Sunday, July 10, 2016



By Robert Cunningham, AngelsWin.com Staff Writer - 

Author’s Note: The following player data was pulled via FanGraphs on July 4th, 2016.

Huston Street, the Angels closer, is under contract for the remainder of 2016 with approximately $4MM remaining, all of 2017 at $9MM, and has a team option in 2018 for $10MM with a $1MM buyout.

Street has, unfortunately, struggled in 2016. When you have a K/9 rate equal to your BB/9 rate and you are running a .345 BABIP, you are probably not performing well.

The low strikeout rate combined with the elevated walk rate could be injury related, mechanics related, or age related (or all three) it is difficult to tell.

There is a possible bright side to this story however.

First of all that .345 BABIP is well above Street’s career .263 BABIP. That’s nearly 100 points difference and seems really unsustainable. You should expect regression to his career rate meaning simply that more of the balls in play should be converted to outs moving forward.

This is particularly true when you look at Street’s 2016 batted ball profile:

 

If Huston is generating 55.6% groundballs with a 57.1% pull rate against right-handed hitters you’d have to think that his BABIP would regress and his ability to get outs, especially with Andrelton Simmons manning shortstop, would improve, perhaps even dramatically so.

To be fair his 2016 numbers are across a limited sample size of about 16 innings pitched and his career numbers don’t generate as many groundballs against right-handed hitters but the numbers above reflect a pitcher who should have more groundouts and double plays than what actually occurred, in-game, for Street.

These disparities become even more apparent when you look at his BABIP, K%, and BB% by pitch type both in 2016 and over his career:

 

Cleary Street is having serious BABIP issues with his slider and change up. The slider is 123 points over his career average and his change up is a whopping 202 points over making regression to the mean a very likely outcome for both of these pitches.

To be clear we should also point out that Street has experienced about one mile per hour loss in velocity drop on all his pitches in 2016. This likely is a contributor, on some level, to his issues this year but it doesn’t seem like it can fully explain the actual results.

Those results point to Huston having good and expected outcomes with his sinker but less than expected results with his slider and even worse than expected results with his change up.

The bottom line is that things should improve for Huston Street moving forward but will that be enough to showcase his improvements before the trade deadline?

Street will be 33 years old next month in August and, as stated above, is under team contractual control through 2018 if the Angels desire to pick up his team option.

Eppler and company, if they follow the lines of logic regarding a retooling of the roster to coincide with Richards and Heaney’s probable return in 2018, won’t have much use for a 34 ½ year old closer in his last year of control when they get to the start of that 2018 contending season.

This simply means that Street should be a trade chip at the deadline if he can bring back a reasonable return based on his current performance level. If the Angels don’t get the right return it will be better for them to wait until the offseason or at next year’s trade deadline to trade him as his performance should improve soon barring an unknown injury or mechanical issue.

In order to determine who Huston’s most likely trade suitors are we need to take his batted ball profile, from 2014 to 2016, and determine what teams have a defensive alignment that best suits Street’s style of pitching and actual batted ball results as seen in his spray charts below:

 

 

Based on Street’s profile an acquiring team will want to have a defensively average or better SS and 3B to handle groundballs to the left side of the infield and up the middle. Additionally having a defensively average or better LF and 2B would be ideal as well based on Huston’s spray charts.

Below is the short list of teams that are average or better defensively at SS, 3B, 2B, and LF and could use a back-end right-handed reliever:

Giants
Rangers
Royals
Cubs
Indians

Do these teams look familiar?

Defense is often an underrated aspect of baseball but it is not a coincidence that these five teams in playoff contention also happen to be good defensive units as well.

Let’s take a look at these five teams to see if there really is a fit for Huston Street.

Giants

Primary Need(s): Corner OF, Back-End Reliever/Elite Closer, 3B
Secondary Need(s): Mid or Back-End Starter, Back-Up Catcher

Is a third mention in the Trade Candidate series a charm?

The Giants have a pretty sturdy bullpen led by Casilla their closer. It is also fairly well balanced with Casilla and Law able to get hitters out on both sides of the plate, along with Gearrin, Strickland, and Romo able to effectively get right-handed hitters out, and Kontos and Osich available to handle left-handed hitters.

Lopez, surprisingly, has been struggling hard this year and if you had to point to a weak link it is him. He’s in the last year of his contract so he’s expendable for a team that is pushing for a playoff spot.

An ideal standard for a playoff bullpen should be something similar to what the Yankees have this year which is a trio of top end relievers that can get hitters out on both sides of the plate in the late innings (7th and beyond) of a game.

The Giants don’t quite have that yet. If they added an elite reliever, preferably a lefty, to complement their two righties in Casilla and Law it would certainly improve their chances.

Frankly San Francisco doesn’t seem like the best fit. Their real bullpen need is a top shelf left handed closer type and Huston doesn’t quite fit the first part and is definitely not left-handed. However Street does have a lot of closing experience and he probably represents a second or third tier option for the Giants if they don’t want to pay the exorbitant price for someone like Aroldis Chapman.

Giants Likely Trade Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, LHP C.J. Wilson, LHP Hector Santiago, RHP Huston Street, C Geovany Soto, and RHR Fernando Salas

Angels Likely Trade Target(s): AA 2B Christian Arroyo, AA LHP Andrew Suarez, AA RHP Tyler Beede, A+ RHP Phil Bickford, A+ 1B Chris Shaw, A+ RHP Jordan Johnson, AAA RHP Clayton Blackburn, OF Jarrett Parker, AAA LHP Adalberto Mejia, AA RHR Chase Johnson, A RHP Michael Santos, AA RHR Ray Black, AAA LHR Steven Okert, AAA RHP Joan Gregorio, and A+ RHR Ian Gardeck

Trade Scenario(s):

1) Angels trade RHR Huston Street to the Giants in exchange for AA RHP Tyler Beede and A+ RHP Jordan Johnson
- Angels absorb Street’s remaining $4MM 2016 salary
- Beede is right-handed starter with mid-rotation upside
- Johnson is also a right-handed starter with good control and mid-rotation upside as well

2) Angels trade RHR Huston Street and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Giants in exchange for AA 2B Christian Arroyo, AAA LHP Adalberto Mejia, A+ 1B Chris Shaw, and A RHP Michael Santos
- Angels absorb Street’s remaining $4MM 2016 salary and $7MM of his 2017 salary as well as absorbing Escobar’s remaining $2.7MM 2016 salary
- Taking on the additional 2017 salary allows the Angels to include one more prospect in the deal
- Arroyo, the Giants #1 prospect, could best be described as the ‘Kole Calhoun’ of middle infielders meaning he does everything above average but nothing spectacularly well
- Mejia is a lefty with good control, a low 90’s fastball, average slider and plus change up with a ceiling as a #3 or #4 starter
- Shaw is a young and talented potential replacement for Pujols
- Santos is a young projectable righty who currently pitches in the low 90’s with a nice four-seam and two-seam fastball, plus curveball, and average change up that has a ceiling of a mid-rotation type

Rangers

Primary Need(s): Front-End Starter, Back-End Left-Handed Starter
Secondary Need(s): Middle Reliever

Recently discussed in the Trade Candidate Hector Santiago episode, the Texas Rangers appear here too because their needs are almost exclusively pitching-related.

When examining their bullpen you see three guys that they can turn to for late-inning duty including RHR Keona Kela, RHR Matt Bush, and LHR Jake Diekman.

However behind that trio the only semi-reliable pitchers are RHR Sam Dyson and RHR Shawn Tolleson. Barnette can get left-handed hitters out but isn’t the ideal option to do so, Ramos has done poorly both in a starter and relief role, and former Angel Michael Roth has not fared well at all in Texas.

The Rangers could certainly shake things up and make a big trade for an elite closer type which would certainly strengthen their bullpen but with all of the starting pitching injuries they’ve experienced you have to think their trade focus is on fixing the rotation first and if there is money and trade chips left over fix the bullpen last.

Huston Street would fit well if he was a setup man in Arlington as he can attack right-handed hitters and keep the ball on the ground. If his change up issues are strictly BABIP related he could fill a closer role and would provide the proverbial veteran presence in the Rangers relief corps as most of the Rangers relievers are fairly young.

So the bottom line is that Texas, if they choose to go after an elite option for their bullpen, will almost assuredly pass on Huston. It is possible in that scenario that they would still have interest in a middle reliever such as RHR Fernando Salas.

There is a scenario where the Rangers exhaust a lot of their resources bringing in rotation help but still want to bring in a veteran closer like Street and the Angels are well positioned because they can take on salary which would likely be useful to the Texas front office (besides we already are paying for one of their players anyway why not more!).

Of course there is always the element of trading within the Division which automatically makes this deal more of a longshot particularly because of the extra years of control Texas would have contractually with Street.

Rangers Likely Target(s): LHP C.J. Wilson, LHP Hector Santiago, RHP Matt Shoemaker, RHR Huston Street, RHR Joe Smith, LHP Jose Alvarez, and RHR Fernando Salas

Angels Likely Target(s): AAA OF Lewis Brinson, 2B Jurickson Profar, AA RHP Luis Oritz, AAA 3B/OF Joey Gallo, A+ RHP Ariel Jurado, AA 2B Andy Ibanez, AA OF Ryan Cordell, LHR Andrew Faulkner, AAA RHR John Fasola, A RHP Pedro Payano, AAA 2B Drew Robinson, AA RHR Adam Parks, and AA LHP Frank Lopez

Trade Scenario(s):

1) Angels trade RHR Huston Street to the Rangers in exchange for AA LHP Frank Lopez and AA RHR Adam Parks
- Lopez is a left-handed pitcher with a history of good control with mid-rotation upside
- Parks is a right-handed reliever with good control and an ability to generate poor contact

2) Angels trade RHR Huston Street and LHP Hector Santiago to the Rangers in exchange for 2B Jurickson Profar and AA RHP Luis Ortiz
- Angels absorb Santiago’s remaining $2.7MM 2016 salary
- Profar, a former top prospect, would provide solid 2B defense with a good combination of above average tools
- Ortiz is a young righty with good control and mid-rotation upside

Royals

Primary Need(s): 3B, Frontline (Two-way) Starter or LH Middle Rotation Starter
Secondary Need(s): Back-End Closer Type or RH Middle Reliever

Yet another mention, along with the Giants, in the Trade Candidate series places Kansas City in the “third is the charm” category of trade suitors.

Looking at the Royals bullpen you see some familiar names that have made their relief corps one of the most feared in the Majors over the last two years including RHP Wade Davis and RHP Kelvin Herrera.

Update (7/7): Davis has hit the DL with a forearm strain which is often a precursor to Tommy John surgery creating a need in their bullpen if they stay in the playoff hunt.

Behind those two they also have Luke Hochevar who has been outstanding against both sides of the plate this season giving them enviable 7th, 8th, and 9th inning options.

After Hochevar the Royals have some decent options in Soria and Flynn who have been effective against left-handed hitters and Moylan and Gee who have been able to put right-handed hitters out on a consistent basis. Wang has been the only reliever really having trouble contributing to the bullpen’s success.

The solution for Kansas City seems really obvious to the author: Trade for a more reliable starter and move Ventura to the bullpen.

Of course if the trade rumors regarding Yordano are true there is a scenario where the Royals trade him to another team and then trade for another reliever such as Huston Street to fill out their bullpen.

That scenario seems like a stretch though so it would put the odds of a Huston Street-based trade with the Royals on the low end of the spectrum. It seems more likely that the Royals would trade Ventura for Aroldis Chapman (with the Yankees putting Yordano in their bullpen) and then inquire with the Angels for a starter like Hector Santiago and a middle reliever like Fernando Salas.

Royals Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, LHP C.J. Wilson, LHP Hector Santiago, RHR Huston Street, RHR Joe Smith, and/or RHR Fernando Salas

Angels Likely Target(s): AAA RHP Kyle Zimmer, AAA RHP Miguel Almonte, A+ LHP Foster Griffin, AA 1B Ryan O’Hearn, AA OF Bubba Starling, AAA 3B Hunter Dozier, AA LHP Matthew Strahm, AA RHP Pedro Fernandez, AA LHP Eric Skoglund, AA RHP Glenn Sparkman, A+ RHP Josh Staumont, OF Reymond Fuentes, AA RHP Alec Mills, AAA OF Jorge Bonifacio, A SS Marten Gasparini

Trade Scenario(s):

     None that make obvious sense involving RHR Huston Street

1) Update (7/7): Angels trade RHR Huston Street to the Royals in exchange for AA RHP Glenn Sparkman and AA LHP Eric Skoglund
- Angels absorb Street’s remaining $4MM 2016 salary
- Sparkman is a righty with mid-rotation upside
- Skoglund is a lefty starter that can fill a back-end rotation role

Cubs

Primary Need(s): Elite Closer Type, Back-End Relief
Secondary Need(s): None

As we discussed in the Santiago episode of the Trade Candidate series, anytime you talk about relief help Chicago is bound to pop up in the conversation.

However in regard to Huston Street he seems like a secondary or even tertiary choice for the Cubs front office as they will likely pursue a more elite option to stabilize the late innings of a ball game.

This of course makes the odds of a Huston Street-based trade low but not impossible. In the end they are probably keenly eyeing left-handed relief but if the price becomes too exorbitant they could still circle back around to the Angels.

Cubs Likely Target(s): LHR Hector Santiago and LHR Jose Alvarez

Angels Likely Target(s): AA OF Ian Happ, AA OF Billy Mckinney, AAA OF Mark Zagunis, C Willson Contreras, AA 2B Chesny Young, AAA RHR Corey Black, A+ RHR Trevor Clifton, A+ RHR Daury Torrez, and A- LHP Jose Paulino

Trade Scenario(s):

     None that make immediate and obvious sense involving Huston Street

Indians

Primary Need(s): Corner OF
Secondary Need(s): 3B and Middle Relief

Also another familiar team name in the Trade Candidate series the Indians, despite all of their recent success, have a weakness and it is in their bullpen.

To be clear the Tribe has some effective relievers including current closer Cody Allen and some of their late and middle relievers Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, and Zach McAllister.

Behind that group however the Indians have a trio of guys in Hunter, House, and Clevinger who can combat left-handed hitters but not much else. Jeff Manship has struggled and proven to be ineffective against both sides of the plate.

The reason this group of relievers hasn’t been exposed in game play is because the Indians rotation is so rock solid in getting deep into games that the middle relief hasn’t been tested heavily and the Tribe has been good at playing the matchups.

It would behoove Cleveland to consider bringing in either an elite closer or at the minimum another good right-handed reliever (or both) to give their bullpen increased depth to match the depth and breadth of their rotation.

Indians Likely Target(s): OF Kole Calhoun, RHR Huston Street, RHR Joe Smith, and RHR Fernando Salas

Angels Likely Target(s): AA OF Bradley Zimmer, AA OF Clint Frazier, A+ LHP Justus Sheffield, RHR Mike Clevinger, AA LHP Rob Kaminsky, A+ 1B Bobby Bradley, A+ C Francisco Mejia, A- LHP Juan Hillman, A+ OF Greg Allen, AAA RHP Adam Plutko, RHR Shawn Armstrong, A+ 2B/SS Yu-Cheng Chang, A+ RHP Dylan Baker, and A+ 2B Dorssys Paulino

Trade Scenario(s):

1) Angels trade RHR Huston Street to the Indians in exchange for A+ LHP Justus Sheffield and RHR Shawn Armstrong
- Angels absorb Street’s remaining $4MM 2016 salary
- Sheffield is a young lefty with good control as a mid-rotation starter
- Armstrong has already pitched at the Major League level and has excellent potential in the back-end of the bullpen

2) Angels trade RHR Huston Street, RHR Joe Smith, and C Geovany Soto to the Indians in exchange for AA OF Bradley Zimmer and A+ LHP Justus Sheffield
- Angels absorb Street’s remaining $4MM 2016 salary and all $9MM of Street’s 2017 salary
- Zimmer is a bright young prospect capable of playing either corner OF position
- Sheffield is as above
- Another hypothetical example of the Angels using three players and their financial muscle in a 2018 retooling scenario to gain one good prospect as the centerpiece of a multi-player deal

Conclusion

Just like Hector Santiago, this may not be the best moment to trade Huston Street because his potential value is suppressed.

Although it appears Street is suffering primarily from bad BABIP issues on his slider and change up he has lost 1 mph across his array of pitches making age and potential arm wear a concern.

It is the author’s opinion that Huston will more than likely be traded by the deadline assuming Eppler gets back an appropriate prospect or package of prospects because Father Time is not on Street’s or the Angels side and Huston will provide more value to a team that is in the middle of its window of contention.

The likeliest suitors out of the best defensive-fit teams identified above appear to be the Rangers, Indians, and to a lesser degree the Giants. Texas may prove difficult because they are an inter-Division rival while Cleveland may not match up well in trade if they aren’t willing to move Zimmer or Frazier. The Giants are also less probable insofar as their interest in Street is probably secondary or tertiary to their other options.

Certainly there could be a dark horse out there that comes in and sweeps him up but they won’t have the ideal defensive fit but they may have the desperation to pay Eppler’s price.

Although the author would like to see him traded now it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Angels wait and try to rebuild Street’s value in the second half of 2016 and move him in the offseason when there should be more potential suitors.

If the Angels are following a 2018 retooling plan they don’t necessarily have to sell off all their pieces, such as Street, right now. But as Angels fans are painfully aware any pitcher is just a throw away from an arm, shoulder, or bicep injury so the Angels front office needs to show thoughtfulness, prudence, and strict risk management at the deadline.

Love to hear what you think!

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