The Los Angeles Angels are looking for reliable arms this winter and have the potential to execute a blockbuster trade for an elite arm.
The Los Angeles Angels don’t just need starting pitching this winter: the team needs reliable starting pitching this winter. The Angels typically have a decent staff that can carry the load if it were not for the horrendous injury luck on the franchise.
Even if the team re-signs Richards, I am not convinced that he is ace-caliber anymore. In 16 starts in 2018, Richards had a 3.66 ERA and 1.284 WHIP, not necessarily ace numbers.
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The problem is that there really are not any elite starting pitchers on the market this winter. The most notable names available are Dallas Kuechel, Patrick Corbin, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Charlie Morton. Those are great pitchers, don’t get me wrong, but Kuechel is the closest to a frontline starter and he had very similar numbers as Richards in a twice as large sample size.
There are other guys on the market that had good seasons like Wade Miley or Clay Bucholz. Relying on either of them to come over and continue that trend is risky and foolish, to say the least.
That could force the Los Angeles Angels’ hand to explore a trade. After all, the team has a decent core surrounding Mike Trout and could become a legitimate playoff team with an ace leading the pitching staff. Taking that kind of risk is worth it for the Angels.
That is why the Angels should pursue Cleveland Indians’ ace, Corey Kluber. Kluber is among several players that the Indians are open to trading this winter and the Angels should be one of the first teams making that phone call.
Not only is Kluber elite but he is consistent as well. Kluber has won two Cy Young awards, has made the all-star team three consecutive years and was the American League ERA leader in 2017.
Since 2014, Kluber has the highest FanGraphs WAR (31.0, besting Clayton Kershaw‘s 30.8), has the second-most innings pitched (1091.1) and the third-most strikeouts (1228). He has a combined 2.85 ERA in that time; only Max Scherzer and Kershaw have a better ERA with at least 900 innings pitched.
Kluber is easily the best pitcher in the American League and even at 32, would be extremely valuable to the Halos. Kluber is under team control for three more seasons with club options for both 2020 and 2021.
That is huge for the Angels, who, if Kluber completely falls off the face of the earth, do not have to pay him if it is not justified. The chances of the Angels opting out of his contract are slim to none but it is an added bonus.
Because of that and because of his production over the last five seasons, Kluber is going to have a pretty high asking price. Here is the package that the Los Angeles Angels could send in return for Kluber.
That is a pretty expensive trade package but Kluber understandably will have a high price tag as the best pitcher in the American League.
Jo Adell is the Angels’ top prospect and is the 15th-best prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. While him playing alongside Mike Trout would be nice, the Angels do have Justin Upton locked up and could hopefully convince Trout to sign a long-term deal. That softens the blow of losing Adell.
The Angels would likely also have to send the team’s second-best prospect, right-handed pitcher Griffin Canning. Canning is the 72nd-best prospect in baseball and is a guy that is big-league ready in 2019. The last thing the Angels really need is another inexperienced, young arm.
To finish it off the Angels can send the team’s seventh-best prospect, Kevin Maitan. Maitan was a bit of a gift to the Angels as the Atlanta Braves had to release him for violating international signing rules.
Maitan has a high ceiling and is only 18 years old, so it will be a while before his big league debut. By the time he is ready, likely in 2021, the Angels could have already lost Trout if the team cannot field a proven winner.
This sounds like a lot but if you look at the Red Sox’ deal for Chris Sale in 2016 it is not as bad. The Sox gave up the top prospect in baseball, Yoan Moncada, as well as an elite right-handed pitching prospect (and the 19th-best prospect in baseball right now), Michael Kopech.
The Los Angeles Angels, more than any other potential contending team, need a frontline ace to really get anywhere next season. With that in mind, a potential deal for Corey Kluber is a must.