As a continuation from yesterday’s article One Thing Every NL Team Should Do Between Now and Opening Day, here is one suggestion for every American League club to consider before March 26:
Trade or Extend Trey Mancini
Trey Mancini had a breakout season in 2019, despite the Orioles only managing 54 wins. His .373 wOBA and 131 wRC+ were 15th and 18th in the American League, respectively. While he isn’t set to hit unrestricted free agency until 2023, the Orioles should consider cashing in this chip to further build up their farm system as they continue on this long and arduous rebuild. The Orioles were criticized by some for their poor return for Manny Machado back in 2018 when he was dealt to the Dodgers. They certainly don’t want to find themselves in a similar position where they have to accept pennies on the dollar because they waited too long to trade someone. The alternative, of course, is to sign him to an extension. Mancini is unquestionably their best player. However, he is entering his age-28 season this year, and by the time the Orioles are contenders again, he may be out of his prime. The Orioles need to decide if that is something they want to do or not. While this doesn’t need to be done before Opening Day as the title of this article would suggest, the longer the Orioles wait, the more they risk Mancini lowering his value on the trade market.
Pursue That Wil Myers Trade
I really wanted to say, “build a time machine and don’t trade Mookie Betts.” For the sake of realism, I chose this instead. As reported earlier in the week, the Red Sox are in talks with the Padres in a potential salary dump trade for Wil Myers. They have the space to absorb half of Myers’ contract while staying under the luxury tax threshold (the whole point of trading Betts to begin with… no matter what John Henry says). The question you should have unless you have read up on this is: why would the Red Sox want to do that? Well, the Padres would have to cuff one or two prospects to Myers just to get the Red Sox to take half of his contract, allegedly. If the Sox could land a player like Cal Quantrill or Luis Campusano in addition to Wil Myers for close to nothing, then I say go for it. Myers, a former top prospect in baseball, had a monster 2016 and ’17. He’s still under 30 and could perhaps benefit greatly from a change of scenery. This feels like a low-risk, high-reward opportunity for the Sox and I hope they take advantage. Even if Myers continues to bust, the Sox definitely need to continue to rebuild their farm system.
Give Nick Madrigal The Job
RosterResource currently projects Leury Garcia to start at second base for the White Sox and I do hope they are wrong. Not only does Nick Madrigal project to walk significantly more than Garcia, but he strikes out nearly 20% less than him. With strikeout heavy names like Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, and Yasmani Grandal already set to be permanent fixtures in the White Sox lineup for 2020, they may want someone who is going to consistently put the ball in play and be a bit more of a threat to get on base in front of those boppers. Anderson, Grandal, and Moncada did all improve on their 2018 K% in 2019, but all still had K%’s over 20. Madrigal’s K% in 2019 was 3.
Give Bradley Zimmer a Ton of Spring Training At-Bats
Poor Bradley Zimmer has been completely injury-plagued since his decent Major League debut back in 2017 where he swatted eight homers and stole 18 bags in 332 PA. Since that season, the Indians have acquired Franmil Reyes, Jake Bauers, Delino DeShields Jr., and Domingo Santana. Additionally, Oscar Mercado has emerged, and to a lesser extent, Jordan Luplow and Greg Allen have as well. Mercado figures to be a mainstay in the Indians lineup and Reyes will most likely be the full-time DH. However, Bauers was woefully disappointing not only at the Major League level but at Triple A as well in 2019. DeShields Jr. and Santana are underwhelming options for a myriad of reasons and both are RHB, whereas Zimmer is a lefty.
That may be his opening.
He figures to start the year in the minors but could work his way up into the majors and fight for playing time in the Indians’ right-handed heavy outfield, which would make this suggestion not really qualify for this article. Still, spring training should give the Indians some insight into how soon, and if, Zimmer will be able to help them this season. The Indians would be smart to give him as many chances as possible with the hope that this former first-round pick blossoms into the power/speed threat that many had him pegged for.
Trade Matthew Boyd
The Tigers are flush with high-end pitching prospects, most notably Casey Mize and Matt Manning, so the future of their rotation looks to be in decent hands. Matthew Boyd does not need to be a part of those plans. They are horrible at the major league level, so trading away the 29-year-old Boyd would not make much of a difference on their 2020 fortunes. Though Boyd really struggled with the longball in 2019 and had a 4.56 ERA, he is not an unrestricted free agent until 2023, giving whatever team that deals for him a few years of control. With teams like the Yankees and Braves already dealing with some injuries to their rotations, the Tigers could really capitalize on this current situation and bring in some decent pieces for Boyd. One has to wonder if names like Miguel Andujar, Mike Ford, Kyle Wright, or Bryse Wilson could be in play for Boyd in such a situation. Waiting until the deadline to make a deal could be risky as not only would teams be missing out on half-a-season of control over Boyd, but his 5.35 second half FIP in 2019 could carry over into the first half of 2020, hurting his value even more. Now is the time to strike!
Keep Noses to the Grind Stone & Just Play Ball
I know, the title of this is cheesy and everyone wants more of an apology from the Astros. I wanted to talk about Josh James or Kyle Tucker, but I couldn’t not talk about the scandal. I can’t pretend to have any idea what a major league locker room is like, what it is like to manage an major league team or anything of that sort. I am also not here to provide excuses or to condemn. However, for the 2020 Houston Astros, the best course of action from here on out is to just focus on baseball.
Yeah, much easier said than done, but it is still true.
Their roster is loaded. Yet, the A’s are still a threat and the Rangers and Angels both got significantly better. The Astros themselves lost arguably the best pitcher in baseball to one of their biggest American League rivals. If this massive scandal begins to affect them on the field, then this could be a lost season. With such a strong roster, that would be a massive disappointment, scandal or no scandal. If manager Dusty Baker can get this team to block out the noise and play up to their potential, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Astros back in the World Series.
Find a Backup Catcher
This one is a pretty lame one, I’ll admit. With Salvador Perez coming off a torn ACL, however, I think it is most important that the Royals preserve one of their best players and most valuable assets in 2020. The current backup catcher is Cam Gallagher, a player who is 27 years old and only has 238 career PA (.230 BA). With such a questionable backup, this may put quite a bit of work on top of Perez’s surgically repaired knee. Acquiring Tyler Flowers from the Braves or someone of that ilk could be a nice band-aid for this situation. Whether Perez is part of the Royals’ long-term plans, or they view him as a piece of trade bait, preserving his knee will be vitally important in either endeavor.
Angels owner Arte Moreno took credit for the crumbling of the proposed Angels/Dodgers swap that would have sent Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling to the Angels in exchange for Luis Rengifo and a prospect. What was particularly disturbing about his comments regarding the failed deal was that he alleged it wasn’t all impatience that made it fall apart.
So… does that mean there was still a part of it that had to do with impatience?
If so, yikes. No one in the Angels rotation makes me feel confident when they take the mound while Stripling, in his few opportunities to start for the Dodgers, has been really good. Pederson, the other significant piece that would have headed the Angels’ way, hit 36 home runs in 2019 and is only 27 years old. He can also play both first base and the corner outfield positions, the spots that the Angels project to be weakest in. This was a massive missed opportunity for the Angels. I’d like to see them right this wrong, assuming the Dodgers would still be interested.
Sign Tony Cingrani
There’s a name from the past!
While some might be surprised to see such an obscure suggestion for the Twins, I think this move could be beneficial. Yes, Tony Cingrani has missed most of the last two seasons dealing with a shoulder injury that eventually lead to surgery. That certainly is not a promising sign. However, the fact remains that the only left-handed pitcher projected to start the season on the Twins active roster (Rich Hill is hurt) is their closer, Taylor Rogers.
Cingrani, a lefty himself, has dominated lefties during his career. Left-handed batters have only mustered a .304 wOBA off him and he has posted a near-11.0 K/9 against them.
The Twins won 101 games last year. They just forked over a Brinks truck to Josh Donaldson. A lack of a left-hander in the pen should not be the cause of their demise. The new rule of relievers being forced to face a three-batter minimum may hurt Cingrani here, but I still think he could provide potential value for almost no cost whatsoever.
Trade for a Starting Pitcher
Gerrit Cole – Healthy and ready to go
Masahiro Tanaka – Healthy and reliable but ERA around 4.50 two of the last three seasons
Luis Severino – Tommy John surgery
James Paxton – Back surgery
Domingo German – Still suspended
Well, they still have JA Happ who looked pretty sharp in his first Spring Training appearance, so at least they have that going for them. Still, the Yankees cannot catch a break when it comes to health.
Jordan Montgomery pitched fine for them in 2017 before eventually requiring Tommy John Surgery in 2018. Assuming Montgomery can return to his 2017 form feels like a risky assumption, though, and the Yankees may still need another starter. Do they want to turn to Jonathan Loasiga who was walking a batter every other inning last year? I’m not so sure.
If they are not overwhelmed with their in-house options or at least want to give their internal pieces some competition, then they should make a trade now before this problem gets bigger. Matthew Boyd was mentioned earlier as a potential target and the Yankees have long been rumored to be in on Arizona’s Robbie Ray. But other, even cheaper names, could suffice. Joey Lucchesi was a name that came up over the course of this off-season’s Red Sox/Padres rumors. Maybe he would work? Whatever the case may be, the Yankees may want to load up on some depth if this off-season’s health issues are any indication of how their season is going to go.
Give Jorge Mateo the Second Base Job
With the departure of Jurickson Profar in Oakland, a void needs to be filled at second base. One of the likely candidates is Franklin Barreto, a former top prospect in Oakland’s organization who, through just over 200 PA (he is still just 23 years old), is batting .189 in his Major League career. The other is Tony Kemp. Kemp, a former utility man for the Astros, is 28 years old and is not much of an offensive player. He doesn’t strike out a lot but does not make hard contact that often either. He’s a fine player to plug in and out of the lineup as needed, but not necessarily a set-in-stone starter.
This should provide an opening for Jorge Mateo. Over the last two seasons, Mateo has accumulated over 1,000 PA at Triple-A. During that time, he has hit 23 home runs and stolen 49 bases. The 24-year-old right-hander hit both lefites and righties well last year and appears ready to take on major league pitching. Now is the time for Oakland to see what they got from the Yankees way back when they traded for him and two other prospects in exchange for Sonny Gray. I think Mateo could provide a nice speed threat towards the bottom of the A’s lineup before it turns over to their sluggers at the top. If Mateo’s 19-homer explosion last year was legitimate and not simply a result of the juiced baseballs, then Oakland could be looking at a real 10+-homer, 40+-stolen-base threat for their lineup. They just have to give him a chance.
The Mariners rotation is not good. Neither Danny Salazar nor Andrew Cashner will take them to the playoffs or even close to it. As a matter of fact, either one could be worse than their current options. However, a rebuilding team like the Mariners should take as many shots as they can at building up an asset to trade for a young piece at the deadline. To be fair, they have already done that once this off-season with Taijuan Walker.
Just last year, the Orioles were able to get two prospects for Cashner in a deal with the Red Sox (both prospects were only 17 years old, but they got something for a pitcher that did not fit into their long-term plans). Cashner had actually been somehow pitching well before the deal, which is why the Orioles were able to get anything for him to begin with. Regardless, throwing this dart would require very little money and absolutely no risk for the Mariners. At best, Salazar or Cashner pitch well and they’re able to flip one of them like the Orioles did last year. At worst, they sign one of them and they completely flop or get hurt. They aren’t going to compete either way, so they might as well set themselves up to potentially stockpile more assets.
Work Your Pitching Magic on Trevor Richards
Man, there is so much I could have gone with here: fix Yandy Diaz’s launch angle, stop trading and signing position players, start Hunter Renfroe every day, keep Brendan McKay in the minors for the foreseeable future, unleash Ryan Yarbrough, close Nick Anderson, etc.
Instead of any of those, I want the Rays to work their pitching voodoo magic on Trevor Richards. Still just 26 years old, Richards showed signs of promise in Miami before being a throw-in in the Nick Anderson trade. His change-up is filthy. It had a pVAL of 14.7 in 2018 and 9.8 in 2019. He doesn’t throw very hard and his other pitches do not grade out so well. To be effective for the Rays, though, he really only needs one other good pitch because he’s only going to open or come out of the bullpen for them. His cutter and especially his curveball were atrocious in 2019, so those probably aren’t the answer. If he can just get the four-seamer to go a few ticks faster, he could be a potentially deadly reliever with that change-up.
The Rangers are looking to contend in 2020. If that was ever in question, then their trade for Corey Kluber should have put that question to rest. They have a very solid roster but the AL West looks to be pretty difficult this year. Since this is the case, I am not calling for the benching of reliable veteran Shin-Soo Choo. Instead, Nick Solak should get a look at first base, a position that would be entirely new to him. He hasn’t got a look there yet but with a packed outfield and the acquisition of Todd Frazier to man the hot corner, first base may be the best opportunity for Solak. Wherever it may be, Solak needs at-bats. He obliterated Triple-A last year, clobbering 27 homers in 476 PA. The former second-round pick even had an .884 OPS through 135 PA with the big league club in 2019.
Get Cavan Biggio to Swing More
Cavan Biggio has quite a bit of upside, but his swing rate in 2019 was over 11% less than the league average. While his patience at the plate is certainly one of his most notable calling cards and of course contributed to his very high 16.6 BB%, it unquestionably impacted his horrid 28.6 K% as well. When he swings the bat, good things typically happen. His soft contact rate was far below league average and his sprint speed was in the top 19% of all MLB. That’s a recipe for a high BABIP and could help the young boppers in the Jays lineup wreak havoc on American League pitching. That is going to be hard to do for Biggio, though, if he doesn’t swing the bat. Get the man to swing this Spring, Blue Jays!
Adapted by Rick Orengo (@OneFiddyOne on Twitter and Instagram)