We all figured the Angels would be sellers at the deadline, despite General Manager Billy Eppler’s assurance that this team intended to compete in 2017 and beyond. Well it appears the Angels are acting on something that’s a bit muddled in the middle. In perhaps the most curious move of the 2016 Trade Deadline, the Angels traded LHP Hector Santiago and minor league reliever Alan Busenitz to the Twins for Ricky Nolasco and minor league starter Alex Meyer.
First, before we all freak out, let’s start with exactly what the Angels gave up in the deal.
Hector Santiago is a proven major league starter with one more year of arbitration coming this offseason before hitting free agency after next year. Santiago carries with him a career 3.68 ERA (4.25 this season) and is a former all-star. While Santiago won’t be competing for a Cy Young anytime soon, he’s a steady #4 starter that’s a lock for 5 innings and 2-3 runs per appearance. The only real issue with Hector is that he leads major league baseball in walks this season and has topped 180 innings only once in his career. The Angels also added Alan Busenitz into the deal. Busenitz would’ve been a Top 30 prospect this offseason, despite numbers that are simply mediocre. Alan throws a 95-100 mph fastball (typically at 97-98), with a curve that looks like a slider and a bit of a funky delivery. While he hasn’t put it all together just yet, Busenitz has the stuff to be a dominant late inning reliever.
Now, let’s check in on what we got back.
First, there’s Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco owns a career 4.58 ERA in the majors, including a 5.13 ERA this season in Minnesota. He’s spent almost his entire career in pitcher friendly parks and will be coming to one in Anaheim as well. While the numbers aren’t pretty, it gets worse. Nolasco is owed 12 million next season. The Twins sent some money with him to the Angels to cover the monetary difference between Santiago and Nolasco, but the fact remains, the Angels will not be saving money by making this move. Also coming to the Angels in this deal is former top prospect Alex Meyer. Meyer is a 6’9 225 lbs monster of a pitcher and former top prospect. Once drafted in the first round by the Nats, Meyer was dealt to the Twins in return for OF Denard Span. Meyer looked to be a surefire front of the rotation starter, but has since seen his star fade due to injuries. Meyer hasn’t pitched since May due to shoulder fatigue.
The trade deadline is a seller’s market, always has been and always will be. The Angels, for the first time in a long time, found themselves in position to sell at the deadline. Santiago figured to be a lukewarm commodity, but one that would generate at least a solid return. Adding in a very high upside reliever like Busenitz should’ve netted the Angels a very noteworthy package. Instead, they received Ricky Nolasco, who is by most measures, a worse pitcher than Hector Santiago and an injured former top prospect Alex Meyer. Without a doubt, this move (at least for now) can only be characterized as a total disaster on Eppler’s part. He failed to get anything worthwhile for a commodity with actual value. And what’s worse, he failed to save the Angels any money moving forward, which hurts because by most accounts, the Angels are up against the Luxury Tax threshold and that’s a solid line that Arte Moreno has proven time and a again, VERY reluctant to cross.
What was Eppler thinking?
There’s still the possibility that this move can turn out to be a win for the Angels. While Nolasco is almost certainly a step backward, he’s born and raised So-Cal. He lives in Southern California during the offseason and has expressed interest multiple times of returning home to pitch. The only time Nolasco actually pitch in his native land was with the Dodgers two years ago and he produced a 3.56 ERA across 87 innings (75 K’s). There’s the possibility that Nolasco does manage to pitch up to his ability being back in Southern California. If it works out right, he could hover around a 4.00 ERA which is closer to where his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, a metric that attempts to calculate where a pitches ERA should be at if errors were not part of the equation) is at this season. On top of that, Nolasco tends to eat a lot innings, and the Angels need that. Their bullpen is spent and the other starters in the rotation haven’t been able to go 6+ innings. There’s also Alex Meyer to consider. Meyer was dominant in his three outings in AAA this season and was still performing at a high level and was highly regarded as recently as 2014. If Meyer’s injuries are of no concern, then it’s quite possible the Angels got a true front of the rotation candidate and could come away with a major victory here.
Five years from now, how will we view this trade?
In five years, this trade will be pretty inconsequential I think. Santiago will likely go to the Twins and continue the Jekyll and Hyde act we’ve seen in Anaheim which should net him a decent offer in free agency and he’ll become someone else’s tool to use. Busenitz is as volatile as any reliever and I don’t see any reason why that will change just because of scenery. Nolasco likely won’t last long with he Angels. I fully anticipate him finishing this season with the Halos and serving as insurance over the winter just in case they can’t acquire more starting pitching through trades or free agency. Next year, Nolasco will likely make it to July before being shipped out or released. Alex Meyer is probably the only player to truly have any ramifications here. I think the final result will Meyer being shifted to the bullpen in an effort to keep him healthy. He’ll have a few solid years like most upside relievers do and then will be on his way.