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Angels

Angels mailbag: Where to go from here?

Los Angeles Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons, right, tags Toronto Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar in a run
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons, right, tags Toronto Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar in a rundown during the third inning Sunday.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Hello, Angels fans. As of today, your favorite baseball team is 8-12, on a 65-win pace, and its best starting pitcher is not going to pitch at least until June. The outlook is not great. So let’s answer some questions about the state of the team. As always, please submit mailbag questions through my Twitter account (@pedromoura) or via email at pedro.moura@latimes.com.

This is a tremendously difficult question to answer at this stage in the season because, as I’ve stated in this space in previous weeks, so much of it depends on Garrett Richards’ health. Without him, a below-.500 season seems certain. If he returns as soon as he’s eligible in June and pitches as he’s capable, the outlook for the season looks much different than if he cannot pitch. With him, it’s conceivable they could catch a hot streak and be in wild-card contention come the deadline. At that point, it’s partly a matter of how badly the organization wants to contend and is willing to sacrifice the future. Would they acquire someone? It’s hard to say right now.

TLDR: I’ll guess three.

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The Angels under Arte Moreno have been about as transparent as the Kremlin. Swooping in to sign Torii Hunter, Albert [Pujols] and Josh Hamilton.

They continue to be secretive about their front office. For example, starting this year, the Angels list just the top front office positions on the team site at MLB.com.

I read that Arte fired about 40 front office personnel in the [Tony] Reagins firing purge. But I also remember reading Mike DiGiovanna writing that [Jerry] Dipoto filled most if not all of those positions with more sabremetric friendly hires.

Do you have any sense of the size of the Angels front office compared to other big market teams at or near the salary cap? Has Eppler been able to convince Arte of the competitive advantage to be gained by a large and savvy front office, or at least has [Billy] Eppler been given a big enough budget to create one?

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Thanks.

Bob (via vpbob1@charter.net)

Yes, it is interesting that the Angels now list no baseball-operations personnel on their online front-office directory. The New York teams are famously secretive about who they list online, and even they are more forthcoming.

When I asked General Manager Billy Eppler about that in February, he said he had no idea about it, and nothing to do with the removal of dozens of names. They are all listed in the media guide that is publicly available.

As far as the relative size of their front office, it’s hard to say, because not every team lists every person who’s working for them. We know that the Angels’ baseball operations department, as listed in the media guide, includes 20-30 employees, depending on what qualifies as baseball operations. Nine of them are new hires under Eppler who work in data-focused roles. And we know that’s not the biggest data department. The Dodgers, for example, list twice as many employees in research-and-development positions.

I’m not under the impression anything has changed from the Angels’ original plan, which was to play Valbuena at first base against right-handed pitching. Barring an injury to another infielder, his activation will likely push either Cron or Marte to triple-A or to another team via a trade. There aren’t enough roster spots for four men whose primary defensive position is first base.

Valbuena is still about a week away from a return. There is time.

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Danny Espinosa walks up to “In The Air Tonight” like a third of the time. That’s pretty good. I’m not sure about the worst. There are several contenders.

I would switch mine often. Right now, I’d probably use the opening riff of Tycho’s “Awake.” I’d also use “Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)” by Passion Pit. And “Shelter” by Porter Robinson and Madeon. And “Cannons” by Youth Lagoon. And a lot of others. I think walk-up songs are under-utilized.

No, thankfully.

It’s weird. Browsing the list of songs played at the stadium, I’m not sure there’s anything released in the last few years. Maybe that has to do with it, and I agree that it should be played. It’s an upbeat song, catchy, and with a positive message, just the kind of track that could conceivably replace “Calling All Angels” by Train before games or “Build Me Up Buttercup” in the seventh inning.

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I’m not sure if you’re looking for a literal answer here, but I’ve been (rightfully) criticized a time or two in my life for taking things too literally, and I’ll do that here. Albert Pujols will be paid $240 million over 10 seasons, not counting that personal-services contract that kicks in afterward, which we’ll ignore for the purposes of this exercise.

He’s just over halfway through it and has thus far provided the team between nine and 10 Wins Above Replacement. At a going rate of like $8 million per win, that’s roughly $80 million to $90 million in value to date, at a total cost of $100 million, plus a couple million this season.

That’s not bad at all, really. There are worse free-agent contracts signed every off-season. It’s the future that gets tough, because Pujols is 37 and has exhibited significant signs of decline. His salary is only going up. Various sources project him to be worth less than one win this year, and presumably less than that going forward. To not get too complicated, let’s just call it one win each year and say he’ll provide $40 million in on-field value from now until the end of the 2021 season. That would make him overpaid by $60 million, not counting off-the-field considerations, which are vast.

As far as whether it will end up costing them Trout, Trout’s not going to be a free agent until late October or November 2020. Let’s play a little thought experiment here. Think about the events of late October or November 2016. Which of them do you think you could have correctly predicted in April 2013? It’s too early to say.

Let’s see how this season goes first. Yunel Escobar can clearly hit singles as well as about anyone, but he’s a 34-year-old third baseman whose effort in the field and on the bases waned last year. He tends to suffer legions of little injuries. That’s probably not going to improve as he ages.

Their win streak lasted four games. Their losing streak lasted six games. Literally no team in baseball history has ever experienced any combination of outcomes over stretches of those lengths that should have been surprising. It is baseball. Randomness is ever-present.

We’ll start to get a better sense of who will occupy the trade market in another month or so. A lot of people across baseball are curious to see if Toronto will make their starters, like Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada, available. Right now, it’s too early to say. As far as who the Angels specifically could acquire, that’s much more limited. As readers of this mailbag have surely heard before, the club does not have a wide base of prospects from which they can deal.

That is part of a series of tweets Chad sent asking about the Angels’ farm system, and why it hasn’t been rebuilt since it was torn apart.

My answer is that it has been rebuilt a little. Some evaluators consider outfielder Jahmai Jones a legitimate top-100 prospect. Right-handed pitching prospect Jaime Barria, excelling in the California League at 20, is a nice guy to have in your system.

I’m not going to revisit the Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings or the disregard of the international market, but it also hasn’t been four or five years since the future was mortgaged. I’m not a homeowner, and I’m probably using this term wrong, but trading pitching prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis for Andrelton Simmons qualifies as at least a refinancing. Now, it was a sensible trade. Simmons is a good player with a timeline in lock-step with Trout. But the system would look different now if Newcomb and Ellis were knocking on the door.

Former general manager Jerry Dipoto also made some lower-key trades in recent off-seasons that proved to hamper them long-term. The Angels dealt right-hander Tyler Chatwood to Colorado and outfielder Randal Grichuk to St. Louis, for catcher Chris Iannetta and third baseman David Freese. Both veterans are long gone from the Angels, while the younger players continue to provide surplus value for the Rockies and Cardinals.

As I wrote in a recent mailbag, Smith has not pitched because of a forearm strain, but Eppler said last week he could get back into games this week.

That’s an interesting question, complicated by Cam Bedrosian heading to the disabled list since it was posed. I think the answer is yes, even if he was healthy. While I buy Bedrosian as an elite reliever because the scouts and evaluators I speak to largely do, I don’t think he’s a top-five reliever in the sport. So, two wins above replacement in a season seems to be about his ceiling. I think Ricky Nolasco, Tyler Skaggs and Matt Shoemaker all could exceed that mark.

But because Bedrosian is the leader right now, it’ll take at least another month for the overtaking to occur.

People like those tweets. Why not give the people what they want?

I don’t know you, but probably because you grew up in Orange County or its surrounding area and/or one of your close relatives was a fan and a sports enthusiast.

Send questions to the below addresses to be considered for the mailbag every Monday, all season long.

pedro.moura@latimes.com

Twitter: @pedromoura


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