The GM's Office: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Joaquin Benoit Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesJoaquin Benoit sports a sterling 1.86 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 38 2/3 innings this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Joaquin Benoit | RP | San Diego Padres

Possible destinations: Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants


Milwaukee Brewers

Why? Because Doug Melvin is their GM, and his track record when his team is in contention at the trade deadline suggests he'll make a move. No one expects him to pull off a blockbuster like he has in the past -- to get CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke, just to name a few -- but most expect him to make a move of some kind.
David PriceAP Photo/Carlos OsorioThere are doubts David Price will be traded prior to the deadline, and the cost might be too high.

Many contending teams interested in David Price now aren't sure the Tampa Bay Rays will actually trade him before the trade deadline.

The impression teams are getting is that if the Rays manage to get back in the playoff chase, they will hang on to Price, and if they don't, they will trade him only if they get a better package than what the Chicago Cubs got for Jeff Samardzija, which eliminates a number of possible suitors.

The Rays would be looking for

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Jonathan PapelbonRick Yeatts/Getty ImagesJonathan Papelbon is holding opposing hitters to a .177 batting average this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Jonathan Papelbon | RP | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers


Los Angeles Angels

Why? Angels GM Jerry Dipoto stopped by the GM's office recently and said he's not done making moves; he'd like to add another reliever. Since DiPoto became the team's GM in October 2011, he has needed a defibrillator for many of the ninth innings; only three AL teams have blown more saves since the start of 2012. It's time for the Angels to solve it once and for all, and although they're hoping newly acquired Jason Grilli is the answer, they know Papelbon would be. Papelbon has converted 22 saves with a 1.21 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 37 1/3 innings pitched. This is a no-brainer move for the Angels if they can get it done.

Who? The Phillies will target all of the Angels' top prospects, focusing more on overall quality rather than positional needs, realizing they could always spin the acquired assets for needs down the road.

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The Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs kicked off the baseball trade fireworks on the Fourth of July with a blockbuster deal that sent starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, among others.

With three weeks left until the trade deadline, here are four more blockbuster trades I'd like to happen:



San Diego Padres-Los Angeles Angels

Padres receive: 2B Taylor Lindsey, 3B Kaleb Cowart, SS Jose Rondon, and RHPs R.J. Alvarez and Victor Alcantara

Angels receive: C Yasmani Grandal and reliever Huston Street

The Angels have the second best record in baseball behind only the Oakland Athletics, and if it weren't for 12 blown saves by their bullpen, they would have the best record in the majors. GM Jerry DiPoto has done a great job upgrading the bullpen the past couple weeks with the acquisitions of Jason Grilli (from the Pirates) and Joe Thatcher (from the Diamondbacks), but why stop there? A blockbuster to get one of the game's best closers, in Huston Street, would be huge.

Street, 30, is controllable though 2015 at an affordable $7 million per season. He's also having a career year, with 23 saves, a 1.13 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. Add Street to the Angels' bullpen, and the team can start printing postseason tickets.

Grandal, who, at age 25, has yet to fully develop, would be the long-term catcher for the Angels and would benefit from playing under Mike Scioscia, a former All-Star catcher. Grandal has struggled the past two years at the plate, but his career numbers -- 16 homers, 64 RBIs and a slash line of .246/.349/.409 in 455 at-bats -- are still respectable. He would benefit from a change of scenery. He's a smart, good kid who I think would thrive in the Angels' environment, though he'd probably have to settle for a backup role this year.

In return, the Padres load up on prospects as their rebuilding program under the new GM gets under way.


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Huston StreetAndy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty ImagesThe Padres' Huston Street could fill either the closer or setup role for a number of teams.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Huston Street | RHP | San Diego Padres

Possible destinations: Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Cincinnati Reds

Baltimore Orioles

Why? Orioles GM Dan Duquette told me that the bullpen and offense at second base were the two main areas that needed improvement.

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Jeff SamardzijaScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith Toronto desperately in need of pitching, Jeff Samardzija would fit in well.
General managers use the first two months of the season to evaluate their teams, then try to improve the team through trades or calling up top prospects in the next two months. Then they try to tweak the team with waiver deals and September call-ups in the last two months.

Given this, teams are mainly concentrating on the draft and don’t focus full-time on trades until after the draft (June 5-7). However, GMs still are talking to each other and laying the foundation for deals. This includes letting other GMs know their interest in a particular player and at least offer a fair chance to trade for that player. Many GMs are also letting other teams know exactly who’s available and who’s untouchable.

Most of the big trades happen between the All-Star Game and the July 31 trade deadline as well as in August via waiver deals. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t deals in May or June, and I like to think of these deals as "appetizer" trades, with the entrees coming closer to July 31. Often, these are minor deals, like when Chris Nelson was dealt from the Colorado Rockies to the New York Yankees last May. However, we sometimes get major deals in May.

For example, it was mid-May 1998 when the Dodgers traded Mike Piazza to the Marlins, who then traded him to the Mets a week later.

With 27 of the 30 teams within four games of the playoffs coming into the weekend, it is safe to assume there will be fewer teams "selling" than normal. More likely trades will be made between contenders that match up in roster depth and weaknesses.

Here are some possible "appetizer" trades I would like to see that would fill some important needs of these contending teams:

1. Toronto Blue Jays acquire RHP Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs

OK, this is not a traditional "appetizer" deal, and is more in line with those aforementioned Piazza deals. The Blue Jays lead the AL in home runs and are third in runs scored. They might have the best lineup in the AL East. However, for the Blue Jays to contend all season, they must make a trade for a starting pitcher.

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Top 10 early trade candidates 

May, 12, 2014
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David PriceKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsIn what has become a yearly refrain, David Price should be on the July 31 deadline trading block.
The July 31 trade deadline is a little less than three months away. While every team is focused primarily on the draft right now, they’re also realizing that because of the sport’s parity and competitive balance, there could be fewer “sellers” at this year’s deadline than perhaps we’ve seen in decades.

In fact, there are just three teams more than 4 games out of the postseason: the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks.

I expect that group of teams to grow between now and the middle of July, but it will be no larger than more than seven or eight teams. With so few sellers expected, the asking prices for top talent will be exorbitant.

Here is my early list of 10 trade candidates to watch:

1. David Price | LHP | Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are hoping to be in a pennant race come the end of July, but after the season-ending injury to Matt Moore and a below .500 start, Price will have to be considered the early most sought after trade candidate in baseball. General manager Andrew Friedman knows that he’ll get more value for Price at the July trade deadline than he will in the offseason with only one year left on Price’s contract.

Further hurting Friedman's leverage is the fact that Price is off to a slow start, and he'll be hoping to get a haul similar to the one he received for James Shields prior to the 2013 season.

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A large slate of games Monday offered glimpses of what could be an exciting 2014 season. There were unexpected performances (Alejandro De Aza's two home runs) and disappointing ones (Cliff Lee’s eight earned runs in five innings), too, as well as a walk-off win in Pittsburgh.

There’s still a long way to go for any of my bold predictions to play out, but here are my five best takeaways from Opening Day 2014.

1. So far, so good for Sizemore and Sox

Grady Sizemore was the best and biggest story of spring training, and he kept it going Opening Day with a single in his first at-bat and a long home run in his second.

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Seven bold predictions for 2014 

March, 29, 2014
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Cliff Lee Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesCliff Lee has a lot to be worried about if things go sideways for the Phillies.
With the start of the 2014 season upon us, it's time to take a guess at what might happen this year.

In this space last season, I predicted that Yasiel Puig would become an instant hit in Los Angeles and envisioned a last-place finish for the New York Yankees. Although the Yankees did not end up in the AL East cellar, they definitely fell off, and "Puigmania" did indeed ensue. So here are seven predictions I'm making for 2014.

1. Phillies finish last in the NL East

The Philadelphia Phillies might not have the worst roster in baseball, but they do have the oldest, and it's a team that has been on a steady decline for the past few years.

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When will Trout's reign end? 

March, 27, 2014
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videoLos Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout clearly has established himself as the best player in Major League Baseball. He is ranked No. 1 in the "Baseball Tonight" 100, and he will be the favorite to remain on the top of this list for the next five years.

The rest of the top five will turn over, as there are a number of players who will move in and out over the next half-decade. Let’s have some fun and take a look at the guys who I think will populate the list of top-five players each year through the 2019 season.

Understand these lists are purely what I think could happen, and I'm assuming some amount of good health and luck during these five years, while hypothesizing some outcomes based on current performance and trajectory. I added some statistical projections courtesy of Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections system, just to give you a sense of what the stats say about these guys. In some case, I'm a bit more optimistic than the computer models.

Top 5 players in 2015 (projected via ZiPS)

1. Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels (.289/.384/.505, 42 SB, 8.9 WAR)
2.

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Shin-Soo ChooJoe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsThe Texas Rangers might have wildly overpaid for free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
When a general manager makes a trade or a free-agent signing, he must always have significant justification for why the move was made. This could include:

• Scouting reports
• Advanced metrics and analytics
• Medical reports
• Evaluations of makeup and character
• Financial considerations
• Roster structure
• Team needs to wants

Most GMs will provide owners with at least 20 pages of documentation supporting any significant move. By the time everyone evaluates why the decision was made most of the organization should believe the move was made in the best interest of the organization.

However, after all the preparation and analysis is done, the decision is right only until something goes wrong. That could be an injury, a decline in performance, a personal problem that changes the player’s focus, a change of vibe in the clubhouse or even a change of league or position that all of a sudden makes the move go wrong, leaving the club with nothing but regrets.

Of course, anyone who's ever been a GM, president or owner would love to have a mulligan or two during their careers. Looking at this year’s offseason moves, here are the five that will backfire, either by season’s end or sometime in the next few years.

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Robinson CanoLisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesRivals GMs don't understand why the Mariners stopped spending after getting Cano.
One of the advantages of being a former general manager is that there’s something of a fraternity among GMs. This proves advantageous when digging for information. Most are generous and readily available. As I bounced from spring camp to spring camp, here’s what some GMs and executives had to say:

• Several general managers told me they don't understand how the Seattle Mariners could give Robinson Cano almost a quarter-billion dollars and then claim not to have the money to bring back Kendrys Morales or make a run at Ervin Santana.

Seattle is emboldened by its lucrative local television deal, but many general managers are wondering what the Mariners’ plan is.

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Ervin Santana, Kendrys MoralesGetty ImagesThe Mariners would improve their chances to contend by signing Ervin Santana, Kendrys Morales.
All the Seattle Mariners needed to become relevant again was Robinson Cano.

Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik also made some other shrewd moves, signing free agents Corey Hart and Fernando Rodney, as well as trading for Logan Morrison.

But those moves won't be enough to overtake the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics or Texas Rangers in the tough American League West. That's why they should take advantage of the depressed markets for free agents Ervin Santana and Kendrys Morales, who can make them a wild-card contender.

I believe three years and $36 million for Santana and one year at $10 million for Morales should be enough to sign both of them. Zduriencik could easily mitigate any cash-flow concerns by back-loading Santana's contract and perhaps deferring some of Morales' deal.

These two moves not only would position the Mariners as a better overall team, but they would offer Seattle a chance to compete for a divisional title, as well as being a legitimate wild-card contender. Let's look at how:

Weakened AL West starting rotations

If the Mariners compete for a wild-card berth with any AL West teams, they'll probably do it against the Rangers and Angels.

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One of the big stories of spring training has been Mike Trout's long-term contract negotiations with the Los Angeles Angels. The 22-year-old agreed to a deal Wednesday, but it was not the multiyear deal many fans were hoping for.

Instead, Trout agreed to a $1 million salary for 2014. Under the collective bargaining agreement, that's roughly twice as much as the Angels are required to pay him, so it's certainly a fair deal given the circumstances, and shows some good faith on the part of the club, which was criticized last year for not giving Trout a big enough raise.

In fact, the $1 million is largest one-year salary given to a pre-arbitration player, and that sends a great message to Trout. Sources tell me that a long-term deal is still being discussed, and I think it will done by the end of April. Here is how I expect it to play out.

The Angels really want to stay under the luxury tax, so by setting Trout's 2014 salary now, his long-term deal won't count against the tax until 2015, which is big for them.

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10 undervalued fantasy targets 

February, 26, 2014
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Ryan BraunMike McGinnis/Getty ImagesDespite the Biogenesis scandal, don't forget about Ryan Braun, who could put up big numbers.
Most fantasy baseball players are going to have the usual suspects atop their draft boards: Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen.

However, to "win" drafts, the key is to find the undervalued players. Perhaps a player is coming off of an injury-plagued campaign. Or he has perennially flown under the radar like Baltimore’s Chris Davis did for a couple of years before breaking out in 2013.

The one thing these undervalued targets all have in common is they’re coming off relatively poor seasons so a shrewd fantasy player could nab one or two at a lower draft slot than that player has traditionally had.

Here is a list of 10 players who I think will have significantly better seasons than they did in 2013. If you select them at the right spot, they could become difference-makers for your team.

1. Ryan Braun | RF | Milwaukee Brewers

Braun is coming off his worst season after being suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Certainly there are reasons to be concerned -- we don’t know if his career numbers were influenced by PED use, and he’s also switching positions.

I don't think Braun's success was a product of PEDs and believe he wants to prove that to the world.

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