Friday, July 1, 2016

By Robert Cunningham, Staff Writer - 

Over a month ago I wrote an article, “Why the Angels Need to Retool to Compete in 2018”, detailing a logical, strategic course of action for Billy Eppler to retool the roster, if they fall out of the Division race, with the goal of seriously contending again in 2018 and now, with the team 19 games back, it is time to implement that plan.

The strategy and goal is, as stated in the previous article, to trade some or all of the short term controlled pieces above for MLB-ready or near MLB-ready prospects and players. The hope is that by acquiring a quality starter, second baseman, left fielder and/or bullpen piece the Angels can use the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017 resetting the table for a serious run in 2018 when, hopefully, Richards and Heaney rejoin the rotation.

Several players were discussed as potential trade pieces in that article but as time passed the list has changed slightly. Below is a list of players who could potentially be traded before the deadline based on the criteria in the previous article:

C.J. Wilson - Yunel Escobar
Hector Santiago - Huston Street
Fernando Salas - Geovany Soto
Joe Smith  - Tim Lincecum
Jhoulys Chacin - Cliff Pennington
Daniel Nava - Al Albuquerque
Jered Weaver - Craig Gentry

To be clear not all of these players can, or will, be traded. Weaver, for instance, has a no-trade clause and little value making him a less likely candidate.

Some have been, or still are, on the disabled list and may not become relevant or worth enough to move by the trade deadline.

Others such as Nava, Albuquerque, and Gentry probably don’t have enough trade value to bring back anything more than cash considerations (which might be desirable to marginally assist bringing the team payroll under the Luxury Tax threshold).

Out of the players listed above the ones that potentially have the most trade value are Yunel Escobar, Hector Santiago, Huston Street, C.J. Wilson, Fernando Salas, Tim Lincecum, Jhoulys Chacin, Joe Smith, and Geovany Soto. At least three of these players (Wilson, Smith, and Soto) are currently on the Disabled List along with Richards and Heaney.

To be clear there is a small possibility that Richards and Heaney might respond well to their treatment regime’s but the odds are still heavily against the two of them. The scientific data and limited success of these injections points to a more probable outcome of Tommy John surgery. Those results should be known to the team before the end of July. This article assumes the most likely and probable outcome in preparation for 2018 and beyond.

Update: Literally as the author was about to send this to publication on July 1st, news broke that Heaney will have Tommy John surgery.

Although it is perfectly possible the Angels could contend and even win in 2017 the focus should be 2018. This means that if the Angels want to use their financial muscle to take on a bad contract that expires this year or next year in order to acquire an additional prospect or two they should do it.

For example if the Nationals wanted to upgrade in LF, by acquiring Ryan Braun, the Angels could be part of a three-way trade between the Brewers and Nationals for Jayson Werth’s remaining 1 ½ years and some or all of the approximately $30MM owed on his contract. The Angels could take on Werth and some or all of his salary in exchange for a really good prospect or two or more quality prospects from either of the other teams.

Billy Eppler should use every avenue available to obtain needed talent by utilizing the Angels reduced payroll in 2017 and engage in creative multi-team trade talks to get the pieces we need to recover quickly and set the table for the 2018 season.

In order to better understand who are our potential trade partners are the subsequent ‘2016 Trade Candidate’ articles will focus primarily on other team’s weaknesses and strengths using qualitative data from FanGraphs and how well those match each particular trade candidate the Angels are likely to offer.

Each of the ‘2016 Trade Candidate’ articles will use a baseline list of teams, highlighted in green, found below. These teams represent the most likely playoff candidates leading up to the deadline:

 photo Graph1_zpszhgfrxn2.png

This list is based on FanGraphs Run Differential (RDif) 2016 Projected Full Season standings as of June 19th, 2016. The author has used an arbitrary cut-off point of 79 wins to determine the teams that are still within striking distance of a Division crown or Wild Card playoff berth.

Please be aware that any of the teams in red could, by the deadline, make a move back into contention so this list is not the end all, be all, of probabilistic outcomes.

Additionally it should be remembered that teams make trade deadline decisions based not only on value but on needs. A team may make a decision because their need or needs at a particular position may outweigh the value they might be losing in a trade. This is particularly true at the trade deadline where contending teams usually pay a premium price (about 30%-50% more on average) to help their squad advance.

Finally a lot can happen and change as the trade deadline approaches so these upcoming trade articles more accurately reflect the current situation as indicated by the date the data was pulled from FanGraphs. Injuries and rosters can change instantly and dramatically creating a need or lack thereof in a moment’s notice where there was not one before.

Love to hear what you think!

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