The MLB offseason is at the stage where it seems to be dragging along, with little to no action most of the days. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement has not been finalized yet and with the deadline coming up this Thursday, it’s assumed that the owners and players will come to an agreement by then. The timing of this is perfect as the Winter Meetings begin in Maryland next Sunday, meaning a flurry of MLB transactions may be coming soon. The Angels have been one of the few active teams so far, acquiring outfielder Cameron Maybin for Victor Alcantara, signing right hander Jesse Chavez and inking Andrew Bailey to a 1 year deal, while also claiming a right hander Vicente Campos and infielder Nolan Fontana off waivers. The team still has plenty of moves to make if they intend to compete next year so it’s expected they’ll be active the remainder of the offseason.
If you follow the Angels closely, you know what this team needs in 2017 to be competitive and what long term areas need to be fixed. Left field was addressed already with Cameron Maybin but a solid backup outfielder is still a need with Maybin’s inconsistent production and injury history. 2nd base is the biggest hole by far on the current roster so it’s almost certain the team will find a new option this offseason. Lastly, the Angels need pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. With roughly 20-25 million dollars left to spend this offseason on free agents/new trade acquisitions, it’s unlikely the team can just sign 3-4 good players and fit it within their budget. That leaves the trade route as a potential source for the Angels to acquire talent. The issue here, as it’s been in recent years, is the team lacks high end minor league talent and any good prospects should realistically be off limits considering the 2017 team may not be good enough to make the playoffs. However, as we saw at the trade deadline this year with the Ricky Nolasco trade, Billy Eppler can potentially acquire needed players(Alex Meyer) by taking on a bloated deal. This spurred a flurry of trade ideas and one trade proposal in particular stood out.
KCR sends: RHP Ian Kennedy, 2B Whit Merrifield, OF Paulo Orlando and LHP Garrett Davilla(Royals pay Street’s 9 million dollar salary in 2017 and send 5 million dollars for each of the next 4 years to LAA)
Why the Royals make this trade
Coming off a World Series title season, the Royals had a down 2016 season and are now in a tough position. Expectations have been raised but the current team is more of a low-mid 80’s win team and also has numerous players hitting free agency after the 2017 season. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Jarrod Dyson, Wade Davis and Danny Duffy all hit the open market and that means a small-mid market Kansas city team needs payroll flexibility and backup options in case any of those guys aren’t re-signed. This is where the Angels enter.
C.J. Cron is a pre-arb 1B/DH who possesses 4 years of club control and is coming off a 1.7 WAR season where he slashed .278/.325/.467, good for a 115 WRC+. Cron struck out less, walked more and set a career high in all 3 slash lines in 2016. Cron also posted positive ratings at 1st base in both defensive runs saved(+3) and in UZR(4.0), showing he can at least handle the majority of first base duties. Entering his age 27 season in 2017, Cron is a breakout candidate who could post a 2+ WAR season, fills the 1B/DH role that was vacated by Kendrys Morales and is insurance in case Eric Hosmer leaves via free agency.
Huston Street is basically thrown in to offset some of the salary the Angels take on and gives the Royals a back end option in the bullpen to pair with Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera. Street had a rough 2016 season but he could bounce back in the friendly confines of Kaufmann Stadium and is a veteran presence in the bullpen.
Ian Kennedy was fine in 2016, throwing 195.2 innings with a 3.68 ERA and 1.7 WAR. However, he posted a lousy 4.67 FIP and xFIP, while posting the 2nd lowest BABIP of his career and best left on base%(LOB%) of his career, partially due to his defense behind him and home ballpark. With 4 years and 62.5 million dollars remaining on his deal, there is a huge amount of downside to this deal and with all the free agents the Royals need to sign next offseason, shedding some of Kennedy’s deal would be huge.
Losing Whit Merrfield is the one part where the Royals may be hesitant but opening up payroll for next offseason is huge. Paulo Orlando is a quality bench player but the Royals are probably inclined to worry about losing their core players and at age 31, Orlando could lose some of the skills that make him valuable.
Why the Angels make this trade
As discussed above, the Angels need to address quite a few spots if they intend on competing in 2017 and beyond. The team still needs a durable innings eater due to the high risk of injury for Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs. They need a 2nd baseman who won’t be replacement level and they need a strong backup outfielder for when Cameron Maybin is inevitably hurt in 2017. Here is where the Royals enter.
With the Royals paying 5 million dollars a year for the rest of the Ian Kennedy deal, the Angels are on the hook for a 4 year 42.5 million dollar deal. That’s not super ideal as Kennedy may be a fringe #5 starter going forward but pitching in Anaheim at least allows his fly ball ways to play into a pitcher’s park. Like the Ricky Nolasco deal, the Angels will take on a bad contract for a starter to receive other talent. Kennedy slots into the 5th starter’s spot and moves Jesse Chavez to a swingman role, creating some depth in the rotation.
Whit Merrifield is sent to Anaheim and is immediately one of the options for the 2nd base job in 2017. Merrifield was essentially a non-prospect but was called up in 2017 and produced a 1.7 WAR season in just 81 games thanks to a not terrible 89 wRC+ and very good defensive numbers at 2nd base and solid numbers at other positions. At the very least, Merrifield can be a very useful utility guy who provides good defense at several positions, runs the bases well and hit lefties(138 wRC+ vs lefties in 2016 albeit an unsustainable .458 BABIP). Merrifield is also a pre-arb guy who could stick around for quite some time.
Paulo Orlando is another pre-arb guy who plays terrific defense at all 3 outfield positions, runs the bases well and has shown an ability to be a useful offensive player as well. Orlando is legitimately one of the best athletes in baseball, as he was a former Brazilian track and field star. At age 31, Orlando may start to see those skills diminish a bit but he’s still a huge add for the bench in 2017 and at gives the Angels a legitimately nice 4th outfielder. The great thing about adding Orlando and Merrifield is it gives the Angels 2 versatile options while paying both right around the league minimum.
Garrett Davilla is a young lefty in the Royals system with a pretty high floor as a potential back end starter. Davilla has good command of his solid-average fastball and above average curveball. He’s ways away but he’d represent a nice add to the Angels system. Davilla feels like the last piece that would be needed for the Angels to pull the trigger on taking on Ian Kennedy’s deal.
The Angels next moves
The crazy part about this trade proposal for the Angels is they actually save 500 thousand dollars for the 2017 season. The Angels add a serviceable 5th starter, a potential 2B option and a 4th outfielder and save money. The Angels lose a legitimately solid bat at 1B/DH and another bullpen arm so they can replace those 2 in free agency. The free agent market stinks but luckily, the 2 biggest strengths are 1B/DH bats and relievers. There’s a expectation that the 25 man roster is expanded to 26 men in 2017 with the current CBA talks so let’s assume that happens.
Angels 2017 25 man roster
1. Yunel Escobar 3B
2. Kole Calhoun RF
3. Mike Trout CF
4. Albert Pujols DH
5. Matt Holliday 1B
6. Cameron Maybin LF
7. Whit Merrifield 2B
8. Jett Bandy C
9. Andrelton Simmons SS
10. Paulo Orlando OF
11. Jefry Marte IF/OF
12. Carlos Perez C
13. Cliff Pennington INF
14. Chris Coghlan INF/OF
15. Garrett Richards RHP
16. Matt Shoemaker RHP
17. Tyler Skaggs LHP
18. Ricky Nolasco RHP
19. Ian Kennedy RHP
20. Cam Bedrosian CL
21. Tommy Hunter SU
22. Andrew Bailey SU
23. J.C. Ramirez MR
24. Jose Alvarez MR
25. Alex Meyer MR
26. Jesse Chavez LR
Looking at that 2017 roster, you can see a team that can compete that year while not doing anything drastic to alter the farm system or young core players. C.J. Cron could put it all together and be a 120-125 wRC+ bat the next 4 years but he also plays a position that’s the most expendable. Huston Street leaving creates a vacancy at the back end of the bullpen but bringing in Tommy Hunter fills that veteran role with arguably a better pitcher. Taking on most of Ian Kennedy’s deal stings but you can hope he provides decent back end innings for the next few years. The Angels receive cheap 2nd base and 4th outfielder options in Merrifield and Orlando, creating payroll flexibility for free agency. Matt Holliday can duplicate C.J. Cron’s numbers for a bigger cost but he’s also a short commitment. Chris Coghlan is the last add, if rosters do in fact expand, and can be used as a lefty off the bench who can move around the defensive spectrum and be used as a platoon guy for Merrifield at 2nd base.
This is just one wild trade proposal which in all likelihood won’t happen but it wouldn’t surprise to see the Angels take on a similar approach. Take on a bad deal with some money thrown in and receive other talent to fill other holes. You could see a similar deal with other teams like Minnesota(Dozier and Mauer), Detroit(Kinsler and Sanchez), Chicago(Shields and young pieces), Arizona(Greinke and young pieces). Hopefully, Billy Eppler has some crazy ideas up his sleeve this offseason to improve the MLB team without bloating payroll or depleting the young talent in the farm system or on the MLB club.