Wednesday, November 27, 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:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Colorado Rockies
Kansas City Royals

Team Needs:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim –

With the recent acquisition of 3B David Freese and RP Joe Smith the Angels main focus is starting pitching. Although another lefty reliever might be nice, any other position needs would only be realized through additional trades or free agency. 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 or decrease it. Improving their overall farm system is a secondary goal to the primary objective of contending in 2014.

Colorado Rockies –

The Rockies have a decent core in place but they need to reinforce their pitching staff and in particular their bullpen. One of their stated goals is to obtain an impact bat at first base or right field either through free agency or trade. There is salary space on the team payroll which allows some flexibility. Improving their farm system is a secondary goal to the primary objective of contention in 2014.

Kansas City Royals –

The Royals have a significant hole at second base and would like to add an impact bat there and also possibly in right field. Also solidifying their pitching staff either through free agency or trade is a stated goal. Team payroll is a concern so any trade would have to be balance sheet neutral or even reduce total salary. Improving their farm system is a secondary goal to the primary objective of contention in 2014.

Players Involved:

Note: Recently FanGraphs published an article, “An Early Look at the Price of a Win This Off-Season”, which plotted and provided an early look at the value of one WAR in the 2013-2014 off-season. This value, approximately $6.2 million per WAR, is significantly higher than the $5.25 million I was using as an estimate based on previous FanGraphs work on the subject. This change, starting with this article, is now reflected in the player values. Succeeding years have an additional 10% added on a cumulative basis. This doesn’t seriously impact previous articles, but longer contracts will, generally, have more value over shorter ones.

Note: For an explanation of the above chart and how player values are evaluated, please see my previous articles in this series, here.

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.

Kevin Jepsen is still affordable over the next two years and could be a candidate for the back-end of most bullpens. His time and consistency in Anaheim has been rocky and the Angels could move him in the right trade giving him a change of scenery.

Abel Baker (A+) is a defensive-minded catcher with a bit of pop that could hit the Majors in about 2-4 years depending on his development curve.

Colorado Rockies –

The Rockies are coming off a disappointing season, where they started off well but puttered out in the 2nd half. In addition to reinforcing their rotation and bullpen, finding an impact bat is a big priority for the Rockies. Colorado has some interesting pitching prospects and spare outfielders and infielders to move in trade.

Josh Rutledge has been filling in at SS and 2B over the last two seasons. Because the Rockies focus on ground-ball pitchers, due to the homer-friendly nature of Coors Field, Rutledge finds himself on the bottom of the depth chart at 2B and may not have a home because D.J. LeMahieu is better defensively.

Eddie Butler (AA) is a rising pitching prospect in the Rockies farm system. He has three above average pitches and does a nice job of suppressing home runs and limiting contact.

Blackmon (AAA/Majors) is a former top prospect who is currently acting as the 4th OF for the Rockies. He has a good tool set with some power, speed, positional flexibility and a decent arm. He hits RHP well. Dahl (A) is a young power-hitting outfield prospect who could make an impact in the Majors 2-4 years out.

Prospect RP Raul Fernandez (A) and prospect LHP Jayson Aquino (A) are young players that the Rockies can afford to part with at this point in time. Fernandez is a future bullpen piece and Aquino has some upside as a mid-rotation starter if he can continue his development path.

Kansas City Royals –

The Royals did surprisingly well in 2013 but fell short of their playoff goals. They will continue to pursue that dream in 2014 and in order to do so they will have to fill the black hole at second base and possibly add a right fielder and some additional starting pitching (of which they did do recently, signing Jason Vargas).

Billy Butler has been the Royals designated hitter for a while now. Butler’s defense is abysmal and it is almost reckless to put him out on the field anywhere that a ball might come towards him.

The Royals have been rumored to be shopping him and although his bat is strong any acquiring team would have to DH him, limiting his value. The Royals want to move his large salary off of their books and acquire some additional flexibility at DH.

Wade Davis was acquired from the Royals in the James Shields trade. However his performance hasn’t been strong and the Royals might want to move him and his rising salary. Davis could become a back-end starter or even go back to relief for an acquiring team.

Aaron Crow (MLB) and Tim Collins are right handed and left handed relievers, respectively, that helped the Royals bullpen become one of the best in 2013. The Royals have recently stated that they could be shopping one or both of them as they have a lot of bullpen depth to draw upon.

Finally Kyle Zimmer (AA) is a flame-throwing RHP starting pitcher prospect in the Royals farm system. He is a premium arm with front of the rotation written all over him. Although he does give up some walks and hits, he has massive strikeout potential.

The Trade:

How Does This Improve Each Team?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim –

The Angels move their next most valuable trade pieces (Bourjos being the first), in Kendrick and Trumbo, to the Royals and Rockies, respectively, along with Jepsen, who also heads to KC. This is a major prospect haul for the Halo’s.

First of all the Angels acquire DH Billy Butler from the Royals. The Royals really need to shed salary to provide financial flexibility and by sending two years of Butler to the Angels they achieve that. Billy would hit exclusively at DH (except in NL games where he would be a late-inning bench bat) and provide excellent OBP and power in the middle of the order.

The Angels also acquire 2B/SS Josh Rutledge from the Rockies. Rutledge is buried in the depth chart at 2B behind LeMahieu and Herrera because the Rockies, with their groundball rotation and bullpen, need the best defenders on the field. Rutledge could be platooned at 2B with Taylor Lindsey, providing quality at-bats against LHP.

Additionally the Angels also pick up LHP Tim Collins in the back-end of the bullpen. The Royals have additional LHP relief so Jepsen and Collins are essentially a swap of relievers to fill out “handedness” in the respective bullpens. Collins is more of a fly-ball type pitcher which will fit in with the defensive philosophy the Angels currently employ. He will add quality depth to the relief staff.

The crème de la crème of this trade is the acquisition of two young, cost-controlled starting pitching prospects in Kyle Zimmer and Eddie Butler. Zimmer needs a little more time in the Minors but he is getting close to joining a Major League staff. Eddie is also very close to contributing at the Major League level and both of them would provide high quality starting pitching depth behind the starting five.

Finally, Aquino and Fernandez provide live, young arms that could potentially develop into contributors at the big league level in 2-4 years’ time.

The Angels essentially swap out two MLB players, one MLB reliever, and one prospect for one MLB player, one MLB reliever, one part-time MLB player and four prospects. We are swapping two year of Kendrick, three years of Trumbo, two years of Jepsen, and prospect Baker for two years of Butler, two years of Collins, two years of Rutledge, and potentially several controlled years of the three starting pitching prospects and one relief prospect.

The net cash result of this trade would require the Royals to send $500,000 International Bonus Pool money to both the Rockies and the Angels for 2014. Additionally they would need to eat $2.5 million of Butler’s 2014 and 2015 salary to balance out the trade. The Angels would save about $8.3 million in 2014 salary that could then be applied elsewhere.

If the Angels were to win the bid on Tanaka and sign Arroyo (or Jimenez, Hughes, et. al.), it would give them a starting five rotation of Jered Weaver, Masahiro Tanaka, C.J. Wilson, Bronson Arroyo, and Garrett Richards which would be a significant improvement over the 2013 rotation.

Even if they don’t get Tanaka, there are other options that could slot into the 4th/5th spot in the rotation.

Colorado Rockies –

The Rockies acquire the big bat they want in the form of Mark Trumbo. Mark will likely play first base or possibly right field and would certainly benefit from the homer-friendly Coors Field.

Additionally Colorado also picks up Wade Davis who they had originally targeted when the Rays shopped him in the same offseason that the Royals picked him up. Davis gives the Rockies some flexibility as he can slot in their #5 spot in the rotation or possibly in relief like he did in Tampa Bay. He would provide a veteran presence for the other young members of the Rockies rotation.

The Rockies would pick up the defensive-minded Abel Baker who could help their pitching staff in 2-4 years’ time.

Finally the Rockies pick up Aaron Crow, who has strong groundball numbers which is always a plus in Coors Field. He would provide back-end bullpen depth and could even be used as a spot starter in an emergency.

Colorado takes on additional 2014 salary obligations but they are much less than if they were to acquire a bat in free agency and they filled two other holes on their roster in the process.

Kansas City Royals –

The Royals fill their second base black hole with the offensively minded Howie Kendrick. Howie will help fill the void of Butler’s bat in the lineup while providing above average defense at the keystone.

Additionally Kansas City picks up young outfielder Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon hits right-handed pitching very well and could platoon in right field with Justin Maxwell (who hits LHP well), providing very good offensive production out of the corner outfield positions (Alex Gordon providing the other part in LF), while maintaining a strong defensive outfield configuration.

Also David Dahl would provide Kansas City with a future power-hitting outfielder as an insurance policy if a prospect like Bubba Starling doesn’t pan out.

Finally the Royals swap relievers by sending the LH Collins to Anaheim and get back the RH Jepsen to Kaufmann Stadium. The Royals have solid LH bullpen pieces to replace Collins and the loss of Aaron Crow would be made up by the acquisition of Jepsen while offsetting a small amount of cash.

After this trade and the cash being sent across, the Royals will have saved about $2,000,000 for the 2014 season which can now be applied towards an additional starting pitcher or signing a DH candidate such as Corey Hart who can play first base and in the outfield (greater flexibility over Billy Butler).


This trade provides solutions and depth for all of the teams involved.

For the Angels this trade would resolve virtually all remaining depth issues. The only remaining problem would be the starting rotation (the big one right?).

However I think the Angels will be all-in on Tanaka, especially considering the money they saved in this trade. Arroyo is probably a #4 option at a reasonable contract. It wouldn’t be a disaster if the Angels crested the luxury tax threshold by a small amount for this year only. Adjustments could be made next year to bring the team under that cap.

In the worst case scenario Zimmer or Butler could be called up after the first month or two and take a rotation spot. The Angels could even employ a four-man rotation to start the year and take advantage of their newly formed quality bullpen to pick up a lot of those innings until either Butler or Zimmer is ready to enter the rotation (probably Butler who threw nearly 150 innings in the Minors in 2013 so he is stretched out further than Zimmer).

A sample lineup might look like this:

This lineup, against either LHP or RHP, would be pretty strong all around. The bullpen in particular would be vastly improved with quality depth throughout those seven relievers who either have had previous closing experience or have the “stuff” to pitch in high leverage situations. The final bench spot could be filled by Grant Green or Andrew Romine (likely Green to start).

In light of recent trade rumors both on and, a trade with the Rockies and/or the Royals makes sense. In particular a three-way trade makes more sense if the Royals are involved because there doesn’t seem to be a comfortable fit with the Angels and that would be alleviated if the Rockies got involved.

Love to hear what you think!

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