Using the same parameters as the main series, here’s what I came up with:
- SP upside
- SP depth
- Keep the new young core intact
- Plan for Ohtani extension
We all know this team needs a whole lot of pitching, and I want to be able to add the upside of dudes you can trust in the playoffs while still adding enough arms to make it through the season. I also want to improve team defense (mainly at SS and backup C) to further help with run prevention. I’d like to ideally accomplish all this while retaining a lot of the key young players (Marsh, Adell, Detmers, Bachman, etc.) who bring both talent and payroll flexibility to the team in the near-term. Finally, I believe that the crux of both short- and long-term planning for the organization needs to be making Ohtani an Angel for life. This means building a team that can win now to make him want to stay, but also not tying up too much future payroll so the team can afford his upcoming mega-contract.
I’m going to start post-Thor, which does a lot to address my #1 priority but eats into the budget. Also accounting for the Junior Guerra DFA, the new target budget is $25.3M.
Non-Tender Phil Gosselin
I’d like to keep Gosselin as a solid bench player but we’re penny-pinching here and that $1.5M is needed elsewhere.
Re-sign Raisel Iglesias
4 years, $48M (+$12M)
This does somewhat go against my rule of saving money for Ohtani, but as we all witnessed last year the steady presence anchoring a bullpen is just too valuable to pass up. There aren’t many other avenues to acquiring this sort of pitcher. While this carries some risk of not looking great in Iglesias’ age-36 season, I think this deal helps enough with winning in the short-term to be worth it.
Sign Hector Neris
2 year, $7M (+$7M)
Neris gets a bit of a bad rap due to a bad 2020 season and too many blown saves in 2021. However, when you take a closer look at him it’s clear that 2020 was an outlier and he is in fact a very good reliever. He has 11.5 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, and a 3.42 ERA for his career. At 32 years old there’s no reason to expect he has already fallen off a cliff and he should be a reliable high leverage reliever for the next couple years.
Sign Brad Hand
1 year, $3M (+$3M)
Hand certainly has some red flags, which is why the price is so low. His velocity plummeted in 2020 but he still turned in a very productive season. In 2021 his velocity rebounded but his production bottomed out as he suddenly lost the ability to get swings and misses on his slider. I’m no expert, but it seems like if he can correct his slider he’d go back to being a very valuable reliever. Even last year he was a perfectly serviceable option and would be an improvement over the Angels’ options from last year.
Trade Jaime Barria (P) and Denzer Guzman (2B) to St Louis for Merrill Kelly (SP)
Arizona shouldn’t be too concerned about holding on to the 33-year-old Kelly in the last year of his contract. They can get a young rotation option who may just need a change of scenery plus a lottery ticket prospect.
The Angels balance out the more risky starters on the roster with a steady and reliable veteran. Since his return to the US, Kelly has averaged close to 6 innings per start with an ERA in the mid-4s. He won’t often win a game single-handedly like Syndergaard can, but he will almost always give the team a chance to win while reducing stress on the bullpen.
Trade Alexander Ramirez (OF) and Jack Kochanowicz (SP) to Pittsburgh for JT Brubaker (SP) and Cole Tucker (UT)
(Both pre-arb, no money added)
The Pirates have reached the portion of a rebuild where the stockpiling of minor-league talent leads to a 40-man roster crunch. They should be willing to trade a couple spare parts to clear 40-man spots for prospects and playing time for younger players, especially when it nets them two solid prospects who they don’t have to worry about protecting from the rule-5 draft for a couple years.
For the Angels, the main prize of this trade is Brubaker, who for the last 2 years has had much better peripherals than actual results. If his sky-high 2.03 HR/9 from 2021 comes back down to Earth (<1 in the minors, 1.14 in 2020) his ERA would likely drop to the low-4s (matching his career SIERA and Steamer projection).
Tucker could also be a valuable piece, even though he has been a pretty bad player so far in his major league career. In his last scouting reports from Fangraphs he was called “a lock to stay at shortstop” and “Arizona Fall League’s most elegant defender” with the floor of ” a solid everyday player”. Of course, actual MLB performance means a lot more than a 3-year-old scouting report. However, I for one am very willing to believe that the way the Pirates handled him with sporadic play time at multiple new positions did a lot to hinder his production. With the given budget, it’s necessary to rely on an inexpensive option at shortstop. I would prefer to give Tucker a chance to live up to his potential in his age-25 season with consistent playing time at his natural position than rely on the current uninspiring internal options.
Trade Luis Rengifo (IF) and Orlando Martinez (OF) to Toronto for Reese McGuire (C)
(Pre-arb, no money added)
The Blue Jays have 2 other MLB catchers and another good prospect, while McGuire is out of options. The get some optionable depth pieces back at positions where they need the depth more. The Angels get a great backup catcher who was rated as the 10th best framer in the league last year (for reference Stassi ranked 6th and Suzuki 52nd). Improving defense behind the plate when Stassi needs a day off or is injured should help the entire pitching staff.
Offseason in Review
Let’s go through my priorities (sorry, this part got pretty lengthy):
- SP Upside – Syndergaard is the big upside move here and has a higher ceiling than any non-Ohtani Angels starter in quite some time. I would’ve liked to add one more starter to trust with a postseason start, but it wasn’t feasible within the budget (at least while keeping Marsh/Adell/Detmers). A deadline acquisition is still possible if things are going well.
- SP Depth – Three starters are added to the depth chart including one that should supply more reliable innings than most internal options. The rotation depth in the bullpen/minors would be Reid Detmers, Griffin Canning, Janson Junk, Packy Naughton, Cooper Criswell, and Davis Daniel. I don’t want to rely on those guys, but they are likely better emergency options than the team has had in years.
- Bullpen – The bullpen here is clearly improved. Bringing Iglesias back is huge. Neris and Hand aren’t perfect, but they’re certainly better than Cishek and Watson. Mayers can still be a high-leverage guy and would likely be even better than we’ve seen if some of the young guys produce and he doesn’t have to pitch in every single close game. The sleepers here are Canning and Bachman. I think Canning might thrive in a bullpen role and turn into a high-leverage reliever like Kendall Graveman if he isn’t needed in the rotation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bachman in the MLB bullpen sooner rather than later based on the talk from the front office when he was drafted, and his stuff could play right away.
- Defense – I think the defensive alignment I have below would be improved from last year, although not as much as I would like. The main improvement is McGuire over Suzuki, who played in a whopping 72 games with terrible defense. Tucker isn’t proven but I think he can be a good defensive SS who should be better than the rotating cast we saw last year. Adell is no defensive wizard but he should be better than Upton and the infielders that played out there last year. Marsh could be an elite CF and moving Trout to a corner turns him into a plus defender (and might help with his health). Rendon is good, Fletcher is great, and Walsh has been constantly improving now that he’s focused on 1B. There really aren’t any staggering defensive holes, which should help with run prevention.
- Keep the young core intact – The marquee young pieces are retained with this plan, and the dream of an Adell-Marsh-Trout outfield is alive and well. Detmers will make an impact on this team in 2022 and beyond, he just shouldn’t be relied on to start the year in the rotation. Bachman might be able to help the team sooner than expected in a bullpen role before transitioning into a starting role for 2023 (it worked for Corbin Burnes). The players traded away are depth options who are unlikely to be sorely missed or prospects too far away to impact the team’s current window of contention.
- Plan for Ohtani extension – This plan sets up very well for an Ohtani extension. The team retains players like Adell, Marsh, Detmers, Sandoval, and Suarez who should still be both good and relatively inexpensive in 2024. A couple more of those types are even added in Brubaker and Tucker. Most of the upper-minors depth options and top prospects are retained, allowing the team to rely more on internal reinforcements and trades than expensive free agents in the coming years. Most of the money committed in this offseason is cleared after 2022, leaving plenty of money to address needs in 2023 (Upton off the books!) and sign that Ohtani extension in either 2023 or 2024. Most importantly, the team is good enough to truly compete and make the playoffs in 2022 to show Ohtani that he can win in Anaheim.