Thus far, the LA Angels’ hot stove rumor mill has been running at barely room temperature, with the most impactful news being the release of Blake Parker and Matt Shoemaker.
That changed today with the announcement that the LA Angels have signed lefty slugger Justin Bour. A career .269/..354/.499 hitter against right-handed pitching, Bour is a classic value signing: low-cost, low-risk, plenty of upside.
Bour isn’t the only guy out there, though. General Manager Billy Eppler has made it clear that he’s looking to build the farm system, which means he’s not looking to trade prospects for vets or blow out the budget in the way the Angels did in previous regimes. That means the free agent bargain bin is the way to go. Here are six more names the Angels should go after.
A bargain to be had if ever there was one. Zach McAllister really shot himself in the foot with a horrible 2018 season, kneecapping his value in his free agent year. However, in the three previous seasons and 183 innings with Cleveland, McAllister did solid work as a middle reliever.
His fastball has as much zip in 2018 as it did in previous seasons, which makes McAllister a strong candidate for a bounce-back year in 2019. The Angels need an arm they can count on, and McAllister’s not going to cost a lot of money. It’s a match made in budget heaven.
Adam Warren‘s spent most of his career pitching for the Yankees, and pitching well, which means he’s due for a raise from the $3.3 million he made last year. However, with the market flooded with relievers, Warren’s worth the extra juice for the Angels.
The Halo bullpen was a federal disaster area last season, and their two best relievers in 2018, Parker and Jose Alvarez, won’t be back next season. Warren’s solid, dependable, and consistent, exactly the type of arm a team needs to answer the call in the 6th inning. It’s a busy market for middle relievers, which means that even a guy with Warren’s track record can be had for a reasonable price.
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As part of the Vladimir Guererro Angels, baby-faced Ervin Santana was a solid rotation guy in Anaheim. As a grizzled veteran in Minnesota, Santana put up 80 starts and 500 innings between 2015 and 2017. However, he only managed 24 ugly innings in 2018. Surgery in early February on the middle finger of his pitching hand didn’t take, and mid-season rehab didn’t work out for him, either. He’s been shut down since August, which means his arm will be well-rested. Right now, the Angels’ starting rotation looks like Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Jaime Barria, and the hope that someone steps up out of the gaggle of Felix Peña, Nick Tropeano, and the back-from-surgery J.C. Ramirez. Santana turns 36 the day these words are being written. The Angels should give him a present in the form of a 2-year contract.
Okay, so Kendall Graveman won’t help anyone in 2019 because he’ll be busy recovering from Tommy John surgery — that’s why he’s gonna be a bargain. Garrett Richards got $15.5 million from the San Diego Padres over two seasons, but Graveman doesn’t have Richards’ history of success or the tightest slider in the game. What Graveman does have, at least when he’s healthy, is a mind-melting sinker to go along with a mid-90s fastball. He’ll be cheaper than Richards, he’ll be still just 29 in 2020, and well worth the flyer any big league team takes on him. The Angels should be that team.
Bryce Harper / Manny Machado / Yasmani Grandal
(Fine, so the headline’s misleading clickbait. Getting just one of these guys makes five, so that counts as being technically correct.) You can’t always shop at the bargain bin if you want to play with the big boys, but it’s not about spending money, but spending it wisely.
I’ve written about why the Angels should sign Yasmani Grandal, not the least of which is that the organization simply doesn’t have a big league catcher right now. Grandal would be a foundational player, a defensive positive who would also give the Angels an offensive boost at a position where they haven’t had any offense since Mike Napoli got run out-of-town.
As for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, that kind of signing would not be so much a statement of intent as it would be a declaration of war. Both are 26-year-old wunderkinds who bring with them baggage from their previous stints. They also both bring enormously productive bats, the kind of bats that pushes teams into the playoffs.
Machado, in particular, would be a perfect fit for the Angels, since he’s a stellar defensive third baseman, and the Angels don’t really have a third baseman right now — Zack Cozart‘s bat disappeared on arrival, and Taylor Ward looked terribly overmatched in his 40-game stint. Machado’s made his preference to play shortstop clear, but no one’s shoving Andrelton Simmons aside, something Machado would know coming in.
As for Harper, he would shove Kole Calhoun aside, and easily. Despite struggling badly for most of the season, Harper led the National League in walks, and that .300/.434/.538 slash line he posted after the All-Star break was more indicative of Harper’s true talent. Plus, he’ll be staring at deliciously short right field in Anaheim, so it’s an easy bet that he’d surpass the 34 homers he hit last season. Either player would be a boon to an offense that was below average even though it featured the Best Player In The World.
The Angels can’t afford all three — who can! — but any one of these players would be a huge boost to the organization’s chances in 2019.