Yesterday we kicked this series off by examining what a slight retooling of the Angels roster could look like over the coming year. In Part II, we look into what going a new direction might mean for the Angels.
First, let’s understand what a “New Direction” means, beyond the literal sense, and when a team might find itself in need of one. Put simply, a “New Direction” team is one that just isn’t working. They’re certainly trying to compete and have compelling reasons why they should, but for one reason another it just isn’t working out the way it was planned.
Not to be confused with a true and total rebuild of a system, a new direction requires bringing in new personnel to fit a particular scheme, and shedding old ones who no longer fit. A team that slightly retools its roster is expecting to compete that very next year, but a team in search of a new direction is looking at more of a 1-3 year period. Typically, this involves moderately selling at the trade deadline and over the winter, but also bringing in players that contribute toward a brighter future.
Which players stay put in this strategy?
Players that typically stick around during this type of change are ones who will remain competitive in the next 2-3 years and can contribute in multiple facets of the game. One-dimensional players who may be too far off and/or players that are reaching the end of their competitive window are typically jettisoned (unless a contract prevents such a move).
What does this look like for the Angels?
For the most part, the core of the team remains intact. Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Andrelton Simmons, C.J. Cron and Albert Pujols (contract) are the position players who would stay. The same with Garrett Richards (injury), Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs and Nick Tropeano.
Much of the rest of the roster, meanwhile, i.e. Yunel Escobar, Geovany Soto, Daniel Nava, Carlos Perez, Hector Santiago, C.J. Wilson (if he’s healthy), Jered Weaver, Huston Street, Joe Smith and Fernando Salas, could be dealt at the deadline. Obviously some of these assets—Nava, Perez, Wilson, Salas—won’t carry enough value on the trade market to be exchanged for quality prospects. But Escobar, Santiago, and Smith certainly can be, and would likely bring in the majority of useful prospects.
Smith, Wilson, Weaver would, at the very least, not be re-signed in this scenario, which would save upwards of $35-40 million from next season’s payroll. This frees up money in the short-term, but after a trade deadline of selling high and not re-signing any of the current veterans, would potentially leave the Angels with holes at left field, third base, second base, starting pitcher, and the bullpen. Some of the spots might be filled by prospects picked up in the aforementioned deadline trades, but certainly not all.
The Angels would then figure to be quite active on the open market, either through a series of smaller cost effective moves or larger, pricier moves. They’d probably find themselves in on second-tier free agents like Neil Walker, Martin Prado, Josh Reddick, and/or Jaime Garcia. And they are likely to be precluded from top-tier guys like Juan Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Aroldis Chapman due to age and/or price tag.
The team itself could also find that spending on free agents is an unwise decision altogether. The prospects they might have landed by trading Escobar, Santiago, and Smith might be looking good enough to step into the majors, or the current prospects in the high minors like Kaleb Cowart, Kyle Kubitza, Rafael Ortega, Jefry Marte, Nate Smith and Kyle McGowin might have taken a major step forward in their developmental process.
The New Direction rebuild stage is the most difficult to pinpoint because it can take many shapes and forms. It can come without signing free agents or spending big on marquee players. Much of this can vary depending on the prospects returned in a potential trade, or whether or not any teams are in need of the players the Angels have made available.
Check back tomorrow for Part III of the rebuild series: The Fire Sale.