It has been a very busy few days for the Angels and their general manager, Jerry Dipoto. On this past Wednesday, the Angels pulled the trigger on a deal with the Houston Astros. The trade saw the Angels pick up two young players in pitcher, Nick Tropeano and catcher, Carlos Perez in exchange for veteran backstop, Hank Conger.
At this time of year a Wednesday like that would qualify as busy, but the Halos were not finished yet. Later in the day, Dipoto completed a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays swapping Mark Sappington for southpaw relief pitcher, Cesar Ramos.
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The Angels did a fabulous job filling needs cheaply and efficiently. Dipoto checked all of his offseason boxes on what can only be described as a banner day for the third year GM. The Angels were desperately searching for controllable arms, and that is precisely what they got when they traded for Tropeano. Next on Dipoto’s shopping list was a left-handed relief pitcher capable of pitching multiple innings, and coincidently that is exactly what Ramos can do. Lastly, the cupboard was a bit bare in the catching department. Perez is reportedly a gifted defender, and a quality contact hitter at just 24-years-old.
Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times reported on Monday that promising young hurler, Garrett Richards, is further along in his recovery from season ending knee surgery than expected. If Richards is ready for the start of the campaign, he would join Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Matt Shoemaker in the rotation. Those four names would combine to create one of the top starting rotations in the American League. The final spot would be decided in spring training, with the likely candidates being Tropeano and Hector Santiago.
It was reported later in the week by Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca that the Toronto Blue Jays “have placed multiple calls” to the Angels regarding the availability Howie Kendrick. Last week, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports suggested that the club is open to trading Kendrick or David Freese if the right deal is proposed. It is widely speculated that the Angels are searching for reliable, high upside starting pitchers in return for either player.
Sep 24, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp (4) slides against Los Angeles Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick (47) to prevent the throw for a double play during the seventh inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Howie Kendrick is one of the most valuable second basemen in baseball, and one of the most important players on the team. Kendrick has the ability to hit anywhere in the lineup, and play an above average second base. 2014 was Kendrick’s best season in Anaheim, and he figures to produce similar numbers next season. Kendrick is 31-years-old, which is entering the danger zone for middle infielders, but with just one year left on his contract his regression will likely occur on another team’s dime. Kendrick will become a restricted free agent following the 2015 season; so the Angels could potentially receive draft pick compensation if he were to jump ship next offseason.
David Freese is a streaky player, but his role in the Angels lineup allows for this. Nothing about Freese’s game jumps off the page, but he has no glaring weaknesses either. Freese has a strong track record of producing in the playoffs throughout this career, batting .282 with 8 home runs and 30 RBI’s in 51 career postseason games. Freese is perhaps best known for his performance in the 2011 post-season when he took home both the National League Championship Series MVP, and the World Series MVP. He is just the guy the Angels want batting in the bottom third of their order in October.
I could quite easily make the argument that playing Howie Kendrick at second base and David Freese at third base next season gives the Angels their best shot to take home the title. But for me to make that statement I have to be completely confident in Garrett Richards’ health. If Richards cannot play extensively in 2015, then the Angels have to pursue another starting pitcher this offseason.
Nick Tropeano and Hector Santiago have more than enough talent to platoon the number five spot in the rotation. Where the Angels could run into trouble is if Richards misses some or most of next season. The Halos will be hard pressed to make the playoffs in the American League with Tropeano and Santiago pitching 25 starts apiece.
My recommendation is simple, take a wait and see approach. Do not trade Kendrick or Freese until two things happen. First, you get a real picture of what Garrett Richards’ 2015 season is going to look like, and second, wait until the dust settles in free agency. After the top options are off the board, Kendrick and Freese’s value will only improve.
Unless an offer blows Dipoto away, I anticipate that both Howie Kendrick and David Freese will be in the opening day lineup.