The Los Angeles Angels have saved an estimated $8-$10 million by non-tendering Blake Parker and Matt Shoemaker. Both players were average to slightly above average talent, so why did Billy Eppler do this? On a team that hasn’t cracked above .500 since 2015, why would they just let talent walk out the door?
This offseason feels a lot like last year. The Angels had non tendered CJ Cron to clear cap space for Zack Cozart, Ian Kinsler, and Shohei Ohtani. While Eppler may not be as aggressive as last year, one thing needs to be answered. Who are the Angels making room for?
Mid- Level Free Agents
The cap room may not be for just one player, as the Angels could opt for two or three impactful free agents. The Angels could easily do this as they now have about $50 million in room before they have to pay the luxury tax.
One option for the Angels is Wilmer Flores. The former New York Met played at first, second, and third base in 2018, showing his versatility. Despite his versatility, Flores is known more for his clutch hitting. Flores is the Mets franchise leader in walk off RBI with 10.
The longtime Met was non tendered, leading to his free agency. Flores would bring versatility and clutch hitting to a team that did not have a lot of clutch moments. Flores won’t break the bank and is only 27 years-old. Whether he’s a bench player or a starter, Flores would be an important piece in a rising Angels team.
Infielder Daniel Murphy has been linked to the Angels as a short term option at second or first base. The former Washington National and Chicago Cub is known for his offensive ability. The two-time All Star can hit to all sides of the field and had above a .790 OPS since 2016.
Murphy would likely take over at second base for the Angels with Albert Pujols and his salary needing a spot on the field. His pricetag will be around $12 million a year, but only for one or two years. The 33 year-old slugger is not a long term option, but could offer top of the lineup production for a few seasons.
A former World Series champion that could interest the Angels is Joe Kelly. Kelly has revitalized his career as a relief pitcher the past two seasons. In those seasons, he has a 3.59 ERA across 123.2 innings.
Like Flores, Kelly is relatively young at only 30. The shelf life of flame throwing relievers like Kelly is not easy to gauge. However, his postseason success is nothing to scoff at, with a 2.49 ERA across 47 postseason innings. Kelly could be a veteran option for a young and developing bullpen that can contribute important innings in a potential postseason run.
If the Angels opt to make one big splash in free agency, it could include another Japanese pitcher. Yusei Kikuchi was posted for free agency by the Seibu Lions and will be able to negotiate with teams until January 2.
Kikuchi is a 27 year-old left handed pitcher who has a career 2.81 ERA across eight professional seasons. As a Lion, Kikuchi never had an ERA above 3.55 and averaged 8.04 K/9. Despite a shoulder injury that shortened his 2018 season, Kikuchi has been relatively healthy throughout his career
Yusei Kikuchi uses the same warm up song as Clayton Kershaw. Both had starts last night coming of DL stints. Kikuchi faired much better. Going 6inn striking out 9 and giving up no runs. Improving to 6-0 on the year. #Dodgers #seibulions. #MLB #NPB pic.twitter.com/nG8p3X7QOH
— Max G. (@MistaMaxG) June 1, 2018
While not seen as a potential ace pitcher, Yusei Kikuchi could be a valuable pitcher in an often injured starting rotation. He would join a rotation of Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Jaime Barria, and Felix Pena, creating a talented young rotation with an average age of 26.2.
If the Angels intend to contend in the near future, their starting pitching must be better. The Angels were able to surprise the MLB by snagging Ohtani last offseason, so it is likely they can make a similar pitch to the veteran lefty. Signing Kikuchi could bring stability to a pitching core decimated by injury in recent years.
Yes, it is possible. Bryce Harper is the crown jewel of this free agency. The six time All-Star and former NL MVP is only 26 years-old. Harper has been one of baseball’s most polarizing and talented athletes. As much as some people hate his antics, they must appreciate his ability.
Harper had what many would call a down year in 2018. Despite that, he still produced a .889 OPS, 34 home runs, and 100 RBI. With a down batting average, Harper was still able to produce at an elite level. Throughout his career, Harper has only one season of a sub .800 OPS and two 1.000 OPS or above seasons.
The Angels are no strangers to dishing out big contracts, just ask Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson, or Josh Hamilton. With Harper, there is the security of his young age. At 26, a 10 year contract would last until he is 36, which is better than Pujol’s deal which lasts until he is 41 years-old.
Since they both entered the league, Harper and Mike Trout have been compared. Both were very young when they were called up to the majors, and both have become two of baseball’s finest athletes. Adding two of baseball’s best players would create a dangerous lineup for years to come. It would also make it easier to convince Trout to stay in Anaheim with his free agency looming.
In the grand scheme of things, it is unlikely the Angels will sign Harper. What is likely is that the Angels will have the financial mobility to secure valuable veteran players for a playoff run in the next two seasons.
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