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Angels mailbag: Revisiting some trades and examining the free agent market

Angels mailbag: Revisiting some trades and examining the free agent market
Angels starter Tyler Skaggs delivers a pitch against the Seattle Mariners on Sept. 3. (Stephen Brashear / Associated Press)

Hello, Angels fans. What a season, huh? Your favorite baseball team finished 2016 with 74 wins and 88 losses. The Angels won 25 of their last 45 games and will pick 10th in the 2017 MLB draft

All season long, you submitted questions via email and Twitter about the current team and future of the franchise to be answered in this Monday mailbag feature. This is the last one.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> What were the Angels thinking when they traded Mark Trumbo?</p>&mdash; Rick Acosta (@Rickac99) <a href="https://twitter.com/Rickac99/status/780267629512527872">September 26, 2016</a></blockquote>

They were thinking they’d turn a player with one elite skill into two valuable, team-controlled starting pitchers. It was an absolute steal of a trade. Yes, Trumbo hit a ton of home runs this season and is going to receive significant sums of money as a free agent. But, since the trade, Trumbo has been worth 2.1 Wins Above Replacement, by fangraphs.com’s measurements, and 2.2 WAR by baseball-reference.com’s calculation. He has been paid nearly $21 million.

Meantime, the players the Angels received, Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, have been paid about $9.4 million for their services and provided 4.4 WAR or 5.4 bWAR, with another 1+ WAR from Ricky Nolasco, who was acquired for Santiago at the deadline. And that stated salary figure includes what Nolasco was paid for the final two months.

Oh, and Skaggs is under the Angels’ control for another four years at below-market rates. The Angels won the trade, obviously so, but so did the Chicago White Sox, who received Adam Eaton in that three-team swap also involving Arizona. The Angels could have obtained Eaton, but opted for Santiago instead. Now that would have been one of the biggest trade steals of this decade. Eaton is a great player.


So wondering what the conventional view is on the coaching staff going into next season? Dave Hansen seems to have done a nice job with players like Simmons who is hitting better than he did with Braves. Also wondering if [Charles] Nagy will take some heat for the Angels pitching woes?  That would seem a bit unfair but who knows with Moreno

Jon Thurber

I find it exceedingly difficult to judge position coaches with any degree of certainty whatsoever. How much of the credit for any player’s improved hitting is due to the player, and how much is owed the hitting coach? In Andrelton Simmons’ case, I’d lean toward Simmons himself. He spent more time in the batting cage than any player I’d ever heard of or seen. Now, it’s not like there’s a simple, “More Time Invested = Improvement” equation, but time is not a bad place to start.

Manager Mike Scioscia said Sunday he expects all his coaches back based on conversations with General Manager Billy Eppler. Those two job-holders typically make those decisions, not necessarily owner Arte Moreno.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> you talked about this earlier in the season. Will Weaver work on a knuckleball during the offseason? He&#39;s such a smart pitcher</p>&mdash; Larry Leach (@lleach4) <a href="https://twitter.com/lleach4/status/780273129667067904">September 26, 2016</a></blockquote>

I do not expect that, but I suppose it’s possible. More likely for the future, I think, is eventual experimentation pitching out of relief. I know of several evaluators across baseball who are intrigued about what Jered Weaver might resemble out of the bullpen. He was not bad facing hitters this season during their first at-bat. Opposing batters had a .736 OPS in their first at-bat,  .829 the second time and 1.050 the third at-bat. And 1.050 is pretty much unplayable. Batters hit 17 home runs in 204 plate appearances the third time through the order against him, which is absurd, especially considering they hit 18 combined during 564 plate in their first and second at-bats. 

Weaver struck out 55 and walked 18 the first time through. Those might be the most encouraging statistics about his season. That, and the fact the Angels won more of his starts than they lost.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> will the Angels spend big on the bullpen since there&#39;s not great SP available?</p>&mdash; Mike Becannon (@HBMike27) <a href="https://twitter.com/HBMike27/status/780263627945152513">September 26, 2016</a></blockquote>

By spending big, I take it you mean signing Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen. I don’t think the Angels will do such a thing, but, as with all potential free-agent acquisitions, it depends on the cost. They do have Huston Street returning, and you should expect him to be better next year. Cam Bedrosian was good in 2016.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> For the last 2016 mailbag: Name 5 bright spots - excluding Trout - from 2016 season that Angels can build on in 2017?</p>&mdash; Floyd Teter (@fteter) <a href="https://twitter.com/fteter/status/780900924982042624">September 27, 2016</a></blockquote>

This is similar to a question I answered last week, but because it’s a frequently asked one I will answer it again. Simmons’ hitting was a bright spot. Matt Shoemaker pitched mostly wonderfully and should be good to go for spring training.  A few prospects in their minor leagues impressed, particularly triple-A reliever Keynan Middleton, who reaches 100 mph and should pitch in the majors in 2017. Bedrosian emerged as a viable late-inning reliever. The team is one year closer to, and one year away from, shedding the disaster of a decision known as the Josh Hamilton contract.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> What should make me optimistic about the Angels going into next year?</p>&mdash; Beve Sterger (@sportsfanstew) <a href="https://twitter.com/sportsfanstew/status/780266641481306112">September 26, 2016</a></blockquote>

Pretty much the same things I listed above. The 2018 pitching staff has the makings of a solid one: Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano, Garrett Richards and Alex Meyer, all being paid less than their market value.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> Why is Cowart not playing more?</p>&mdash; robert terry (@boterry5) <a href="https://twitter.com/boterry5/status/780437420386947072">September 26, 2016</a></blockquote>

Probably because Kaleb Cowart did not work a walk in 87 plate appearances, and his play at second base was solid but not stellar. Yes, the man has hit in triple A, but his major league performances have been horrific to date. It’s hard to not walk in 87 consecutive chances. It’s even harder to be valuable given that.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> who had the best hair ?</p>&mdash; oscar. (@epic_oscar) <a href="https://twitter.com/epic_oscar/status/782017976006422528">October 1, 2016</a></blockquote>

There are not a ton of contenders. Most of the players sport similarly close-cropped styles. I am a big proponent of height in hair. The higher, the better. So maybe I will go with Alex Meyer. He is tall and has tall hair.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> the angels don&#39;t seem that far away from contending. If they get some pitching next year can they?</p>&mdash; Patrick (@pitnat) <a href="https://twitter.com/pitnat/status/782012628721733632">October 1, 2016</a></blockquote>

See, the thing is, the best free-agent starter next season is going to be a 37-year-old man who has pitched 215 major league innings in the last seven seasons, total. His name is Rich Hill. The second-best might be a guy the New York Yankees gave up for nearly nothing two months ago. His name is Ivan Nova. The third-best might be 43-year-old Bartolo Colon or the nondescript Jeremy Hellickson with a qualifying offer attached.

Acquiring Jansen or Chapman is going to require an outlay in the range of $70 million. I don’t know that getting good pitching is all that possible. The Angels don’t have prospect capital to trade for established pitchers. They will probably have to work with what they have and take a few risks.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> when will the Angels stop making me sad, Pedro?</p>&mdash; Keely Eure (@keelyismyname) <a href="https://twitter.com/keelyismyname/status/782012188642861056">October 1, 2016</a></blockquote>

When you stop letting them?

No, I get it. I do. I heard from many frustrated fans this season, and I understand that the absence of forecastable improvement makes it much worse. But such are professional sports sometimes. And you still have the best baseball player alive.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> Do the Angels spend as much on scouting and development as other teams? I&#39;d bet the Red Sox and Dodgers spend much, much more.</p>&mdash; Tim Milauskas (@TimMilauskas) <a href="https://twitter.com/TimMilauskas/status/782008005055225856">October 1, 2016</a></blockquote>

While I totally understand the appeal of ascertaining the answer to this question, every team’s scouting budget is not available. These are not the days of “Dollar Sign on the Muscle.” What we do know is international-signing spending, and in 2015, the Angels spent the least in the league. That is notable. It also should change in 2017, when they are again allowed to spend big on international free agents.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> what will you miss most about this season?</p>&mdash; Kelvin (@OnBaseUnit) <a href="https://twitter.com/OnBaseUnit/status/782005709365841920">September 30, 2016</a></blockquote>

I will miss the novelty of it, this having been my first season on one full-time baseball beat. Though nothing adds more comfort than experience, a lack of it adds considerable excitement.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> who has the highest ceiling in the Angels system?</p>&mdash; Alex Batman (@YourFavBatman) <a href="https://twitter.com/YourFavBatman/status/782003791822397440">September 30, 2016</a></blockquote>

Outfielder Jahmai Jones, probably, who made it up to Class-A Burlington this season. He is 19, a gifted athlete and a long way from the major leagues.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> If you&#39;re doing a mailbag:Do you need a medical background to cover baseball these days? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/flexorpronatorstrain?src=hash">#flexorpronatorstrain</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/plantarfasciitis?src=hash">#plantarfasciitis</a></p>&mdash; Jonathan Peet (@JonathanPeet) <a href="https://twitter.com/JonathanPeet/status/782001554463322112">September 30, 2016</a></blockquote>

Thanks to the Internet for the help, and to the doctors who are willing to share their expertise. I definitely believe modern sportswriting training should be far different than it actually is.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/pedromoura">@pedromoura</a> What would be a rational expectation of home runs Pujols has left in his career?</p>&mdash; Adam Seth Moss (@LFNJSinner) <a href="https://twitter.com/LFNJSinner/status/782004647284318208">September 30, 2016</a></blockquote>

This is interesting. Albert Pujols has hit 591 in his career and 146 as an Angel, or 29 on average per season, including a 2016 total of 31. He has five more years under contract, and I expect him to complete those years.

Without delving too much into aging curves or potential injuries, let’s assume a rate of decline of about 10% per season from this year’s number. That would give him 28 at the age 37 in 2017, 25 in 2018, 23 in 2019, 21 in 2020, and 19, mercifully, in 2021.

That’s 116 homers. While I wouldn’t guess they’d come in the order of that last paragraph, that seems like a pretty reasonable mark. He’d finish with 707 career homers, which is a cool-sounding number. He has a chance at breaking Barry Bonds’ record, but I would term it an extremely small chance .

That is it for this week’s mailbag and this season, but feel free to continue the communication into the off-season at the below addresses.

pedro.moura@latimes.com

Twitter: @pedromoura

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