Throughout the 2011-2012 off-season, Kevin Creagh will be looking at players that have been rumored to be non-tender or trade candidates, based primarily off of MLB Trade Rumors’ Off-Season Outlook series. The review isn’t to suggest that the players are being pursued by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The purpose of the series is to explore the potential options on the market to see who might be a good fit for the 2012 roster.
Today is the start of the annual Winter Meetings that last from Monday the 5th to Thursday the 8th of December. The meetings culminate on Thursday with the Rule 5 draft. It’s also the time when many deals get done, both in free agency and via the trade market.
MLBTR had a post up earlier that the Angels have only $15-20 million left to spend this offseason and would like to address three areas of need: a starting pitcher, a short reliever (presumably they don’t mean short in stature like Billy Wagner), and a big bat. Within the piece, Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times feels that the Angels could possibly trade Ervin Santana in order to clear more salary space to address these needs. It has been long rumored that C.J. Wilson would like to pitch in the state of California and the Angels do have an offer out to him. Wilson is probably looking at $17-18 million per year.
Santana is under contract in 2012 for $11.2 million with a $13 million club option in 2013. He will be 29 during the 2012 season and has been a very consistent presence in the Angels rotation during his 6+ years with them. In 2011, Santana pitched 228 innings with a 3.38 ERA, 4.00 FIP, and 3.93 xFIP. As you can see, his FIP does indicate that his defense helped him out last year. Santana had a 7.01 K/9 and a 2.83 BB/9 rate in 2011.
Santana is a three pitch pitcher: A steady 92-93 mph fastball (-0.54 runs/100 pitches), 82 mph slider (1.68 runs/100 pitches), and an 86 mph changeup (-4.10 runs/100 pitches). His changeup has historically been his worst pitch, most likely because he is throwing it too hard as evidenced by only having 6 miles per hour separation between the fastball and changeup.
In a vacuum, I’m not in favor of trading Joel Hanrahan. His estimated $3.5 to $4 million dollar salary in 2012 is still very affordable for the level of production he gives the Pirates. However, the market for closers is absolutely insane this offseason. The Jonathan Papelbon deal with the Phillies (4 years, $50 million) and the recent deal the Marlins gave Heath Bell (3 years, $27 million with a $9M option for a 4th year) shows that teams will pay heavily for a guy that will give them only 60 innings out of 1458 possible innings in a year.
The Angels have been linked with Ryan Madsen, the displaced Phillies closer, so perhaps the Pirates and Angels can come together on a deal. A Santana for Hanrahan swap straight up allows the Pirates to get an upgrade in the rotation that they desperately need, while the Angels get the closer that they are seeking. Side note — the Angels have a perfectly good closer candidate in Jordan Walden. Last year he was their closer and got them 32 saves and 10 K/9 innings, utilizing a 97 mph fastball. And since he was a rookie, he did it for the cost of $415,000. But some teams aren’t happy unless they are overpaying for a closer, so here the Angels sit looking to put Walden into the set-up role.
If the Angels true wish is to free up salary space in order to re-allocate it to either C.J. Wilson or Aramis Ramirez (they have a desperate need at 3B), then the $7 million saved in the deal (Santana’s $11M minus Hanrahan’s $4M) will allow them to have $22-27 million to spend on a bat and a starting pitcher, since they will have addressed their closer need.
The Pirates benefit is that they receive the “bridge” pitcher that can front the rotation for 2 years until either Cole and/or Taillon arrive in 2013. On the Pirates’ payroll side, the net $7 million increase will take them into the projected mid-$40 million range. It would still be conceivable that the Pirates could spend $9-10 million on a 1B like Derrek Lee or Carlos Pena and then be done for the offseason.