INTRODUCTION AND TRADE VALUE
Okay I’ll be your huckleberry. Gitcho suggested a game wherein fantasy Perry is tasked with getting the payroll down to around $100 million while still maintaining a viable product on the field. Further parameters were that Trout and Rendon remain on the team – which is a given as their trade value per the Baseball Trade Values Trade Simulator is either low (Trout is at 14 – that is what happens to even superstars when a player costs a LOT of money) and Rendon is at a spectacular -132.3 (yes that is MINUS 132.3). To put that in perspective, Ohtani has a trade value of 52 on the simulator so you would pretty much have to give a team Ohtani, Trout and a bunch of other value to get them to take Rendon. That is not going to happen.
For all of you screaming about how much more valuable Ohtani is than the Trade Simulator says and how much another team would give for him, the reality is is that money and team control affects the analysis. Last year his value was near 100 on the trade simulator. But $30 million later and only one year of control and his value has been cut in half. The key word in “trade value” is the second one – i.e. “value”. Teams do not want to take on mammoth contracts in return for cheap and controlled talent. They also do not want to give up a bunch of talent for a one year rental. So, the Trade Simulator generally gets it right. And that simulator says that Trout and Rendon are, for all intents and purposes, untradable.
ANGELS 2023 PAYROLL
Per Spotrac, the Angels 2023 total projected payroll is $156 million. That includes Rendon ($38,571,428), Trout ($37,116,666), Ohtani ($30,000,000), Loup ($7,500,000), Stassi ($7,000,000), Tepera ($7 million), Fletcher ($6,000,000) and all of the expected raises to arbitration eligible players such as Ward, Sandoval, Walsh, Rengifo and Canning. So, that is the number I am using for this game – $156 million and I need to get it down as close as I can to $100 million. So, I have to cut somewhere around $50 million in payroll while still putting a decent product on the field.
There is only one way to approach this game. It is an entry point – like moving the pawn at the beginning of a chess match. Ohtani has to be traded. He is the only expensive player with trade value (since Trout and Rendon are realistically not tradable). So, as the virtual Perry, I swallow deeply and realize (1) I have to trade Ohtani and (2) it is okay because he is very unlikely to sign a deal after 2023 with the Angels. He is likely gone, so I am going to do my best to get a team to overpay a bit for a season of Ohtani.
I know this will be a blow to Angel fans and I know that there will be quite a bit of frustration and anger on chat boards and social media. Oh well – I, as virtual Perry, serve at the pleasure of the owner who has demanded payroll come down to make the team more marketable. So, I am abiding those orders and doing the best I can.
Identifying the right team for that trade took a bit of thought, but I ultimately landed on the Padres. They are a Westcoast team so they have a chance to sign Ohtani to a longer term deal. They have entered a timeframe from a personnel perspective where they could win a World Series. They are stinging a bit from the loss to the Phillies and, with Ohtani, have a legitimate chance to win a World Series. This is the kind of team that might overpay a bit to get Ohtani – particularly as it would be a middle finger to the hated Dodgers. Additionally, they are deep at a position (shortstop) which is a key weakness for the Angels.
So, with that as an introduction, here is my plan as virtual GM and my thought process behind each trade. Each of these trades were made using the Baseball Trade Values Trade Simulator.
TRADE #1- BYE BYE OHTANI-SAN
In my first trade, the Padres receive Ohtani (52 trade value). The Angels receive Cronenworth (SS – 59.1 trade value), Lesko (RHP – 15 trade value) and Zavala (OF – 7.8 trade value).
Its an overpay by the Padres but I think they do it for a couple of reasons. First, Ohtani makes them World Series favorites. Second, Tatis Jr. will be returning after the first month of the season making Cronenworth a bit unnecessary (the Padres actually have a couple other young shortstops who could back up Tatis Jr.). The Lesko and Zavala pieces are prospects who would have more value to the Angels than to the Padres. Zavala is 18 years old and can play all three outfield positions. Lesko was the 2022 first round selection by the Padres at pick #15.
This trade alone cuts $30 million of payroll (Ohtani) and adds only Cronenworth’s major league minimum salary. Cronenworth is not arbitration eligible until after the 2023 season so he is team controlled for quite some time. He is a stud (4.1 WAR in 2022 and 10.6 WAR over 2.5 seasons). He solves the shortstop problem for quite some time – long enough for Neto to continue to develop at shortstop.
TRADE #2 – PLAYING WITH TIGERS
I have my marching orders and that includes getting rid of Loup ($7.5 million), Tepera ($7 million) and Stassi ($7 million) if I want to come close to succeeding. The problem is that Loup has a -4.8 trade value, Stassi has a -7.8 trade value and Tepera has a 0 trade value. So, how do I get a team to bite on taking these players?
The answer is more pain, but acceptable pain under the circumstances. Ward in my opinion has had a career season which increased his trade value to 36.6 – higher than he is likely worth so I view this as an opportunity as I will also save his post-arb salary which is likely to be in the $2 million range. He is also 28 years old. Suarez has a trade value of 16.6. I hate to get rid of him but he is is necessary to get the Tigers to bite.
So, the trade is Loup, Tepera, Stassi, Ward and Suarez to the Tigers in exchange for Kerry Carpenter (right field – 25 years old – major league ready), Matt Manning (starting right hand pitcher – 24 years old – 1st round pick in 2016 – 6’6″ tall – was 2-3 in 2022 with a .8 WAR in 12 games) and Casey Mize (starting right hand pitcher – 25 years old).
All three players coming to the Angels are earning the major league minimum and are not eligible for arbitration until at least 2024. Carpenter has the ability to become the starting right fielder for the Angels – in 31 games in 2022 he had 6 HRs and 10 RBIs in his first MLB stint. Manning and Mize could easily slide into the rotation replacing, at least, Suarez. Both have tremendous upside.
This trade erases $21.5 million from the Angels payroll replacing it with major-league minimum players. Its net effect is -$21 million if you factor in the arbitration raise to Ward.
This situation has been tough on the virtual GM. A generational player (Ohtani) has been traded and some youngish talent has been traded (Ward and Suarez). However, the net effect has been reducing payroll by $51 million and solving the shortstop problem with Cronenworth who is a stud under team control for a long time and not arbitration eligible until after 2023 (team will be long sold by then). I also have acquired some top minor leaguers in Lesko (pitcher) and Zavala (OF) and thereby improved the Farm system. I also acquired some young, talented and inexpensive major league ready players to immediately plug into the lineup Carpenter (OF), Manning (RHP) and Mize (RHP).
Arte is happy because the team is leaner and more marketable, meaning it is likely to sell for more money than with a nearly $200 million payroll commitment. And the product on the field might even improve with young, motivated players at multiple positions.
Also, the AA team is loaded with young bullpen arms. I bring them up and see what they can do at the Major League level. They cannot do much worse than Loup did this year and they might be much MUCH better.
The team is now ready to be sold and a new owner will have the necessary luxury of making future payroll decisions within the framework of a cost-controlled, young team.