By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer -
Okay folks, take this for what it is. It's an early look at a different way to rebuild the Angels this offseason. We all know the needs and the limitations. We can't solve all of our problems with money, and even if we could, the talent just isn't there to buy. We are going to have to be creative, and, we are going to have to accept some limitations if we are going to make the team better overall. It's been a while since I've been writing, and I'm trying to ease my way back into it, but I thought I'd put something on here to start the discussion going forward.
So, here are some thoughts I've had. I get it that I will be criticized for some of the trades (not necessarily working out), but I'd at least suggest them. And, we can argue about the money a bit more later.
First Move: Trade Mike Morin and Victor Alcantara to the Yankees for Bret Gardner and Rob Refsnyder.
Why we'd do it: It solves left field and gives us a starting point for second base. Gardner can leadoff, Escobar drops to second, and Trout now has a much better chance to hit with more runners on base. More importantly, Gardner's contract is for 2 more years, at which point Jones or Hermosillo should be ready to take over the position. If they need a little more seasoning, Gardner's contract has an option for 2019, which we could easily exercise. In a pinch, Gardner could play CF to give Trout a day off.
As for Refsnyder, the scouting reports on his defense at 2B are mixed, but I will be honest, mostly not good. I haven't seen him play there enough to really comment on it. He's young, so maybe he can be improved with reps. I don't expect him to be elite, but if he can be average, that would be a step up from what we've had, especially if he can produce offensively (his bat is supposed to be worth it). Plus, with a subsequent move (see below), I will be able to limit his defensive liabilities if they can't be overcome through improvement. He wouldn't be my starter, but, he should get between 200-300 ABs over the course of a season. And, for those who want to harp on Refsnyder's defensive limits, I have to ask how many of you would be willing to try converting Cowart into a 2B? If you are comfortable with him manning the position, I think Refsnyder would be at least as good at 2B as Cowart, if not better defensively.
Why the Yankees would do it: They want to shed some salary and need to add some power to their lineup. They have several OF prospects who could easily replace Gardner, or they could go after a more elite OFer with power to replace him. They need bullpen help (as do we, and I know, we're trading away bullpen assets--but we need LF and 2B help more, and bullpen arms might be easier to find than those positions). Yes, I get it that they'd say that it's not fair value, but Gardner is coming off a down year, Refsnyder essentially has no home in their lineup (he's blocked at both 2B and the OF), so, they may be happy to shed payroll to improve elsewhere. Alcantra and Morin both have upside, and could easily bolster a major league pen in the long run. Yankees fans might not be happy with the move initially, but when they get a big splash somewhere else, they probably will forget about the trade very quickly. They need to shed payroll and get younger if they want to become again. They won't get fair value without eating salary, and I think they'd rather have the payroll flexibility than get fair value back for these two players.
Second Move: Sign Jeremy Hellickson.
The Angels have the highest protected pick this year. We need to utilize the security that it provides. Of the top free agent pitchers this year, the one I'd pursue, and the one I think Eppler will pursue is Hellickson. I think he can be had for the most reasonable deal in terms of dollars and years (Rich Hill may be a shorter deal, but more dollars and more risk due to his age). I could be wrong on this, as most teams may want to jump in on him, but, he would be my preferred choice. At some point, I'd walk away from the deal and pursue Nova, but would much prefer to sign Hellickson because he has a better track record.
Third Move: Sign Sean Rodriguez to Play 2B.
I always like Rodriguez as an Angels prospect and always thought that he would produce some power. And, I've always liked how flexible Rodriguez has been defensively. The Angels will need to get more overlap out of their roster so that one injury doesn't become too critical. We have no depth at 2B anywhere near ready. With Rodriguez and Refsnyder, we'd have some backup. Plus, he can also play 3B, OF, and 1B in a pinch.
Look at how much losing Cron hurt the team last season. Not that it was the reason why the team was so bad, but, it certainly didn't help. With a roster of Rodriguez, Marte, Pennington, and Cowart, we'd have much more flexibility around the entire infield and wouldn't have such a tremendous drop in production if an injury occurs.
Fourth Move: Spend all Remaining Money on Boosting the Bullpen.
Most likely, Street and Bedrosian will return next year fully healthy to form a nice end to the bullpen. But, the 6th and 7th innings could sure use some help, especially, if Morin is traded. While I think Middleton could be ready for a role in the pen by the end of the season, we need more help now. We can argue about which arms to pursue, and I'll let plenty of people discuss that. I will trust the FO to try and get the most out of the remaining funds. Since a lot of that will depend on how much we spend based on the three previous moves, it's a bit difficult to speculate these moves.
Overall, I think all of these moves are affordable for the Angels this offseason. Sure, we might have to add a little more to get the trade done with the Yankees, but I think it's a good start on the idea. They aren't totally dealing from a position of strength (as mentioned, Gardner did have a down year--even though he still got on base well), and Refsnyder is blocked. They can't add too much payroll, and would be better off shedding some payroll. I believe that these moves fit with most of Eppler's comments about still wanting to improve getting on base and his familiarity with players from the AL East. It would definitely make the Angels an improved team, one that would be far more competitive than last year's team.
Proposed New Rotation
Proposed New Lineup
1. Gardner, LF (L)
2. Escobar, 3B (R)
3. Trout, CF (R)
4. Pujols, DH (R)
5. Calhoun, RF (L)
6. Cron, 1B (R)
7. Bandy, C (R)
8. Rodriguez, 2B (R)
9. Simmons, SS (R)