Thursday, October 31, 2013

By Robert Cunningham, Contributor - 

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 article is meant to entertain and generate discussion!

Teams Involved:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Philadelphia Phillies
Toronto Blue Jays

Team Needs:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim –

The Angels need pitching for both the rotation and bullpen. Additionally a possible upgrade at third base would be desirable. Team budget is a concern (even if Arte Moreno breaks the luxury tax threshold) so any trade would need to keep the team payroll relatively neutral. Improving their overall farm system is a secondary goal.

Philadelphia Phillies –

The Phillies need to fill one hole in the back-end of their rotation and bullpen. Additionally they have stated a need for a power-hitting corner outfielder who can hit left-handed pitching. Also their catching situation is up in the air and finding the right tandem for primary and back up duty is a priority. Improving the lower levels of their farm system is a secondary goal.

Toronto Blue Jays –

The Jays have made it clear they need to find an upgrade at second base. Also they have stated a desire to acquire a right-handed hitting backup catcher against left-handed pitching. Adding some inexpensive bullpen help could allow them to safely move one or more of their current relievers in trade. The Jays farm system is relatively strong and is a potential asset source.

Players Involved:

‘Adjusted Value Out’ takes the average WAR of a player, over the last three years, and makes minor adjustments for age (decline), scarcity (projected high WAR season), and whether they project to receive a Qualifying Offer.

Please note that prospects are, by nature, inherently cheaper in value. Top prospects, of course, are more valuable than ‘organizational depth’ type prospects and Minor League experience level is also reflected in their value.

Example: The Rangers traded Mike Olt (#57 on MLB 2013 Top 100), Justin Grimm, C.J. Edwards, and Neil Ramirez for essentially $5.1 million (1.1 WAR for 2nd half of 2013) and a half-year of Matt Garza. Although it was a deadline overpay for one mid-level star and three organizational players, it illustrates the point.

This prospect evaluation is reflected in the ‘Adjusted Value Out’ column in the chart above. Those players under contract that are likely eligible for a Qualifying Offer at contract end, which would net the controlling team a compensatory draft pick, adds additional dollars to their ‘Adjusted Value Out’ total.

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.

Mark Trumbo is also a player that the Angels might consider parting with in trade. Several teams are looking for a corner outfielder/first baseman and the Angels don’t really have a clear starting position for him in 2014. Trumbo is also likely to receive a Qualifying Offer before hitting free agency, netting a draft pick for the controlling team.

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.

Chris Iannetta also has two years remaining on his team-friendly contract. His positive value would allow the Angels to move him in trade and then sign a catcher who can hit left-handed pitching to backup Hank Conger, who would receive the lion’s share of starts in 2014.

Philadelphia Phillies –

The Phillies are also coming off a disappointing season and have needs in their rotation, bullpen, and the outfield. They too would like to acquire another young, controllable starter and a trade, especially if it involves moving one of their big contracts, would be desirable from a payroll point of view.

Cliff Lee has been the subject of trade talk for a while now and he is owed a tremendous amount of money over the remainder of his two year, plus one option year, contract. Despite his increasing age he has been very productive and the short contract length would be attractive to the right teams.

Note: For the purposes of this analysis Lee’s value is based on the idea that his option year would not be picked up and his buyout paid. Even if the option were picked up it would make minimal difference in this analysis.

Third base prospect Maikel Franco (AA) had a terrific offensive year in the Minors this season. His defense is fringe-average but he has decent hands and a sturdy arm. The Phillies already have Cody Asche, another third base prospect, up on the big league team who looks like he will start in 2014, making Franco expendable in the right move.

Finally the Phillies can afford to part with left-handed reliever Jake Diekman (AAA/Majors) and left-handed starter Austin Wright (AA) as they have other near-MLB ready starters (Biddle, Martin, and Pettibone) and relievers like Luis Lopez as depth for Bastardo and Horst.

Toronto Blue Jays –

Just like the Angels and Phillies, the Blue Jays are also coming off a disappointing season where they were expected to contend. Questions surround their rotation, second base, and at the backup catcher position behind Josh Thole.

Although the Blue Jays would be okay with retaining Casey Janssen, their 2013 closer, he could also be moved in trade to fill some roster holes. Janssen could be a one year rental for an acquiring team or a possible extension candidate.

Also J.P. Arencibia is a potential non-tender candidate for the Jays as their front office feels that left-handed hitting Josh Thole is their 2014 starting catcher. If the Jays could trade him and his projected $2.8 million salary it would be a plus as he is a borderline non-tender candidate.

Additionally the Jays have two of their top young starting pitching prospects, right-handers Aaron Sanchez (A) and Marcus Stroman (AA) that could eventually slot into the front end of a pitching staff. Since the Jays already have Jeremy Jeffress and Sean Nolin on their 40-man, these two are expendable in the right trade.

Finally the Blue Jays are able to part with right-handed relievers Joel Carreno (AAA) and Wil Browning (A+) who are young, cost-controlled bullpen pieces that are expendable.

The Trade:

How Does This Improve Each Team?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim –

The Angels, by moving Kendrick, Trumbo, Iannetta, and Hanson, move a lot of salary off of the books to make room for the acquisition of Cliff Lee, a clear front of the rotation starter. Essentially the Halos trade four controllable, MLB players in exchange for one controllable MLB player, one rental MLB player and five prospects.

The net result of this trade, for the 2014 season, is an addition of $4,175,000 in team payroll and this doesn’t consider the fact that the Phillies will have to kick in some salary relief (about $5 million in 2014 and $8.5 million in 2015) to help balance out the trade making this a net gain in salary of zero for 2014.

If the Angels re-signed Jason Vargas, it would give them a starting five rotation of Cliff Lee, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, and Jason Vargas, which would be a significant improvement over 2013.

In addition to Lee the Angels acquire a young, offensive minded third base prospect in Franco who could compete for a starting position in Spring Training and at the minimum would provide some quality depth at the position.

Additionally the back-end of our bullpen would be instantly upgraded with the addition of Janssen. Also the acquisition of Carreno and Browning creates additional, quality depth in the Minors with Carreno being the first called up in the event of an injury.

Finally adding Marcus Stroman and Austin Wright (both currently in AA) provides starting rotation depth which we badly need. If a starter is injured one of these two could get the call and fill in the gap.

Philadelphia Phillies –

The Phillies trade away two controllable MLB players, cash, and two prospects in exchange for one controllable MLB player, two probable one-year rental MLB players, a top pitching prospect, and some salary relief.

Losing Cliff Lee creates a bit of addition by subtraction for the Phillies mainly through payroll relief. Although they now have to fill a hole in the front of their rotation they have more cash to focus on a starting pitcher trade and their primary catcher position.

Mark Trumbo adds the right-handed, corner, outfield bat the Phillies need and Arencibia gives them a stop-gap backup catcher for 2014 with some slight upside. Hanson gives them a 5th starter for their rotation and if he performs well back in the National League he could be a trade chip or extension candidate.

Although the Phillies would technically have about $12,250,000 available for 2014 they have to provide some salary relief for Cliff Lee. Assuming they send over the $5 million, mentioned above, it leaves them with a little over $8 million (for 2014) on top of the available payroll space (about $38 million) they currently have to acquire a starting pitcher, catcher, and set up reliever.

If the Phillies were to sign Masahiro Tanaka, for instance, it would give them a starting five man rotation of Cole Hamels, Masahiro Tanaka, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Kyle Kendrick, and Tommy Hanson, which is not too shabby.

The remaining payroll could be used to acquire a left-hand hitting catcher such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Brian McCann to handle the main catching duties and a right-handed relief pitcher for their bullpen.

Finally the Phillies acquire the type of young prospect that they wanted in any trade for Cliff Lee in the form of right-handed pitcher Aaron Sanchez who can be a future front end starter for them in 2-4 years. Alternatively, the Phillies could flip Aaron Sanchez (or Jesse Biddle) to the Rays as the centerpiece of a David Price trade. In fact they could forego Hanson and try to target both Tanaka and Price!

Toronto Blue Jays –

The Blue Jays end up using their farm system to acquire some of the pieces they need to contend in 2014, especially in light of the major upgrade moves they made prior to 2013. Toronto gives up two one-year MLB rental players, some cash, and four prospects in exchange for three controllable MLB players.

Acquiring Howie Kendrick impacts their middle infield tremendously and he is an offensive-minded hitter in a hitter-friendly ballpark. The potential compensatory pick has additional value for the Jays.

Chris Iannetta would become the backup catcher to Josh Thole, creating a nice catching platoon for the Blue Jays. Chris has a reasonably priced, two-year contract which is a good fit for the Blue Jays current window of contention.

Jake Diekman gives Toronto a pretty good left-handed back-end bullpen guy who is more of a groundball pitcher in a homer-friendly ballpark which is a plus.

The Blue Jays end up taking on a little over $8 million in salary for the 2014 season which is a reasonable increase for their team payroll. They will have to kick in about $3.3 million to the Angels as well (probably paying most of Janssen’s salary) to help balance out the total trade. It still gives them room to target a starting pitcher in trade.


Although this was a fun thought exercise it does show what some extreme creativity can do to improve a team.

Most trades are done on a much smaller scale to add one or two pieces at a time but once in a while you get a monster trade that can completely reshape a team’s outlook (Pre-2013 Blue Jays) or season (2013 Dodgers and Red Sox!).

This trade would rely on the willingness of the Phillies to move Cliff Lee and his massive salary and the Blue Jays to give up two of their top pitching prospects. However both teams intend to compete next season, especially the Jays, so there is a motivation factor on all sides that could make this a possible reality. 

Love to hear what you think!

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