Right as the 2016 non-waiver deadline was wrapping up on Monday afternoon, the Angels swung a pair of deals. Right as 1 PM approached, Hector Santiago was sent packing along with minor leaguer Alan Busenitz to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for veteran starter Ricky Nolasco and prospect Alex Meyer. Shortly after that, the Angels sent reliever Joe Smith to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for 20 year old right handed pitcher Jesus Castillo, a lottery ticket type of arm. Lets tackle each move by itself then try to make sense of what this means going forward.
Hector Santiago was a highly talked about trade target but the Minnesota Twins, a rebuilding team, seemed like the last resort for him. Santiago has had his worst season as a MLB pitcher, posting a 4.25 ERA and 5.03 FIP, which would be career worst marks for the 27 year old left hander. However, Santiago has consistently beat his peripherals so far in his career in part to an awkward throwing motion that leads to a lot of weak contact and infield pop ups. Because of this, Santiago had posted an ERA below 4 every year until this year and his ERA has been dropping steadily this year since a rough stretch in the middle of the year. The Angels will pay Santiago’s salary the rest of the season but are off the hook for his projected 6-8 million dollar salary in his last season before free agency in 2017. Alan Busenitz has seen his stock rise a bit in 2016 but he’s still more of a non-prospect for the time being. He throws really hard(96-98 mph) but doesn’t have much movement on the pitch and lacks the command and secondary stuff to miss a lot of bats.
In return, the Angels essentially receive one of baseball’s worst starters over the last 2 years and a nice prospect but one whose seen his stock drop due to injury issues and his inevitable move to the bullpen. Ironic enough, Ricky Nolasco has essentially been the anti Santiago: shiny K/BB numbers and a career 3.85 FIP but an ERA that is substantially higher(4.58). Nolasco has allowed quite a few home runs over his career but his biggest issue is his ability to pitch from the stretch. His 68.1 LOB%(Left On Base Percentage) is significantly below average and illustrates his problems stranding runners. Nolasco will throw a low 90’s fastball that is his most hittable pitch along with a solid slider and curveball and fringe splitter. For the Angels, this is a very perplexing return, even with the need for an innings eater going forward. The Angels will pay Nolasco 8 million dollars in 2017 with 4 million dollars coming back their way from the Twins to offset some of how owed 12 million dollars. Nolasco has a 13 million dollar club option in 2018, which will certainly be declined unless he has a huge turnaround.
The other piece in the deal is Alex Meyer, the former top prospect who has seen his stock decline due to performance and injury issues. Meyer has long been projected to be a reliever but his past teams, Minnesota and Washington, have tried him as a starter without much success. Alex Meyer is legitimate monster at 6’9″ and 225 lbs and possesses some very good raw stuff. His fastball is a huge weapon, a true 70-75 grade pitch at 95-98 mph with sink. The pitch is a weak contact inducer and bat missing pitch, one he can rely on heavily in the bullpen. His slider is another plus pitch, a hard breaker in the mid 80’s that can create awkward swings. His change up is a fringe/average pitch and will probably be ditched eventually. His command is still well behind his stuff as well, as he’s struggles to locate in the rotation and relief. It’s easy to see why the Angels would want Meyer but the 26 year old has had shoulder issues that have sidelined him much of 2016. If healthy, he’ll be up in the majors as a relief option in all likelihood but the Angels may try him as a starter with the depleted rotation they currently possess.
Onto the other trade, Joe Smith was moved for a fringe prospect whose in Low A ball. Smith has been a reliable reliever for years, although he saw his peripherals decline this year, which has led to a 3.82 ERA this year. Still, Smith presents another useful arm in a Cubs pen that looks a heck of a lot better than it did a few weeks ago. Smith will probably see heavy work as a right handed specialist who comes in when the team needs a big ground ball out or double play.
Jesus Castillo is the return for Joe Smith, a 20 year old whose enjoying a nice season in Low A Ball right now. Castillo isn’t a big prospect, as he’s ranked outside of the top 30 on most lists for the Cubs but he does possess some upside. The 6’2″ 165 lb right hander throws a low 90’s fastball and misses bats with a solid change up with good depth. His breaking ball is well behind the other 2 pitches right now and his command is still subpar so there’s lots of work to do. Castillo will most likely rank as a top 20 prospect in the Angels system. This is a fine move for the Angels since Smith will be a free agent after the year.
The Joe Smith trade is more than ok for the Angels since they receive a decent upside arm. The Santiago trade, however, is a little tough to justify. Without making this sound too complicated, lets give this a shot. Swapping Hector Santiago for Ricky Nolasco is a clear loss for the Angels. The Angels will most likely pay more for Nolasco in 2017 to receive far less value. Fortunately, that’s not the whole trade as the Angels receive Alex Meyer in return. Most lists have Alex Meyer ranked as the 17th best prospect in the Twins system, partially due to what he’s done the past year. If Meyer can get healthy AND improve his command, he can become a real weapon. However, he has 2 big obstacles to clear in that scenario. This might be a risk the Angels should take right now as they possess very few high octane arms and Meyer at full health has a ridiculous arm. However, Meyer is already 26 and has had no success in the majors so far. This is a trade that may not be able to be judged for years because relievers take a while to hit their potential and that may be the case with Meyer.