Thursday, June 26, 2014

By Robert Cunningham, Staff Writer - 

In the afterglow of Thursday’s win (and near debacle) and sweep of the Minnesota Twins the Angels continue to evaluate their bullpen pitchers and any means of improving and upgrading the relief staff.

Jerry Dipoto was recently quoted on XM Radio saying, via Jeff Fletcher, that relievers were “Priority No 1” for the team on the trade market.

Based on the continued shaky and inconsistent outings from several of our relievers it is understandable why the Angel’s front office and fans are in alignment on this issue.

So who is really available and what do the Angels have to offer in trade?

Currently, after Wednesday’s game, the Angels have a 31.4% chance of making the Divisional playoffs with only five other teams, the Tigers, Nationals, Athletics, Dodgers, and Giants, holding better odds.

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, at teams with 5% or less chance of making the Divisional playoffs, you have teams like the Red Sox, Marlins, Rangers, Rays, Phillies, Rockies, Twins, Mets, Padres, White Sox, Diamondbacks, Astros, and Cubs.

Arguably the teams at 5% or less are probably looking at their expendable assets right now to determine which, if any, teams they match up with in possible trades. At this point it would take quite a bit for most of those teams to crawl back into contention and if you can acquire a piece for next year and beyond for a rental, now is the best time to do it in all likelihood.

First of all we need to identify what the Angels want and what they have to offer.

Angels Needs

According to the Angels website the 40-man is full. However, three of those players, Brasier, Burnett, and Moran are all on the 60-day disabled list, which indicates that the Angels could easily acquire at least two more players without disturbing the 40-man roster this season (Burnett and Moran are out for the rest of the year).

To make room on the 25-man roster the Angels would likely send down one or more of David Carpenter, Cory Rasmus, Hector Santiago, Efren Navarro, Grant Green, or Matt Shoemaker. Carpenter and Rasmus are probably the most likely to have targets on their back if the Angels make a move.

In examining the Angels bullpen it is pretty clear that a really good left-handed reliever would be a great add. Beyond that a really good shut down closer type, whether right or left handed, would certainly give the bullpen much needed depth.

Outside of a good reliever or two, the Angels could certainly try to acquire another starting pitcher and then move someone like Hector Santiago into a relief role for the remainder of the season. We will keep this in mind as we look at the available talent in the trade market but we will keep the focus on relief help since that appears to be the most cost-effective way to bolster the team.

Finally we need to have a short discussion about what assets the Angels have that we could trade to another team for the pitching that we desire.

There are three main areas the Angels have some depth in:

1) Second Base – The Angels depth chart looks something like: Howie Kendrick, Grant Green, John McDonald, Taylor Lindsey (AAA), Alex Yarbrough (AA), and Andrew Daniel (Pioneer).

2) The Outfield – Again looking at the depth chart it would resemble something like the following: Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Kole Calhoun, Collin Cowgill, Efren Navarro, J.B. Shuck (AAA), Zachary Borenstein (AAA), Brennan Boesch (AAA), Matt Long (AAA), Cal Towey (A+), Michael Fish (A), and Chad Hinshaw (A).

3) PTBNL – The Angels have drafted players recently that teams certainly would have interest in that might have some value in trade discussions. If one of the above players isn’t quite enough to consummate a deal, throwing in the proverbial Player To Be Named Later might be enough to close.

The Angels do have some assets to draw upon but the selection is not extensive by any means. Because our asset base is more or less confined to 2B or the OF, Jerry Dipoto will have to find a trade partner that has one of those needs. There may be interest in a player like R.J. Alvarez for instance but it is my feeling that JeDi will try to hold onto valued low-depth assets at all costs.

So without further ado here are some potential relief targets that the Angels should be kicking the tires on:

San Diego Padres (Joaquin Benoit, Huston Street, & Ian Kennedy)

These three have been the most talked about trio on in recent weeks and rightfully so.

Clearly Benoit is the best choice based on his actual (1.42 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, & 25.4% K-BB%) and peripheral (2.81 xFIP & 2.19 SIERA) numbers. Street is a reasonably close 2nd choice, so either one would be a big addition to the Angels bullpen.

I mention Ian Kennedy as a possible starter acquisition, if the Angels go that route, because he is a free agent after this season and even though his ERA isn’t spectacular his peripheral numbers indicate better days ahead. He might be acquired on the cheap.

Benoit or Street could likely be had for one of our 2nd base prospects. Gyorko will likely slide over to 3rd base next season, when Headley departs, so someone like Lindsey or Yarbrough for one of Benoit or Street should be enough to get it done.

Boston Red Sox (Andrew Miller, Koji Uehara, & Junichi Tazawa)

Each of these three relievers has produced great results for the Red Sox this season. In particular Uehara and Miller have put up ridiculously good actual (1.26 & 2.61 ERA’s) and peripheral (2.23 & 1.91 xFIP’s) numbers. Tazawa is a distant third but his 2.69 SIERA points to a solid contributor.

Miller in particular is of interest because he is a strong left-handed reliever with a gaudy 14.52 K/9 rate. Uehara has been masterful in the closing role this season and has dominated hitters over the last few years.

Since the Red Sox are knee deep in superior 2nd base options (Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts) they would likely only have interest in our outfield depth. Both Miller and Uehara’s salaries are relatively inexpensive so they would require more than what the Padres, above, would likely receive in return.

It seems like the Red Sox would only bite on a trade if someone like Zachary Borenstein or R.J. Alvarez were the centerpiece. It would also likely require at least one PTBNL, maybe two.

New York Mets (Carlos Torres & Jake Leathersich)

One, Torres, has suffered from some bad BABIP luck while the other, Leathersich, is a flame-throwing prospect down in AA.

Torres is under club control through 2018. He’s a righty that doesn’t throw particularly hard but he has a varied repertoire that produces a lot of ground balls. Oddly he gets lefties out better than he does righties so that might be a fit for the Angels if he can be acquired cheaply.

Leathersich is a power lefty and would certainly provide high amounts of strikeouts and walks. He currently sports a 15.34 K/9 rate and a 26.4% K-BB% rate over his Minor League career to date.

The Mets are certainly debating what route they want to take regarding their 2nd base conundrum for next year. Talks with Daniel Murphy have resurfaced in the last couple of days but that could merely be leverage politics in other negotiations.

Leathersich would likely cost us Taylor Lindsey while Torres might be had for Yarbrough. Essentially it would be a swap of long-term controllable prospects.

Arizona Diamondbacks (Joe Thatcher, Brad Ziegler, Addison Reed, & Brandon McCarthy)

Thatcher (LHP), Reed (RHP), Ziegler (RHP), and McCarthy (RHP) are all pitching in one of the biggest home run parks in the Majors. Thatcher and Reed in particular are fly ball pitchers that could certainly use a change of scenery.

The reason that Thatcher is mentioned here is his ability to strike out hitters and control walks (21.9% K-BB%). He’s a free agent after the season is over and could probably be had cheaply. Ziegler has some additional years of control but he sports a career 66.1% ground ball rate which is pretty insane. He’d likely be more difficult to acquire because the D’backs need more ground ball artists in their division.

Reed and McCarthy have been the real victims of the D’backs stadium this season. Addison’s and McCarthy’s actual (23.2% & 14.9% K-BB%) and peripheral (3.08 & 2.99 xFIP and 2.49 & 3.08 SIERA) numbers point to much better results than they have been getting in their relief and rotation roles respectively.

The Diamondbacks have Aaron Hill for two more seasons after this year. Someone like Alex Yarbrough would be a good fit for their long-term time horizon at the 2nd base position. A trade of Yarbrough for Thatcher or McCarthy would probably be a fairly equitable trade for both sides.

Reed and Ziegler on the other hand would require more than just Yarbrough. Reed would likely require Alex plus a right-handed outfielder like Boesch (1.059 OPS in AAA) and a PTBNL. Ziegler would cost a little less.

Tampa Bay Rays (Brad Boxberger, Jake McGee, & David Price)

One can always fantasize and dream about David Price right?

The real targets are of course Boxberger (RHP) and McGee (LHP). Both of them are more of the fly ball types and their actual (26.4% & 23.6% K-BB%) and peripheral (2.85 & 2.88 xFIP and 2.15 & 2.33 SIERA) numbers reflect their talent.

Both of these relievers have some remaining years of club control so they won’t come cheap. Taylor Lindsey would likely have to be sacrificed for either one of them. If we wanted both Boxberger and McGee (hey why not!) it would take at least a package of Taylor Lindsey, R.J. Alvarez, and two PTBNL or possibly one of our spare outfielders (unlikely).


These options only represent a sample of what is really available to the Angels front office. Teams like the Phillies (Bastardo), Rockies (Ottavino), Twins (Perkins), Marlins (Cishek), and the Cubs (Rondon) are all possible trade partners. Even a contending team like the Royals, Nationals, or Braves might be a fit for the Angels in trade (the Royals for instance need bench help).

Finally one thing to remember is that relievers don’t provide a ton of value to a team’s overall ability to win. Most of them are situational pitchers who come in for one inning at a time.

In terms of trade value they aren’t worth too much. The only exceptions are when they are under long-term team control (pre-arbitration) or under contract at a reasonable dollar value.

It is worth mentioning because, although we are approaching the trade deadline and acquiring teams will likely have to pay a premium for any player they acquire, many people feel like it will cost the Angels their entire farm to get a good bullpen piece and that is not necessarily the case, especially if it is the relievers walk year or they have a bloated contract (think Papelbon).
Love to hear what you think!

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