How can the Angels Improve? – Cuba


The Angels are one of the most complete teams in the game. Second base appears to be the only position where we don’t know what to expect, and even there several options are available. Depth is a possible issue at a few positions, most notably shortstop. So how can the Angels look to improve?

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Pitchers like Max Scherzer and James Shields would upgrade the team, but they would do so at a significant (nine-figure) cost. That money wouldn’t be a problem when they were contributing to a championship team. But, it would likely only be in about two years those contracts would become hindrances to the team. This team has surely learned a thing or two about how bad contracts handcuff you from building a better club. Don’t expect help to come via that route.

Jerry Dipoto has done a remarkable job of building a much better farm system in the past two years. We have two of the most desirable left handed pitching prospects in the game, Andrew Heaney and Sean Newcomb. Aside from those two we don’t have a lot of highly desirable prospects to be used as trade chips. Don’t look for improvement to come via blockbuster trade. Where’s that leave the team to improve?

A short window is open to the team in the international market, namely Cuba. We already took this route recently when Dipoto took a trip to find such talent and came away with a shortstop/second base prospect, Roberto Baldaquin. In doing so, the team has been hampered in another way. They will not be able to sign a young international prospect for more than $300k during the next two years starting July 2nd. The Angels would have loved to sign Vladimir Guerrero Jr. But, he reportedly has an agreement in place for $3.2 million. Way out of the range of where the Angels are able to go. The time to strike and take advantage of Cuban players leaves the Halos with 6 months to act.

what a combo it would be to have Mike Trout AND Moncado during their best years

There are a few players likely to be available for signing before the Angels opportunity passes. We all have heard of the highly touted Yoan Moncado. The switch hitting infielder who has been described as a potential superstar. He’s only 19-years-old and looks like a major leaguer. All five tools are highly rated in the Moncado package. The only thing to be rated even higher is his soon to be massive bank account. How much is a young potential superstar worth to a team who has yet to see him perform against major league talent? Apparently $60 million to $80 million once tax penalty money is factored in.

The Angels have multiple reasons to sign him: They’d be paying him for his prime seasons, they’ve already suffered the two-year penalty for going over their limit to sign Balodoquin, he can play third base where they have few (if any) capable prospects and will be left with a hole after David Freese leaves next season (they’ll have to pay somebody for that position very soon) and at what a combo it would be to have Mike Trout AND Moncado during their best years. We must temper our excitement however as the Yankees and Red Sox are going to be in on him as well.

Coming down a notch but still well regarded is Yoan Lopez. A 6’4″ 190-pound right-handed pitcher who is just 21-years-old. Scouts have been watching him and reportedly are excited at a fastball clocked at 100 MPH (although usual mid-nineties) that is accompanied by a cutter, slider, change and curve. Quite a repertoire for such a young pitcher. That youth is why teams are willing to risk so much money for unknown players. Look at the price tag for Lester who, undoubtedly, will be paid largely for late career seasons in which his contract will be an anchor.

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The Angels actually have a lot of pitching depth at the moment, but do they have enough. Lopez’s price tag will be far less than that of Moncado’s but will it be to the liking of the front office? It’s tough to say because scouting reports are so limited for these Cuban players and even MLB teams seems to have highly varying opinions on many of these players (other than universally regarded Moncado).

A lot of competition has been built up for the Angels second base job and Alex Yarbrough is in the mix as well. Andy Ibanez could still entice the Angels however. Another 21-year-old who’s youth is assuring him of a good payday. He hit .267/.377/.435 in Cuba and was the youngest player on their squad during the last World Baseball Classic. Scouts don’t regard him as having a tremendous ceiling but they do appreciate his all-around solid game. He appears to be a very similar player to Yarbrough but can you have enough good prospects at any position. He could be another hedge for the Angels future at second base and would do so at a cost they could surely afford. Bleacher Report estimates that he will receive a signing bonus of around $3 million.

The Angels have another six years of Mike Trout (hopefully many more). They are hampered by some bad contracts but still must find a way to field as good a team as possible during those Trout years. Youth is not to be found in the free-agent market and they only have a couple prospects that would entice other teams in trading young talent. Those prospects need to remain a part of the Angels solution and not someone else’s. Money is an issue with the luxury tax nearby but these signing bonuses to the Cuban players doesn’t affect that. With penalties already in place and time period of contention matching these players prime years, the Angels need to be aggressive in pursing the international market while they can.

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