The Angels are, quite honestly, very bad. Most fans are already looking forward to next season, and while you can’t blame them, there is not much to look forward to in the team’s current situation. After quite a bit of research, number crunching, and learning how the luxury tax system works, here are the moves the Angels need to make in order to be competitive for years to come:
Who to Burn:
The Angels, in recent years, have been notorious for signing players to big contracts because they had previously performed well. This, in theory, is great, except the part where these players are only able to produce like they had been for maybe 2-3 years of an 8-10 year deal. The back end value on the max contracts they are offering is minuscule. For these reasons, the Angels need to completely sever ties with C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver, Geovany Soto, Tim Lincecum, and Fernando Salas. Wilson should be self explanatory, as he didn’t produce when he was healthy and he was rarely that. Weaver is old and throws slower than most collegiate Division III pitchers with little command. Soto is also old and cannot stay healthy for the life of him, and Salas has never shown anything worth keeping around moving forward. Jhoulys Chacin is up for a new contract next year, and while his days in Los Angeles have been shaky at best, he can be valuable in one way or another come the 2017 trade deadline. Letting these 5 players go will open up around $50 million in cap space, which the team will be needing in free agency.
Speaking of Free Agency:
Odds are the Angels will not be able to catch deals with this off-season’s high profile free agents like Colby Rasmus, Brett Anderson or even Jose Bautista. However, there are a few player sweepstakes that the Halos need to ball out for. The first of those is RP/CP Mark Melancon. While the Angels do currently have Huston Street, he has had health issues most of this season, and Melancon is a dominant force almost every time he takes the mound. Signing Melancon would mean that those late inning losses and blown saves by an inconsistent closer would go out the door.
Next, since their “number one starter” will be gone in Jered Weaver, the Angels need to go after a doable yet solid starter. Hisashi Iwakuma is out of the question for now simply due to age, and Brett Anderson theoretically would never sign with the crosstown rivals. The next best option for the Angels would be Doug Fister. Fister is a journeyman of sorts as it is, playing for 4 different teams already in his career. He is 11-8 this year with the Houston Astros and pitches to contact well, which bodes well for an Angels defense that doesn’t struggle to field the ball and make the routine plays. The Halos could also theoretically go in on Andrew Cashner, but he doesn’t put up stats nearly as good as Fister has historically posted.
Two other pitchers the Angels need to sign are Felix Doubront, who will enter the bullpen for them, and Ivan Nova, who will be either their third or fourth man in the rotation. The Halos have enough money to offer these guys max deals and pull them away from the Athletics and Pirates, respectively. A couple more relievers to round out the ‘pen and the Angels should be in good shape as far as arms go. Those relievers should be Joaquin Benoit and Jordan Walden. Both are on solid teams currently, but who doesn’t love money? The Angels have plenty of it, and they could always give both these guys the pitch where they get to be a part of making this team great again.
Once the pitching staff is somewhat set, it’ll be time to complete the battery, and the Angels need to pour all of their resources into pulling Jonathan Lucroy out of Texas and into Los Angeles in the 2017 off-season. They can offer him a max deal, which he will likely be searching for and deserves. He is young and offers at least 5 more years of productivity while the Angels build up their catching prospects. Finally, the Halos need a little more power in the infield. Andrelton Simmons is great in the field and all but a couple home runs and minimal slugging percentage doesn’t create runs or make the game fun. The team should look to sign both Mark Reynolds and Darwin Barney. Reynolds is on the older side of the game, but he brings a stick that no team should deny. Barney is having a down year but he seems to be okay with jumping around and has the potential to put up high quality numbers.
Did Someone say Trades?:
Let’s start in Washington for this one. They have the best pitching staff of any team in ages, if we’re being real, and their pitching staff is relatively young. In essence, they do not need more pitching. However, no team is going to turn down an abundance of prospects, a quality reliever, and cash. The Angels need to trade either Nate Smith or Victor Alcantar, along with Connor Justus, Brett Olberholtzer, and cash considerations along with a possible mid-round draft pick to the Nationals for pitching prospect Lucas Giolito. He hasn’t had the opportunity to prove himself in the bigs yet but he is the top pitching prospect and fourth overall according to MLB Pipeline. The Nationals don’t necessarily need all of this, but the Angels number two outfield prospect as well as a solid man in the bullpen would improve any team, including the Nats.
If the Angels win the Jonathan Lucroy sweepstakes, there will be no hypothetical need for Jett Bandy. He can then be traded to Boston for 3B prospect Rafael Devers, who can take over for Yunel Escobar, who only has one year left in his contract. Other prospects can be thrown in of course, especially arms, because Boston will be needed those. Once Bandy is let go however, the Halos will need someone to take over for Lucroy on off days. The man for this job could be either Taylor Ward (if he is not traded away) or Jorge Alfaro, if he can be acquired from the Phillies.
Speaking of trading Taylor Ward, if they can the Angels should trade him along with Cliff Pennington and Brandon Marsh to the Cubs for 2B prospect Ian Happ. You may ask, why? Aren’t the Angels going in on Darwin Barney? Well, yes, but who doesn’t want high profile prospects and great bats in the potential lineup? The people who hate fun and baseball, that’s who. Also, the Cubs may not need all these players, but they can be put on the trading block again just as easy, especially because they have Ben Zobrist and Javy Baez to play 2B, and Happ can produce in the big leagues. Finally, to add more bat to the middle infield and to take over for Andrelton Simmons when he doesn’t have one, the Halos should trade Shane Robinson, Andrew Heaney and Ricky Nolasco to Colorado for SS Brendan Rodgers. Even if they don’t make this deal happen, please just get rid of Ricky Nolasco.
The New Look Angels:
After all of those moves and releases, it seemed like the Angels wouldn’t even have a team left, but here it is. Of course Mike Trout and Albert Pujols will anchor the lineup, and there are still a few players on the roster currently that weren’t mentioned above. Those players and Jhoulys Chacin, Jose Valdez, Jose Alvarez and, mentioned in the depth chart, Cory Rasmus. If Chacin can’t produce out of the bullpen he will be put on the trading block along with the aforementioned players. Also, if Simmons decides to be Simmons at the plate, he along with some arms can be sent either to Chicago for Javy Baez or back to Atlanta for Dansby Swanson, hopefully. With all of these moves, this is what the opening day lineup will look like for the new and improved Los Angeles Angels:
- Yunel Escobar 3B
- Darwin Barney 2B
- Mike Trout CF
- Albert Pujols DH
- Jonathan Lucroy C
- C.J. Cron 1B
- Ji-Man Choi LF
- Andrelton Simmons SS
- Kole Calhoun RF
Doug Fister P
As far as money goes, the specifics of it don’t matter because that’s a lot of dollars to break down. What is necessary to know is that the Angels will spend around $65 million on their pitching staff and $80 million on position players between free agent contracts, guaranteed money already signed on, and extensions to sign in the offseason. That brings the working total to $145 million, which is about $44 million below the luxury tax threshold, giving the Angels those extra dollars to spend to guarantee they get the players they need.
At The Trade Deadline:
If everything goes as planned, the Angels will be playoff bound at the deadline. Instead of being major sellers like they were this year, they can buy in 2017. A few possible moves they could easily make would be Wade Miley out of Baltimore or Francisco Liriano out of Pittsburgh. Both of these would add a quality arm to the rotation for the rest of the year in case one of their starters was injured. They could also make a move for a more veteran bat in the outfield to take over for Ji-Man Choi. That bat could come in the form of either Brennan Bosch or Desmond Jennings, just to finish out the year and possibly sign for another year.
Why Spend So Much Money?:
Owner Art Moreno is notorious for not spending money in order to stay below the luxury tax limit. However, if he is worried about money, he should consider this: spend the extra money to get young, high profile players so that the team will be competitive for years to come, not just once in five years. It may cost a pretty penny at the time, but ticket sales, jersey sales, and advertising sales all increase with success, and that is something the team is struggling with right now.
There are no groundbreaking moves on this team, the biggest stretch is Lucroy, and as mentioned before, everyone loves money. The Angels need to be winning to spend it, stop trying to play money ball and stop overpaying old players. Pay to win and make your money back when the team becomes successful.
It’s a lot to get done, but the only other option is to pull a 76ers and tank for a few years.