Thursday, November 7, 2013

By Robert Cunningham, 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:

Note: This is not a multi-team trade. Each of the trades would be separately conducted between the Angels and each other individual team in question.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Padres
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 for 2014) so any trade would need to keep the team payroll relatively neutral. Improving their overall farm system is a secondary goal.

St. Louis Cardinals –

The Cardinals are looking for upgrades at both shortstop and center field. Budget is not a concern for them and improving their overall farm system would be icing on the cake as they have probably the premier prospect base in MLB.

San Diego Padres –

The Padres have a stated need for a left-handed bat, a corner outfielder and/or first baseman, and a left-handed reliever. Additionally there is some upheaval surrounding their third baseman Chase Headley so that may be a concern for them as well. The Padres are a small-market team so budget is a concern, requiring any trade to relatively neutral. An improvement to their farm system would also be a bonus for the Padres who already have a good prospect base.

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 so an improvement there is a bonus.

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.

Erick Aybar might be the most painful of these players to part with as our replacement options, although defensively sound, are not offensively oriented to the degree that Erick is. Aybar is a solid shortstop with a team-friendly 3 years remaining on his contract, making him an attractive option for a team in need.

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.

Peter Bourjos, whose performance has been hampered by injuries, is quite possibly the most elite defensive center fielder in the game today but hasn’t had too many opportunities to show it. His offensive game started to take a step forward in 2013 before being hit by a pitch that limited his season. Although trading him right now is a sell low moment, other teams recognize the tremendous value he brings and he will net more than most realize.

Prospects Michael Roth and C.J. Cron are expendable pieces for the Angels, especially the latter who is a first baseman/designated hitter type that probably won’t have a positional home on the team for the foreseeable future. Cron, a first round pick, has some value as a potential power hitter while Roth, a lefty specialist, has quite a bit less.

St. Louis Cardinals –

The Cardinals are coming off a tremendous season where they nearly won it all. St. Louis is flush with cash to compliment a great farm.

Recently there have been rumors that the Cardinals would be willing to move Shelby Miller or Lance Lynn in trade to fill their other needs. They are so deep in pitching that they can also afford to part with another starter/long reliever in Seth Maness, who is a sinker-ball specialist.

San Diego Padres –

The Padres are facing a big question regarding the retention of their current third baseman Chase Headley. The fact that they haven’t been able to sign him to an extension yet leads to the belief that they might move him in trade this offseason. If they do lose Headley, Jedd Gyorko could be moved over to the hot corner and second base could be filled internally (Amarista for instance) or through trade/free agency.

Beyond Headley the Padres have two prospects, Matthew Wisler, a young right-handed pitching prospect, and defensive-whiz, Austin Hedges who are expendable due to the Padres depth in their rotation (Luebke and Wieland should be available next season) and also their team control of Hundley and Grandal at the catcher position for at least the next two years.

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. Looking towards the future when Edwin Encarnacion’s contract expires they could use a power-hitting first baseman.

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.

The Blue Jays also have enough pitching depth in AAA that they can afford to part with young right-handed pitching prospect Marcus Stroman (AA) in a trade for the right players.

The Trades:

How Does This Improve Each Team?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim –

The Angels, by moving Kendrick, Trumbo, Iannetta, Aybar, Bourjos, Cron and Roth, move a lot of salary off of the books to make room for the acquisition of Shelby Miller, a clear front of the rotation starter.

Essentially the Halos trade five controllable, MLB players and two prospects in exchange for one controllable MLB player, two rental MLB players and four controllable, near-MLB ready prospects.

The net cash results of this trade, for the 2014 season, is a reduction of $11,420,000 in team payroll after we pay about half of Aybar’s 2014 contract in salary relief to the Cardinals and receive about a million each in salary relief for Headley and Iannetta for 2014 only.

If the Angels re-sign Jason Vargas, it would give them a starting five rotation of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Shelby Miller, Jason Vargas, and Garrett Richards which would be an improvement over the 2013 pitching staff.

In addition to controlling Miller for the next five seasons, we acquire sinker ball pitcher Seth Maness who is very good at limiting both walks and home runs. With the new Angels defensive arrangement behind him (Headley, Romine/Field, Lindsey/Green, and Pujols) he should enjoy quite a bit of success with the Halo’s as either a starter or long reliever.

Additionally, from the Padres, we acquire a one-year rental of one of the better defensive third basemen in the Majors: Chase Headley. Chase is also a switch-hitter who hits RHP better than LHP but is a presence in the middle or top of our batting order. He would also be a secondary extension candidate behind Mike Trout.

Beyond that we also acquire a rising young AA RHP prospect in Matthew Wisler and the young, defensive-wizard catcher Austin Hedges who can act as the primary depth option behind Conger and whomever we sign as a free agent catcher for 2014.

Finally from the Blue Jays we acquire a one-year rental of Casey Janssen who immediately upgrades the back-end of our bullpen and young AA RHP prospect Marcus Stroman who is also a rising star in the Jays farm system.

The net result is that the Angels do improve their rotation and bullpen along with acquiring, at least for 2014, a third baseman that is a significant upgrade over what was available to us internally. We do lose some offense at both shortstop and second base but it is made up by the improvements in other areas.

St. Louis Cardinals –

The Cardinals deal from their impressive farm system by trading away top prospect Shelby Miller and prospect Seth Maness for three years of shortstop Erick Aybar and three years of Peter Bourjos.

Losing Miller or Maness doesn’t hamper the Cardinals rotation options and it allows them to reload for another sustained run at a championship in 2014. In particular the upside of Bourjos, if he avoids injury, is favorable to St. Louis.

Additionally they only had to take on a small amount of total salary ($4,325,000) which will allow them to pursue any and all free agents that they choose to pursue and could even allow them to consummate additional trades to further upgrade their already elite team.

In the end the Cardinals deal from great positions of strength to fortify their main areas of weakness. It would not surprise me to see the Cardinals try to acquire Max Scherzer or another experienced, high-quality starter (maybe even Cliff Lee) to upgrade their rotation in pursuit of another World Series run.

San Diego Padres –

The Padres end up replacing the loss of Headley by moving Gyorko over to third base, his former Minor League position, and acquiring power-hitter Mark Trumbo who they can use at either RF or at first base and the offensive-minded Howie Kendrick to plug in at second base.

This gives the Padres a nice infield of Gyorko, Cabrera, Kendrick, and Alonso/Trumbo. If they want to keep Alonso at first they can move Trumbo to the outfield and trade Will Venable or perhaps Chris Denorfia for some of the pitching depth they want. Also Kendrick has no significant platoon split, giving the Padres added strength vs. RHP.

The catching tandem of Hundley and Grandal mitigates the loss of Hedges. Wisler would probably not contribute significantly this season whereas the likes of Luebke and Wieland probably could help making Wisler’s loss manageable.

San Diego takes on a little over four million in salary for 2014 and pays for almost a million of Headley’s salary, creating a net increase of about $5 million for 2014 which is a reasonable increase for the team payroll. The remaining holes can be filled by a Venable-based trade. The Padres could take a significant step forward in 2014.

Toronto Blue Jays –

The Blue Jays end up using their farm system and bullpen depth to acquire the right-handed hitting catcher they need along with a first base power hitting prospect.

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.

C.J. Cron places a left-handed hitting power prospect who can possibly be the first baseman or DH in the coming years. This would provide insurance behind Edwin Encarnacion and allow the Blue Jays to deal Adam Lind for starting pitching help. Cron could possibly take over first base in two years if Edwin leaves or could hit in the DH spot.

The Blue Jays take on nearly $975,000 in salary for the 2014 season along with an additional $1,100,000 in salary relief for Casey Janssen which is a reasonable increase for their team payroll.


The actual individual trades are fairly reasonable. Probably the most disagreement will center on the Miller-Maness for Aybar-Bourjos trade. Just so you understand I assumed Peter would project for a 2.4 WAR season in 2014, 3.1 WAR in 2015, and 3.5 War in 2016, his walk year.

These are reasonable values in my opinion and it only reinforces the idea that Bourjos is a valuable commodity. Some focus so much on his offense that they forget he is one of the top 3 defensive center fielders in the game today. Run prevention is criminally underrated by the fans but luckily not so by MLB teams.

Although this was a fun thought exercise it does show what some extreme creativity can do to improve a team. In reality, the likelihood that the team completely sells off all of the players in this scenario is pretty remo

Love to hear what you think!

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