazmir will be with the Angels, so, it’s best to hope that he rediscovers what made him an elite pitcher earlier in his career. If not, hopefully Chatwood will excel in Triple-A and be ready by the middle of the season because the Angels cannot endure another full season of Kazmir throwing no more than 5 innings a game and more often than not, leaving the game with the opposition holding a lead.

Minor Leaguers Available for Trade

As much as some national publications criticize the Angels’ Minor League system, there is still plenty of talent available in it to make one or two trades. Even excluding the six players that I listed in the earlier piece from trades, the Angels have several worthwhile trade candidates who could round out a deal to improve the parent club.

Unlike the Major Leaguers, trying to predict the chances of a Minor Leaguer being traded is much more complicated. A lot more depends on the needs of the other club and the players the Angels are trying to acquire. Consequently, the Minor League players do not have an estimate for their chances of being traded, and instead are listed alphabetically.

Alexi Amarista, 2B
Minors: .309/.350/.421 with 5 HRs and 25 SBs

He’s a sparkplug at the top of the lineup and a defensive whiz. Amarista played at three levels in for the Angels in 2010 and hit at every level. He’s playing well in Venezuela this winter and showing no signs of being overmatched. He has good plate discipline and speed that should translate into 20 to 25 SBs in the Majors. At just 21, he’s well ahead of the curve and should be ready by the middle to end of 2011. Unlike Jean Segura, whom I would not trade, Amarista is not well suited for shortstop, so, he cannot be moved easily to another spot. With the Angels having a glut of MIF players already on the Major League club, and Segura behind him, Amarista’s best value may be in a trade.

Jeremy Berg, RP
Minors: 2-0 with 5 Saves 1.37 ERA in 65.2 IP

The Angels have two very talented relief pitchers in development both of whom could be ready by the end of 2011. The first is Jeremy Berg, who in his two years pitching for the Angels has yet to post an ERA over 1.50 at any level. The most walks that he has allowed came last year in Double-A, where he allowed 5 walks in 24.0 IP. Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2009, Jeremy has excelled at every level where he has pitched. Unfortunately, even with those credentials, it will be hard for Berg to crack the Angels’ bullpen. With Walden and Kohn establishing themselves in 2010, and Jepsen, Bulger and Rodney set to return, there won’t be many spots available for Berg. And, with the Angels having another equally impressive reliever in development, it may be best for the Angels to trade Berg this year as part of a package to land a bigger prize.

Steven Geltz, RP
Minors: 4-1 with 2 Saves 3.08 ERA in 52.2 IP

If Jeremy Berg has an uphill battle to wage in order to make the Major League club, the same is true for Steven Geltz. Geltz, another undrafted free agent signed in 2008 is a strikeout machine. In 2010, he posted an unreal 14.9 K/9 IP ratio and held opposing hitters to just 5.0 H/9 IP! What’s even more impressive is that he did his best work at the highest level where he pitched. At Double-A last year, Geltz posted a 17.3 K/9 IP and only a 4.3 H/9 IP. Command is a bit of an issue with Geltz, as he walked 26 batters in 52.2 IP. But, he is refining his game and has a very high ceiling. Between Geltz and Berg, the Angels have two power arms for the bullpen and may only have one opening in the future. So, one of the two may be traded. Between the two, I would probably keep Geltz because he’s younger and more of a strikeout machine than Berg. But, both are very talented players, one of whom could be packaged in a deal.

Fabio Martinez Mesa, SP
Minors: 7-3 with 0 Saves 3.92 ERA in 103.1 IP

Nothing gets another GM’s attention like a quality arm for the rotation. Pitching is a highly desirable commodity and good young pitching fetches the biggest prizes during trade conversations. In the winter of 2009, the Angels were unwilling to entertain the idea of trading Martinez Mesa. But, that may be changing this winter. Their needs are greater and other pitchers have surpassed him on the depth chart. There’s no doubt that his arm is electric. Even though Martinez Mesa didn’t pitch for the final month of the season, Martinez Mesa finished third in the Midwest League with 141 Ks in 103.1 IP. He trailed the league leader by a mere 10 Ks even though the league leader threw 153.0 IP. Command was a bit of an issue for Martinez Mesa; he walked 76 batters. But, command for most 20 year olds is always an issue. As a starter, Martinez Mesa has two plus-pitches (fastball and slider). He’s working on a changeup, but it’s still in development. If Martinez Mesa can develop an effective third pitch, he could be an elite starter. If not, he could be a wicked closer. But, with Richards and Chatwood ranked higher than him as starters, and Walden and Jepsen as potential closers, Martinez Mesa could be made available this offseason for the right price. I don’t think it’s likely that the Angels would trade him, but, with the Angels needing to fill many holes this offseason, the Angels may have to include him to land the right player.

Jeremy Moore, OF
Minors: .303/.358/.463 with 13 HRs and 24 SBs

Not many players did more to boost their stock in 2010 than Jeremy Moore (Trout being one of the few who did). Moore had always been considered a “toolsy” player, but in 2010, he turned those tools into impressive numbers. He’s followed up his breakout season in 2010 with an impressive performance in the Arizona Fall League. Moore has the potential to be a 20/20 outfielder and can play all three defensive spots. At 23, he’s not behind the curve, but will still need to prove that he has truly turned a corner at Triple-A next year. Unfortunately for Moore, though, the Angels are targeting Crawford for LF and have Bourjos and Hunter for the remaining OF spots. Behind him is Mike Trout, who could end the season by playing alongside him in Triple-A next year. That would make him Moore expendable, especially to a team looking to keep payroll at a minimum.

Trevor Reckling, SP
Minors: 7-13 with 0 Saves 6.42 ERA in 148.2 IP

If Jeremy Moore did about as much as a player could do to improve his standing as a prospect, Trevor Reckling did the complete opposite. 2010 was a tremendous learning opportunity for Reckling, and the first time that he truly struggled as a pitcher. His command wasn’t there and he wasn’t able to replicate his pitches. There’s no doubt that his stock dropped based on his performance, but scouts differ in their assessment as to how much his stock dropped. Young left-handed starters are in rare supply and garner a lot of attention from scouts and GMs. Once he was demoted from Triple-A to Double-A, Reckling improved his performance. He is still considered by many scouts to be a very good prospect, just not an elite prospect. Reckling will have to work hard in 2011 to return to the level that he had at the end of 2009. Still, Reckling has plenty of trade value and could be cashed in to generate more offense in 2011.

Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF
Minors: .301/.368/.577 with 36 HRs and 3 SBs
Majors: .067/.125/.067 with 0 HRs and 0 SBs

In the past, Trumbo started off slowly and improved as he adjusted to the league. However, in 2010, Trumbo started off hot and remained that way for the entire year. Trumbo finished 2010 tied for the most homeruns in the entire Minor Leagues. He has followed that up with an impressive performance so far in winter ball. While scouts debate whether his long swing will be exposed at the Major League level, they all agree that he has monstrous power. The Angels are trying to find ways to get his bat into their lineup by having him learn to play the OF because his natural position, 1B, is blocked by Kendry Morales. He has the arm for RF and is improving on his defense. With young power always an intriguing possibility for teams, particularly small-market teams, Trumbo could be an ideal fit for one or more of them. But then again, if the Angels could move Rivera, then they could also hold onto Trumbo and work him into a rotation at 1B, OF and DH.


While the Angels have several holes to fill in their lineup, they do have a lot of chips to trade in order to solve their needs. Looking over this list, it’s easy to see why it takes the entire organization two days full of intensive meetings after the season to try and chart the course for the team—there are just too many different ways for the team to go.

One thing that Angels’ fans should appreciate is that their owner has made it clear that 2010 needs to be an aberration, not a return to form. For long-time fans, that is especially hearty news. This year’s Hot Stove season will be active for the team.

It will be interesting to see how the Angels proceed from here. In the final piece in preparation for the offseason, I will present the moves I would like to see the Angels make to improve the team as well as some fallback options in the event that they are unable to make the ideal moves.
Love to hear what you think!

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