5 Creative Ways Los Angeles Angels Can Improve Roster with Limited Resources
The Los Angeles Angels have made big splashes in free agency the last two offseasons, but what has it gotten them? Two third-place finishes and that's it.
The Angels have brought in the big bats of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton the last two years, but outside of signing C.J. Wilson, the team has largely failed at trading for, or signing any, quality pitchers.
According to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto is going to have to be tight with his money this offseason. The Angels already have $130 million committed to next year's roster. Instead, he'll have to look for starting rotation help in the trade market, via Gonzalez:
The Angels' general manager—assured in early October that he'd return for a third year—will spend a vast majority of his offseason talking to teams about ways to acquire starting pitching via trade, preferably by dangling offensive pieces like Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo.
With very little wiggle room, the Angels are going to have to get creative with the pieces they have available as they look for cheap options in the rotation.
Here's a look at five ways the Angels can improve their roster with their limited resources.
Setting the Market: Who the Angels Have
As far as the starting rotation goes, the Angels have C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver and Garrett Richards coming back. Tommy Hanson is eligible for arbitration and MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez doesn't expect the Angels to tender Hanson.
Gonzalez also noted that Jason Vargas is a free agent, so that adds another dimension to the offseason:
The Angels aren't expected to tender Vargas the $14.1 million qualifying offer, mainly because they'd be too close to the luxury-tax threshold if he were to accept it. And they can't afford to overpay.
Gonzalez believes Joe Blanton will get released and that no other starting options exist in the minor leagues. In fact, their top pitching prospect (according to MLB.com), Mark Sappington, isn't expected in the big leagues until 2015. There's no hope of relief from that angle.
But the trade market is ripe with pitchers who could be available.
Obviously, David Price and Max Scherzer would cost more in prospects than the Angels have. Both would also be looking for a hefty raise after next year so that's not likely to happen.
However, there are other pitchers who could be of interest to the Angels.
Padres Have Interest in Mark Trumbo
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweeted on Tuesday that the San Diego Padres have interest in Mark Trumbo, and the Padres are one of the few teams that have enough depth at pitcher to make a deal.
Jason Green of Friarsonbase.com took a look at San Diego's situation heading into 2014:
As of right now, next year’s Padres rotation would most likely be (Andrew) Cashner, (Tyson) Ross, (Ian) Kennedy, (Eric) Stults and Robbie Erlin...Chances are there will be a heated competition in Spring Training for the fifth spot between Erlin, Burch Smith, Matt Wisler and Keyvius Sampson. I hesitate to throw in the names of Joe Wieland, Cory Luebke and Casey Kelly to the competition but, all three could partake depending on their recovery rate from surgery.
The last part of Green's statement is the most important one as it concerns the Angels. Wieland, Luebke and Kelly are three pitchers who could get the Angels talking, although their recoveries from Tommy John surgery will almost certainly stop any deal.
If the Angels would be willing to take a chance on the health of one of those three, it would be a deal worth making. But if none of the pitchers would help the Angels in 2014, then why even make the move?
It would be a different story if they were all healthy and not coming back from major elbow surgery.
Mark Trumbo for Jeff Locke
The Pittsburgh Pirates could be in on any Mark Trumbo trade talk as well.
According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pirates tried to trade for Trumbo at the trading deadline, but the Angels refused to give him up:
There were indications the Pirates were willing to give up a young pitcher for Trumbo. But a source told the Tribune-Review that the Los Angeles Angels had no interest in dealing their power-hitting first baseman.
It would be impossible to think the Pirates would give up top prospect Jameson Taillon in a trade for Trumbo, but someone like Jeff Locke could conceivably be moved.
Locke has yet to hit arbitration and would be controllable through at least 2019. He went 10-7 with a 3.52 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 166.1 innings this year.
The deal would make sense because the Pirates would get a power hitter they desperately need and the Angels would get a good pitcher who is also cheap. The teams could trade lower-level prospects as well to help fill some organizational depth.
Mariners Need Help, Have Pieces to Trade
The Seattle Mariners already have Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker slated for their 2014 starting rotation.
When it comes to mound depth, the Mariners have a lot of it with Danny Hultzen, Tyler Pike, James Paxton and Luis Gohara all in the system. While not all will be in the big leagues next year, the Mariners could conceivably trade one of their young pitchers to get Mark Trumbo and Erick Aybar in return.
The Mariners ranked 22nd in baseball in runs score (624), 28th in batting average (.237) and 20th in slugging percentage (.390). Adding a guy like Trumbo would add a lot of power to the Seattle lineup, although some will point to his .234 average as hurting his team.
Trumbo batted .268/.317/.491 in 2012, so we know he can hit for average. His power makes dealing a guy like Paxton worth it for the Mariners. Seattle could also kick in minor league middle infielder Chris Taylor and get Aybar in return to man shortstop.
It would give the Mariners two experienced pieces for their lineup. In Aybar, the Mariners would get a guy who hit .272 from the leadoff spot. Compare that to the .247 average they got out of the leadoff spot in 2013.
The benefits for the Angels would be enormous. Paxton would be able to come in and immediately make an impact. In four starts in the big leagues, Paxton has gone 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 24 innings. He would immediately slot in at No. 3 in the Angels rotation. Not to mention, they would control him at a cheap price for the foreseeable future.
Throwing in Taylor would help add more depth to the Angels system, giving them a player who could be a starter in a few years or a piece they could move in a later deal.
On the other hand, the Angels may prefer to get someone like Stefan Romero, who would fill in a hole they have at third base. Romero batted .277 with 11 home runs and 74 RBI last year for the Tacoma Rainers in Triple-A. He's ready to make the jump to the big leagues.
All the pieces are there. The only question is, will these division rivals consider a deal within the division? You obviously don't want to help out a rival, but if it makes your team better, then it's a deal worth making.
Marlins Have Young, Experienced Pitching
The Miami Marlins were criticized last offseason for selling the farm. Or did they instead get a farm? Regardless, they were big players in the trade market last year.
While they did have one of the worst records in baseball this past season, it wasn't because of poor pitching. It was because of their poor hitting.
The Marlins ranked last in average (.231), slugging (.335), home runs (95) and runs scored (513). Pitching-wise, the Marlins ranked 11th in ERA (3.71) and gave up the third-fewest home runs (121). Needless to say, it's the Marlins' hitting that needs work.
That's why trading for a guy like Mark Trumbo would be good for the Marlins and equally beneficial for the Angels. Los Angeles would have a young pitcher with experience that it could control for the next few years.
Among Miami's pitchers, Jose Fernandez is likely the only untouchable one. That leaves someone like Jacob Turner, Henderson Alvarez or Nathan Eovaldi, who could all easily be traded.
All three are top talents who are controllable and have proven themselves at the big league level. None of the three really got any run support with Eovaldi having ranked the highest in run support at 3.67. Alvarez received 2.47 and Turner got 2.95.
Just imagine if those three had more run support. At the very least, the Marlins would have been in the thick of the playoff race past the All-Star break.
Owner Jeffrey Loria has never been shy about trading, and with the amount of talent he has on the mound, he shouldn't be shy about trading one of his young guns to get Trumbo.
Of course, the Marlins would have to make a few more moves if they want to compete this year, but adding Trumbo would be a step in the right direction. The biggest question would be, will Loria be willing to make Trumbo the highest-paid player on the team when it comes to arbitration? That's the only snag that can hold up this deal.
Still, if Loria uses other pieces he has in the minors to bring in more impact offensive players, then this is a deal that could definitely happen.
Is Dillon Gee Available?
The best move for the Angels to make, if the New York Mets were willing, would be to trade Mark Trumbo for Dillon Gee straight up?
The benefits for Los Angeles would be huge considering that Gee went 12-11 in 2013 with a 3.62 ERA and 142 strikeouts. From June through August, he was even better, going 7-3 with a 2.55 ERA.
What makes Gee even more attractive is that he still has three arbitration years left. He could slot in as the No. 3 starter and take care of a major need for the Angels.
Some wouldn't think Gee would be on the trade block, but top prospect Noah Syndergaard will be in the big leagues by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Gee's value isn't getting any higher and the Mets are going to have to look at improving their club for the future.
Getting Trumbo would be huge for the Mets and would unceremoniously end the Ike Davis era in New York. It's not like many New Yorkers would mind that.
Davis has batted .219 with 41 home runs and 129 RBI over the last two years and was even demoted to Triple-A in the middle of this season.
Of course some may say that the Mets already have a first baseman in Lucas Duda who has replaced Davis. But the chance to add a bat like Trumbo's would be hard not to take.
The Mets have to beef up their offense, especially with Matt Harvey on the shelf after Tommy John surgery. With this trade, both teams would take a major weakness and turn it into a strength.