By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
Now that the World Series is over (congrats Giants), it’s time for the Hot Stove season to begin. This offseason, the Angels are going to have to be creative in order to solve all of their needs. They need a leadoff hitter, improved outfield defense, a third baseman, and a reliever in order to recapture their dominance from previous years. They will have to dive into the free agent pool and they are going to have to work a trade or two in order to keep their payroll within a reasonable level and to maximize the performance from each position.
Since it’s almost always impossible to trade an exact “value” of one Major League player for another, most trades involve Minor Leaguers to “round out” the deal. While Tony Reagins showed a willingness to trade Minor Leaguers in 2010 (trading many Minor Leaguers for Callaspo and Haren), there are some players in the Angels’ organization who should not be dealt for anything short of a monstrous return on the investment (the type of dream deal that only happens in fantasy baseball and internet fan sites).
Below are my list of players that the Angels should not trade under any realistic situation:
1. Mike Trout, CF
Minors: .348/.428/.490 with 10 HRs and 56 SBs
Speed, power, defense, what doesn’t Mike Trout have? His season last year may have propelled him to being considered the #1 prospect in all of Minor League baseball. Talent like his does not come along often, and, his numbers are legitimate. He has already won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award as the Topps/Minor League Player of the Year, and was the youngest player ever to win that award. There may not be a faster right-handed batter out of the box than Trout. With his power and plate discipline, he has all the hallmarks of being something special. The biggest challenge for the Angels with Trout will be trying to avoid the temptation to rush him through the system and instead giving him another year or more to develop. If there is one thing, though, that is a certainty about Trout, it’s that he’s as untouchable as any Angels’ player ever.
2. Jordan Walden, RP
Minors: 1-1 with 8 saves 3.44 ERA in 49.2 IP
Majors: 0-1 with 1 save 2.35 ERA in 15.1 IP
There aren’t many pitchers who throw harder than Walden. He hit triple digits in Anaheim several times. But, more importantly, he showed poise on the mound, good location, and movement with his stuff to keep hitters off-balanced. He already has two plus-pitches and is working on his changeup. If he develops that, he could be wicked-good. He is the Angels’ closer of the future and may be needed as the closer as soon as next year (as Rodney’s September audition indicated). The Angels will not be able to find a better closer than Walden, or one that will cost less. Yes, he has a funky delivery, and yes, he will struggle a bit as he learns to close on the Major League level, but, there’s no way that the Angels should consider trading him—not when they can bank that money elsewhere to improve the team.
3. Hank Conger, C
Mike Napoli? Jeff Mathis? Have an opinion on which one should get the majority of the starts? Who cares? The long-term solution for the Angels at Catcher is Hank Conger. He is the ideal blend of the two; he can produce the offense of Napoli and the defense of Mathis. Good catchers, especially those who can produce offensively aren’t cheap and don’t come along often. Conger should be ready in 2011, which makes Napoli available in a trade. The Angels can and will get good value for Napoli from a team willing to sacrifice some defense for more offense out of the catcher’s spot. That will help the Angels fill in some of their other needs. But, While Mathis will be the primary catcher in 2011, by the end of the year, Conger’s bat should earn him the starting role and put Mathis in the back-seat role as a catcher.
4. Tyler Chatwood, RHP
Minors: 13-9 with 0 saves 2.84 ERA in 155.1 IP
Chatwood dominated the California League. That’s not an easy thing for a pitcher to do, considering all the hitter-friendly ballparks in the League. Had he had enough innings to qualify, his ERA would have been the best in the league by over 1.5 runs! Chatwood has a power arm with a great curve and great fastball. While he’s only 5’11”, he still gets a great downward angle on the ball and generates a ton of groundballs. Although there were some questions about Chatwood down the stretch, as his strikeouts dropped after his promotion to Double-A, he still is a blue-chip pitcher who could be ready by 2012. That’s a good thing because in 2012, the Angels should be done with Kazmir’s contract and Pineiro will be a free agent. The Angels could move Chatwood into one of those open spots in the rotation, freeing up money to sign Weaver long-term. More importantly, knowing that money will be coming off the books in 2012, and replaced by premium talent at the Major League minimum, Arte Moreno may be willing to overspend his budget in 2011 in order to improve the team and recouping some of the economic losses the following year.
5. Jean Segura, SS
Minors: .313/.365/.464 with 10 HRs and 50 SBs
In his final chat with AngelsWin.com as the Director of Scouting for the Angels, Eddie Bane dropped a bit of a surprise on us: Jean Segura would be looked at as a shortstop for the future. As a second baseman, Segura’s numbers are already superb; he ranked in the top-10 in the Midwest League in most offensive categories for 2010. He is a 5-tool athlete, with speed (50 SBs in 2010), power (46 extra base hits in 2010), and plate discipline (45 BB: 72 Ks). He has a plus arm and great range, and should be able to handle the defensive demands as a shortstop. That blend of speed and power would put him in elite company as a Major League shortstop. At only 20 years old, Segura has a lot more upside as a prospect—his power has not yet fully developed. He can play in a variety of spots in the lineup, ranging from being a leadoff hitter to a middle of the order bat. Rival scouts speak very highly of Segura. Some have inquired about trading for him, and to date have been rebuffed by the Angels. Considering that at the time it appeared that Segura was blocked by Kendrick and Amarista at second base, that says a lot about how highly regarded he is by the Angels. Now that he will be playing shortstop, where he won’t be blocked long-term, he should absolutely be off-limits because he is a stud in the making.
6. Garrett Richards
Minors: 12-5 with 8 saves 3.52 ERA in 143.0 IP
While Chatwood may be closer to the Major Leagues, Garrett Richards may have more upside as a starter. That’s saying a lot about Richards. Richards has a 4-pitch repertoire, including a plus-fastball (that can touch the upper 90s), a plus curve, a good slider and a changeup. He’s a year behind Chatwood in development, but progressing nicely. The command issues that plagued Richards in college have been hammered out; he struck out nearly four times as many batters as he walked in 2010 (149 Ks: 43 BBs). Since Richards only saw a brief bit of action in Single-A Rancho in 2010, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start of the 2011 season at that level. But, he should get a quick jump to Double-A, and might even get a start or two in Triple-A next year. Richards should be ready sometime in 2012, or at the latest, the start of 2013. As the Angels have shown, it’s cheaper to develop pitching internally than it is to sign equivalent talent as free agents, especially when talking about front-end of the rotation pitchers. Richards is an elite talent that will play nicely in Anaheim. With a solid defense behind him, he will generate plenty of outs and will fit into Angels’ baseball. Holding onto him will be a decision that the Angels won’t regret in the future.
Even with taking these prospects off the trading block, the Angels will have plenty of chips to play this offseason. Not only do they have Major League players to trade, they also have plenty of talent within their Minor League system to make a move or two. In an upcoming article, I will take a look at some of the Minor League players that could be moved this offseason as part of a deal to improve the offense. But for now, these six players should be considered off-limits for all deals except the ones that truly knock a GM’s pants off or make message boards blow up.