This is one tough free agent market for the Angels. All of the top free agents either don’t really meet the Halos’ needs or are the Angels’ own free agents. Given payroll constraints, it just doesn’t look like free agency is going to be of much help to LAA this off-season. The trade market, however, is quite the opposite. If Tony Reagins is going to make a splash this winter it will be via trade with a number of game-changers available, but the question is do the Angels have the right bait to reel in the big fish? Let’s take a look:
Why do the Angels Need Him? - It seems likely that John Lackey won’t be back, and I am not buying the idea that Scott Kazmir is really a #1 starter, much less an ace. Not having an ace is an absolute no-no for a team with World Series aspirations. Halladay is pretty much the only ace pitcher available on the trade or free agent market so that is who the Angels are going to have go after. He’ll be expensive, but after watching what CC Sabathia did for the Yankees in the post-season, I think we can all agree that paying through the nose for an elite starting pitcher is well worth it.
Can the Angels Make it Happen - The good news is that the Blue Jays are looking for quality over quantity, which is good for the Angels because they don’t have a deep pool of prospects, then again their shallow pool isn’t exactly immensely talented either. The Jays have a gaping hole at shortstop and a slightly smaller hole at third base, so Brandon Wood would obviously be the centerpiece of any deal. Beyond that the price is unknown because Toronto has a new GM who may or may not still insist on Erick Aybar being part of the deal. If Aybar is required, the deal isn’t going to happen, if not the Angels have a solid chance, especially if the Jays want to remain a competitive team and take Joe Saunders in the deal rather than another prospect. After those two, the Angels should be prepared to gut their system to land Doc Halladay that means including probably two prospects from the group of Jordan Walden, Trevor Reckling, Hank Conger, Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos.
Why do the Angels Need Him? - The Angels have a deep and potent line-up but what they lack is a scary monster in the middle of the line-up that can put the fear of God into opposing pitchers the way A-Rod did to the Angels in the post-season (are you noticing the trend here?). A-Gon is arguably the best power hitter in baseball (when you factor in the cavernous dimensions of Petco Park and that he has absolutely zero protection in the line-up) and has a fantastic batter’s eye and is a tremendous first baseman to boot.
Can the Angels Make it Happen - There are two major problems here. First, everyone in the league is going to try and get Gonzalez, so his price is going to be astronomical. Second, he is under contract for a combined $10.25 million the next years which is very affordable, so the Padres may not even be ready to move him at this point. Combine those two factors and the Angels really don’t stand much of a chance. The Pads will definitely want Brandon Wood, but after that it isn’t clear what the Angels would be willing to give up. Joe Saunders and Howie Kendrick would interest most clubs, but both are arbitration eligible which will scare off San Diego who wants dirt cheap players. That means tossing in, I would guess, at least three more top prospects into the deal and frankly the Angel farm system just isn’t deep enough for that.
Why do the Angels Need Him? - It isn’t everyday that you can get an All-Star outfielder in the prime of his career AND who is locked in to a reasonable contract for at least three years, but that appears to be what the Tigers are offering out in Curtis Granderson. Granderson is a terrific centerfielder who would likely slot in at left field for the Angels, giving them one of the best defensive outfields in baseball no matter who is in right. Granderson does strike out a lot and sometimes struggles to hit for average, but he has excellent speed, draws a fair number of walks and has surprisingly good power (he hit 30 HR last year). He isn’t the scary monster the Angels need but he would be another versatile bat in the line-up.
Can the Angels Make it Happen - The Tigers are allegedly offering Granderson out to shed his long-term money, but at the same time, they want to remain competitive. That is why the rumored deal of Granderson for Juan Rivera and prospects makes a fair amount of sense for both parties. Rivera is one of the most cost-effective hitters in baseball, but upgrading from him to Granderson is a clear win for the Halos, as for the actual deal, it will depend on what Detroit wants in terms of prospects. If they want Rivera and any of the Angels’ top prospects, then the Angels should back off. At most they should consider packaging Rivera with Sean O’Sullivan. If the Tigers aren’t actually interested in Rivera, then things could get interesting. Brandon Wood’s overall value has cooled the last few years, but a Wood for Granderson deal seems even to me, especially if the Halos re-sign Figgins and once again have no spot in the everyday line-up for Wood. So, yes, the Angels can definitely make it happen, but they need to be sure the price is right for them.
Why do the Angels Need Him? - Ummm, have you seen Brian Fuentes pitch? Yeah, that’s why. The Angels bullpen is a mess and Coco Cordero is expected to be the best closer available on the trade market. I know everyone loves Kevin Jepsen, but it doesn’t seem like he is quite ready for primetime yet and bringing Cordero in to shore up is a much more safe (but expensive) way to go. Cordero is especially attractive because unlike a certain closer the Angels recently imported from the National League, he has a track record of success against the American League.
Can the Angels Make it Happen - The Reds are desperate to slash payroll, so the more cash the Angels are willing to eat, the easier it will be to acquire Cordero. If the Angels take on enough of Cordero’s remaining two years and $25 million then they won’t have to give up anything other than one or two low-ceiling prospects. The question is should the Angels give up any talent and a load of cash when the free agent market has several options at closer (Rafael Soriano, Billy Wagner, Brandon Lyon, Fernando Rodney, Jose Valverde, Mike Gonzalez) that would likely demand less money but might also cost the Angels their first-round draft pick. I still like my idea of sending Gary Matthews and a prospect to Cincy and eating a large chunk of Gary’s deal in exchange for Cordero. I really don’t think Cincy is going to do much better than that in this economy.
Why do the Angels Need Him? - The real question here is why don’t the Angels need him. There might not be a player more well-suited for the Angels style of play. He’s got insane speed, is a fantastic fielder, has a bit of pop in his bat and is an action player that can hit all over the order. Basically, everything that Granderson would bring to the line-up, Crawford would bring too, but even better (except for stealing homers, Granderson has that market cornered).
Can the Angels Make it Happen - It isn’t even entirely clear if the Rays are open to trading Crawford, but given that this is his contract year and Tampa’s payroll concerns it seems probable that they would at least entertain offers that would help them save a lot of money this year on a guy they likely won’t be able to re-sign anyway. However, I can’t imagine them doing business with the Angels again, not after the Tampa fans (all three of them) went ballistic at the perceived thievery the Halos pulled off with the Scott Kazmir deal. Even if the Rays are willing to go down that road again, there doesn’t seem to be much of a match between the Angels and Tampa anymore. The Rays will want major league-ready prospects but the Angels don’t have many of those to go around. The Angels’ main trade chip, Brandon Wood, won’t interest Tampa Bay because they already are loaded on the left-side of the infield, so the Angels would be left trying to entice Tampa with a likely package of Trevor Reckling, Hank Conger and probably Juan Rivera so that the Rays get a cheap proven talent to replace Crawford in left. It isn’t the worst package in the world, but it can probably be easily topped by other franchises. If the Halos really want Crawford they are better off waiting a year and taking their chances in free agency.