Author’s Note: Two weeks after this was written, Alden Gonzalez reported that the Angels are “dangling” C.J. Wilson in trade talks. This lends credence to the idea that the Angels believe Andrew Heaney is ready to handle a rotation spot and provide similar production to Wilson.
If Jerry Dipoto decides to go for a young power bat, he may be put in the position of having to take a current 25-man roster asset and use that to acquire one or more pieces that can then be used in trade for said hitter(s).
One such piece is C.J. Wilson.
C.J. has approximately $11MM remaining on his contract this year and $20MM in 2016. There is a high probability that the Angels will want to trade Wilson before next season (his walk year) anyway so it makes some sense to shop him.
If you believe in WAR’s general predictive value, of a player’s worth, and expect Wilson to be worth about 3 WAR over the remainder of his contract, that would put his total value at approximately $22MM-28MM.
Even if you don’t believe in WAR you can simply look at a player like Jake Peavy who is the same age as C.J. and notice that he received 2/$24MM last offseason in the free agent market.
Because Wilson is a lefty (slightly higher demand) his net value, over the remainder of his contract, would appear to be about negative $5MM ($26MM - $31MM).
It would appear that the Angels, in order to pick up a good prospect or two, might need to absorb some of C.J.’s salary (preferably from this year only) to facilitate a trade.
Wilson has been strong against left-handed hitters this year with a solid 18.2% K-BB% and a 0.87 WHIP. Against right-handed hitters he has not fared nearly as well with a 10.6% K-BB% and a 1.27 WHIP.
However the Nationals are one of several teams that have not fared well against LHH’s in 2015. So far this year the Nationals pitching staff has fared poorly with a K-BB% of 9.4% which ranks 21st in the Majors.
In fact only one of their starters, Gio Gonzalez, is a LHP and he hasn’t performed well at all this year against LHH’s.
This idea may be a non-starter simply because the Nationals currently have Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister on the DL. However both have been struggling and it is a real possibility that they trade or DFA Fister who has been abysmal versus LHP this year.
Acquiring Wilson would allow the Nationals to front a full, brand label rotation and would improve their overall numbers versus lefty hitters. It could literally put them head and shoulders above every other rotation in baseball.
Additionally the Nationals are flirting with the Luxury Tax Threshold in 2015 so if the Angels ate some, or all, of the remainder of C.J.’s salary this year ($11MM) they would be able to pull a good prospect in trade.
Please keep in mind that trade deadline prices are much higher than offseason prices for players. Hypothetically Wilson as a trade deadline move only, probably has somewhere between $5MM-$10MM in surplus value to a team in need.
So who would the Angels want from the Nationals?
If the Angels do use C.J. as part of a larger trade to net a young bat like Kyle Schwarber or Khris Davis, for instance, they would very likely want a good, young pitcher.
Fortunately the Nationals have a deep system of pitching, particularly RHP.
Any of the following might be available in the right deal/package: Reynaldo Lopez, A.J. Cole, Joe Ross, Austin Voth, Aaron Barrett, Jefry Rodriguez, Felipe Rivero, Nicholas Piveta, Sammy Solis, Jake Johansen, John Simms, and Taylor Jordan.
Out of that group a Wilson trade might, if packaged properly, net Reynaldo Lopez but it will likely take more than C.J.
Beyond that Joe Ross, Austin Voth, Aaron Barrett, Felipe Rivero (LHP), Sammy Solis, and John Simms seem like the most likely candidates for a Wilson trade.
If I had to place some money down I’d think that C.J. could net Joe Ross or Austin Voth with Sammy Solis as an added player, assuming the Angels eat some of Wilson’s 2015 salary.
Notably trading C.J. would almost certainly clear out close to $20MM (depending on the trade negotiations) for 2016 and might clear out a bit of cash this year in 2015.
Payroll, for this year, would likely stay relatively neutral or might decrease based on cash considerations involved with a Wilson trade.