A Prediction for the Rest of Billy Eppler’s Offseason

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Updated: November 5, 2016

After a thrilling game seven, the World Series is now officially over. The Chicago Cubs are champs, Cleveland got the ultimate dose of karma, and baseball is on a 3 month hiatus. This gives teams time to retool their lineups as all free agents are now officially on the open market with more to come once they opt out of their current contracts plus plenty of players on the trading block.

Billy Eppler is primed and ready to go in his second offseason as Angels GM. He made a deal with the Tigers less than 24 hours into the start of the offseason that brought OF Cameron Maybin to Anaheim. He is most definitely not done yet and should be wheeling and dealing all the way up to the start of Spring Training. Eppler may surprise us, as he already has. Or Eppler may disappoint us, like he did last offseason. Either way, here’s a look at some offseason transactions that might go down this offseason.

3B Yunel Escobar’s option is picked up, traded to the Yankees for RP Tyler Clippard

Yunel Escobar will most definitely have his $7MM option picked up for the 2017 season after a strong offensive showing in 2016. Esky had some pretty unsightly errors last season on defense, so keeping him at the hot corner is a bit bittersweet. Jefry Marte had a strong showing in his rookie season and new left fielder Cameron Maybin has the speed and OBP to be a reliable leadoff man, meaning Escobar becomes expendable. The Yankees need someone to fill in third base next season, as Chase Headley was abysmal on the offensive side of the ball. Headley had the lowest OPS among qualified third basemen last season at .716.

He also had 118 strikeouts on the year, more than double his walks and one more than the hits he collected. The veteran did have positive Rbaser and Rfield according to baseball-reference, so he is worth some value, just not much. In a way, he is the AL East version of Cliff Pennington. Headley is mostly just filling space until prospect Miguel Andujar is ready to take over at third in one to two years, so having Esky for a year means they don’t have to rush his development next season.

Clippard is in the last year of his contract and had a strong showing last year, so prying him from the Yankees may be difficult, but considering Headley scored nearly half the time he was on base, having Escobar in their lineup may create even more run scoring opportunities for their young core. Clippard is set to make around $6 million next season, so the Angels would just be swapping contracts. The only problem is Clippard is the only reliable reliever the Yankees have outside of Dellin Betances. It’s a bit of a stretch, but if the Yankees acquire one of the top relievers on the market and want a steady producer at the plate in order to score runs, they’ll pull the trigger.

Angels Sign OF Franklin Gutierrez to a 1-year/$5MM contract

With the acquisition of Cameron Maybin from the Tigers, the Angels may look for a back up left fielder in case Maybin flops. The cheapest, yet most reliable option for this bench spot has to be Gutierrez. The long time Mariner has never really shined at the major league level, but has both a reliable glove and a reliable bat against lefties. Update: The Angels have traded for OF Cameron Maybin, will be their starting LF. 

Over his career, he has had a slash line of .289/.351/.495 against left handed pitching, good enough for a 846 OPS. Gutierrez has had injury problems the past few years, so his price tag should not be high at all. He is kind of a high risk, high reward type of player. He has only played in a total of 238 games in the past five years. Maybin has always hit righties better, so a platoon may be in play again next season.

Angels Sign 2B Neil Walker to a 4-year/$68MM contract

The Mets are going to make a big push for Walker to return to Citi Field, but the Angels have the deeper pockets this offseason, especially since they exercised Jay Bruce’s $13MM option. Neil hit a career high 23 home runs this season and had an OPS+ of 108. He has never had season with an OPS+ below 100. Walker will most likely not receive a qualifying offer, as the offer was raised to $17.2 million this offseason and he has been out of commission for a month. There are injury concerns surrounding offers, as a herniated disk sidelined him to end the season. This will cause his value to take a bit of a hit, causing him to make no more than $16 million from other teams. The Angels will jump on this opportunity for a quality second baseman for the next few years and sign him for $17 million a year.

RP Cam Bedrosian is traded, gets a Giles-esque haul

Cam Bedrosian looks like the closer of the future, but seeing the haul that the Phillies got for Ken Giles might be just what the Angels need. Giles, the fireballing closer for the Astros, has similar makeup as Bedrosian, so Bedrosian alone could help rebuild the Angels system.

The Phillies got Vince Velasquez, Mark Appel, Thomas Eshelman, and Harold Arauz for Giles, most of which were major pitching prospects at one point. If teams like the Giants, Nationals, or Marlins miss out on Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, or Mark Melancon, expect Bedrosian to garner some big interest if Zach Britton is dealt or held onto by the Baltimore Orioles. This free agent class is deep with reliable arms, but teams seem to be looking for more and more controllable young fireballers and are willing to pay big for them.

Angels sign RPs Greg Holland and Brett Cecil to contracts totalling $5 million

With the remaining payroll money the Angels will have and the hole left in the bullpen by the departure of Bedrosian, the Angels will go after low risk, high reward relievers to possibly complement Clippard. Holland hasn’t seen the field in over a year after he tore his UCL in October of 2015.

He was dominant when he was with Kansas City from 2011 to 2014 and he is only 30 years old. If Holland can get back in the groove of things come Opening Day, he could be the Angels’ closer by June. He is a Scott Boras client, so he won’t come dirt cheap, but a short 1-year/$2.2MM contract seems reasonable considering he hasn’t thrown a single inning in over a year. Cecil is a lefty reliever that the Angels should focus on because he has had success throughout his career.

He had a down year, but he still showed flashes of success, especially against lefties. He made $3.8 million this season, so he shouldn’t demand that much money this offseason, especially since he is coming off a down year. Look for Cecil to sign a 1-year/$2.8MM contract with the Halos.

Angels Sign RHP Doug Fister to a 2-year/$15MM contract

Doug Fister may not be the Doug Fister of old, but considering how much success Ricky Nolasco had after coming to Anaheim at the end of last season, Fister may be able to regain his success. He throws his two-seam fastball about 40% of the time, but batters hit .291 off of the pitch last season. If Charles Nagy can find a different pitch he can throw, like his cutter or four-seam, then he may be able to get Fister’s ERA back under four.

Fister is an innings eater as well. He could give you six to seven innings every start and gives the bullpen some rest, much like Nolasco. Signing Fister means the Angels won’t have to throw Nate Smith or Alex Meyer before they are ready, a real win for both the team and the prospects. Even if Fister throws 180 innings of 4.25 ERA ball, it would be considered a good deal for the Angels.

Obviously, Billy has some work to do this offseason. The only thing the Angels can do is get better. They can’t afford to waste another year of Mike Trout’s greatness. If Eppler can make some good trades, sign quality position players, and sign bargin bin pitchers, the Angels could have a nice bounce back next season.

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