The Hot Stove League is officially open for business. That can only mean one thing: PREDICTION TIME! I actually kind of took a crack at this a few weeks ago, in a more general sense, but the Joomla monster ate that post, so only a small amount of you read that already. So now I shall bravely attempt the exercise again, only with a lot more specifics and with more information. As The Dude once said, some new shit has come to light.
As always with these predictions, I can't emphasize enough that this is really more for entertainment purposes. National media analysts, sabermetric wizards, the bloggiest of blogger types all attempt to make these predictions and only end up looking like fools. Well, I am anything but a conformist so get ready for some predictions that are going to make me look like a downright buffoon.
Why am I doing this? Because it is fun (and because if I nail even one of these big moves, I will never stop gloating about it). So, once again with the caveats, this is just for fun and nothing but guesses based on information that has leaked publicly about the team's plans, my analysis of how they like to operate, gut feelings and hopefully not much of my own personal biases unwittingly filtering through. I apologize in advance if the trade or signing I suggested involves the Angels giving up too much and/or not enough or you just don't like the idea because it involves a player you like or just think that I am big doodyhead.
As you can tell, I'm very confident in all of this, so let's start simple.
Jerome Williams will be non-tendered
He is going to make over $3 million in arbitration. There is no way the Angels are going to pay him that kind of money to be a swingman, not when they have to deal with luxury tax concerns. Oh, and this next guy.
Joe Blanton will NOT be released or traded
As a result of not keeping Williams, Blanton will be kept as the swingman. As much as everyone has soured on him, the Angels still lack pitching depth in the system, so they can't really afford to give Blanton away or release him even if his only virtue at this point is that he has a pulse. I'm sure they'd dump him if someone was willing to pick up even a small chunk of his salary, but it is hard to see that happening. Then again, Dipoto did unload Vernon Wells, so never say never.
Tommy Hanson will be non-tendered
I wish it were possible to get Hanson to come back on a cheap one-year deal to serve as a reliever, but that just isn't how the system works. Instead, Hanson is set to be paid far too much money to be retained or even traded. He is definitely getting non-tendered.
The Angels will lose out on the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes
I want the Angels to sign Tanaka so badly, but it just isn't going to happen. If the posting system were to stick with the highest bidder format, they'd have a shot, but with rumors that Tanaka would get to choose from two or three of the highest bidders, I don't see how the Halos stand a chance. They aren't an internationally famous team. They don't have a long history of Japanese players (like the Mariners). They aren't viewed as World Series front runners. Frankly, I am beginning to doubt that they will even make a serious bid.
Howie Kendrick will be traded to the Royals for Yordano Ventura, Wade Davis and Johnny Giavotella
We all know that Kendrick is as good as gone, but the question is where will he go. There are several teams that could use him, but the Royals are just about the most perfect match of all time. They need a second baseman. They need a right-handed bat. They need to improve their offense. They need to make the playoffs so they have the right level of desperation to give up high end pitching talent. That is exactly what they are going to do with Ventura and his big arm. But that won't be the sole return. The Royals aren't the richest of clubs, so they might be a little worried about Kendrick's price tag, because of this they will make the Halos take back Wade Davis and the $4.8 million he is owed in2013. Davis was a total bust as a starter, but he was fantastic in 2012 as a reliever, so that should be someone they are actually happy to take on. The throw in to the deal would be Johnny Giavotella. He was once a well-regarded prospect, but he just hasn't been able to break through with the Royals because of his defensive issues and really never being given much of a fair chance to show what he can do at the plate. Kansas City won't need him anymore, so kicking him to the Angels to see if he can't be their reclamation project shouldn't be too much of an issue.
My big reservation here is if the Royals would really part with Ventura as they might need to keep him if they lose Ervin Santana in free agency, but I am kind of counting on Dayton Moore being the sort of GM that gets a little desperate and overpays… kind of like he did in the James Shields-Wil Myers trade. I'm also counting on the Blue Jays to be in hot pursuit to help drive Howie's price up.
Chris Iannetta will be traded to the Blue Jays for Kyle Drabek
The Angels originally got Iannetta for a solid pitching prospect with durability and command concerns. Now they will trade him away for a solid pitching prospect for durability and command concerns. Drabek has a better profile than Chatwood ever did, but he missed most of 2013 after Tommy John surgery and has been dreadful in two different big league stints. Suffice it to say the Jays are probably losing faith in him, but he'd be a good gamble for the Angels to make and shedding Iannetta's salary will help their financial situation.
Sign Kurt Suzuki to be the back-up catcher for one-year, $2 million
Well, Iannetta just got traded and the Angels need a new back-up catcher because all they have is John Hester and he doesn't appear to actually be any good at baseball. Kurt Suzuki probably isn't as good as the Angels would want, but I have a hard time seeing them go with a career back-up or an unproven kid as the other catcher on the roster with Conger. Suzuki hasn't been good with the bat in years, but he is still a capable and reliable defender who can mentor Conger. The fact that Suzuki is a Cal State Fullerton guy probably won't hurt either as the Angels seem to be picking up players with local ties quite a bit during the Dipoto era.
Mark Trumbo will NOT be traded
My confidence in this prediction is starting to wane. I've held all along that the Angels are just going to ask too much for Trumbo, but now it appears that he is really building a lot of heat on the open market. The Padres want him, the Pirates want him, the Marlins want him, the Mariners want him and I am sure there are others. My gut stil tells me that Dipoto will ask too much because of how popular he is and because of concern over Pujols being healthy, but I would not be at all shocked if this prediction proves wrong.
Peter Bourjos will be traded to the Cubs with Alex Yarbrough, Nick Maronde and Austin Wood for Jeff Samardzija and Luis Valbuena
The other reason that I am holding out on Bourjos being traded instead of Trumbo is because I think a market for Petey will emerge. The way I see it, there are several teams looking to address center field (Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Mariners, Reds, Phillies, Cubs) and not enough quality cener fielders to go around. Once Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson sign, there are a lot of teams who are going to start getting desperate and desperate teams are going to overlook Bourjos' history of freak injuries.
The Cubs could be that team. They have been sniffing around Bourjos before and are now set to move Samardzija as he has been less than cooperative in extension talks. He probably isn't as young and controllable as the Halos would like, but he is a very good #3 starter who has flashed an ability to be even better. What might be more attractive though is that Samardzija is an absolute workhorse that the Angels can count on. With concerns in the rest of the rotation, knowing they have Shark for 200+ innings for the next two years will make it worth their while. But it will cost them a lot because the Cubs are pricing Samardzija as an ace even though he really isn't. Oh, and he has that long hair, something that has worked out pretty well with starting pitchers in Halo history.
Bourjos would obviously be the centerpiece, but they need to sweeten the pot. Austin Wood can be the high ceiling young arm to make the Cubs interested, Maronde would be a big league ready guy that they can slot in the pen to make James Russell expendable and Yarbrough is just another solid prospect to add to really seal the deal. But because that is so much to give up for two years of Samardzija, Valbuena will be thrown in to help fill the void at third base for the Angels.
I realize this prediction is a wildly out there, but that is part of the fun of predictions. I also think that Dipoto feels he has to do something big. He isn't going to be able to get Price, but Shark has a big enough reputation that he can rest easy that he got that third big arm to stabilize the rotation and give Moreno the satisfaction that they made their annual "big splash."
Jason Vargas will be allowed to walk away
With Shark and Ventura in the fold, the music has stopped and Vargas is without a chair in Anaheim. The commute to San Diego isn't too bad though and I think he'll really like the spacious ballpark.
The Angels will bolster their bullpen by signing Chris Perez to a one-year, $5 million contract
I know everyone is predicting Brian Wilson, but I suspect that he is going to prefer to go somewhere where he has a more of a guaranteed shot at closing. Still, the Angels have a bit of money to play with now, so they can roll the dice on someone to add to their high leverage inning mix. Perez has that "proven closer" label, but he is also coming off of a rough season in terms of performance and pissing off the local fans and trying to blame his dog for having marijuana bricks mailed to his home. That should suppress his value enough for him to take a discounted deal and no promise that he will get to be closer. As for Wilson, my guess he ends up in Detroit or Oakland.
Mike Trout WILL sign a long-term contract extension
I'm going to get into this more tomorrow, but the Angels have even more incentive than ever to sign Trout to an extension. Obviously, they want to keep him. but they also have to worry about the luxury tax and in order to make his extension palatable, they need it to cover this last pre-arbitration years so that there can be one cheap year on the contract to drag down the average annual value as that is what counts against the tax. Even if that means paying him more over the life of the deal, getting that tax number down a three to four million bucks is huge for them.
From Trout's side, I don't see why he wouldn't sign an extension that buys out the first two years of his free agency. Yes, he is going to be very rich someday, but he is a down to earth guy from a down to earth family and they all saw what happened to Manny Machado and how easily that could happen to Mike. He can take a nine-figure contract from the Angels to make him incredibly wealthy for the rest of his life and still be a free agent at 28. That let's him have his cake and eat it too.
After all that, here is what the Angels' 25-man roster would look like if I am right, and once again I must emphasize how unlikely it is I will be right. In fact, I know I won't be right because I kind of love how this roster turned out and how it is all done with the Angels barely raising payroll or their luxury tax hit (at least before the Trout extension). There is no way things will go this perfectly:
Catcher: Hank Conger, Kurt Suzuki
First Base: Albert Pujols
Second Base: Grant Green, Johnny Giavotella
Third Base: Luis Valbuena
Shortstop: Erick Aybar, Andrew Romine
Left Field: Josh Hamilton, J.B. Shuck
Center Field: Mike Trout
Right Field: Kole Calhoun
Designated Hitter: Mark Trumbo
Starting Pitcher: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Jeff Samardzija, Garrett Richards, Yordano Ventura
Closer: Ernesto Frieri
Right-hand Relief: Chris Perez, Dane De La Rosa, Wade Davis, Kevin Jepsen, Joe Blanton
Left-hand Relief: Sean Burnett