Angels Make Good Trade Partners With Yankees

Well, the David Price madness is finally starting to settle down. A few days ago half the Yankee fanbase went nuts when the rival Red Sox signed David Price to an awful contract that will surely come back to haunt them in the future. For more on that you can read here.

But with that simmering down, it's time to refocus on the Yankees and what they can be doing to improve this offseason. It's mostly been quiet and I personally don't think that's a good thing, at least if it stays that way. I don't want to Yankees to go make it rain on Zack Greinke or Jason Heyward, but the team definitely needs improvement if it wants to be a serious contender this year.

One way to do that that's been a very popular discussion is to trade Brett Gardner for a starting pitcher (presumably signing Justin Upton or Alex Gordon to fill the hole, or something of that nature). Now I'm all for that - if it's in the right deal.

While there's been no official link between the two teams, there's been speculation the Los Angeles Angels may have interest our very own Yankee, Brett Gardner.

It makes a lot of sense. LAA really doesn't and hasn't had an above average leadoff hitter the last few years which tends to limit potential damage that can be done with offensive stalwarts Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. Do they still produce? Absolutely, but with a competent leadoff hitter, it could be even better.

For having two of the top offensive players in all of baseball, the Angels actually struggled last year in run manufacturing categories such as OBP (24th), R (20th), and SB (28th).

This is where Brett Gardner comes in. Despite a horrendous second half, Gardner sported a .343 OBP which was a lot better than I expected. In fact, it ranked 28th in the American League ahead of exceptional players like Robinson Cano, Evan Longoria, and Adrian Beltre. And had he played for the Angels, he would've had the second highest OBP on the team, second only to yearly MVP contender Mike Trout.

As far as the Run and Stolen Base category goes, we all know that Brett Gardner is a speedster. There's absolutely justified criticism about his hesitance to use it, but there's no denying it's there. If a team like the Angels was aggressive in giving Brett Gardner the steal sign, there's a real possibility they could get 20-30 stolen bases from Gardner as well as a guy who can go first to third and otherwise take the extra base as needed.

In other words, Brett Gardner makes a lot of sense for the Angels. Adding a leadoff hitter like him really boosts the potential output of the lineup and the fact that they couldn't get guys on base last year really hurt them. The question here, is what the Angels be willing to give up? 

It's no secret the Yankees have been seeking young, controllable starting pitching and the Angels have two names that fit the bill. Here's a disclaimer to say I'm unfamiliar with how willing the Angels are to trade either of these names, but if they were, these trades could make sense in a deal for Gardner.

Plan A: Garrett Richards
I would imagine most baseball fans are at least a little familiar with Garrett Richards. Richards broke out in a big way in 2014 posting a 2.61 ERA (2.60 FIP) and outstanding 8.75 K/9. Unfortunately a freak injury suffered while covering first base prematurely ended his stellar season.
In 2015, Richards was still good, but understandably a little rusty. He turned in a 3.65 ERA with a 7.64 K/9 ERA, which was certainly a step back from 2014, but still was pretty good. If those numbers are the floor for Richards, there's a lot to like here.

Richards, in a rough comparison, is what the Yankees wanted in Nathan Eovaldi: A hard thrower who can overpower and strike guys out. The difference here is that Richards can actually do that. Richards has averaged 96.02 MPH on his fastball the last two years and has topped out at 99 MPH, showing  he can consistently throw gas and reach back when he needs to.

In fact, his fastball might be responsible for his greater success. In 2014 Richards threw 943 fastballs as opposed to 782 sliders and the result was a fantastic 2.61 ERA. Conversely, in 2015, Richards opted to throw the slider more - 1078 of them - as opposed to 782 fastballs and posted an ERA over a full point higher. It's never this easy, but a return to 2014 form might be as simple as getting Garrett to throw more heaters.

The best part is that Richards is only 27. He's an ace caliber pitcher at best and a low 2, high 3 starter at worst. That's a pitcher the Yankees could certainly use, and in a trade where they send Brett Gardner to the Angels, I think they have to insist that Richards is a part of it. Whether or not the Angels would part with him is up for discussion, but assuming they would, we can discuss a potential trade.

I don't think Brett Gardner for Garrett Richards in a straight exchange is going to happen, but it at least gets the ball rolling. It would likely go a long way add in a pitcher to replace the hole that would be left in the Angel rotation. Two names that I think make sense are Ivan Nova and Bryan Mitchell.

Nova might be a hard sell. He's shown flashes of brilliance, but has been very inconsistent and that was no different this year. Still, he might benefit from a move away from Yankee Stadium to a more spacious field in Anaheim. Bryan Mitchell is in a way a similar profile to Garrett Richards - a hard thrower with good, raw stuff - he just has yet to harness it at a big league level. 

I think offering both in addition to Gardner would be a very tantalizing idea for the Angels. They would be getting a true leadoff hitter (which they've been missing for a while) and a starter who's shown brilliance in the past and guy who, if all goes right, could very well turn out to like Garrett Richards. Ideally for the Angels, either Mitchell or Nova settles into a nice starter and the other could be an equally good bullpen pitcher. On top of the leadoff production that Gardner would provide, I think that's a deal that makes each team better.

Plan B: Hector Santiago
However, the previous package just might not work. It's difficult for New York because adding any of their top prospects would really make it an overpay, one I'm not sure you can justify. As a result the next guy to look at is fellow 27 year old Hector Santiago.

Santiago is a southpaw who, on the surface, has actually turned in some pretty respectable numbers his short time in the league. He actually owns a lifetime 3.55 ERA and turned in a 3.59 ERA campaign this past year. Like I said, on the surface, it doesn't look too bad.

But these numbers don't tell the whole story. His lifetime FIP is actually 4.54 which is particularly troublesome, but even more so is the 4.77 FIP he posted this past year. The culprit? Santiago allowed 29 homers in 2015. Yikes. That's more than Masahiro Tanaka did (25).

Santiago is a deception and location pitcher and isn't going to blow you away with his fastball, but then again, a lot of left handed pitchers seem to fit that description. Santiago really relies on a slider that he threw 1878 times in 2015. The next most often thrown? A changeup 527 times then a cutter thrown 332 times. So, it seems like Santiago is really a two pitch pitcher who's content to use the slider most the game while occasionally mixing it up with a changeup now and again.

I'm not sure how I feel about a guy with such a limited repertoire in Yankees Stadium, especially considering the fact he gave up 29 homers last year. That could sky rocket with the short porch in right field. Then again, there's a good comparison that leans in Santiago's favor and that comparison is Andy Pettitte.

Pettitte was never going to blow anyone away, but through deception and location he was able to remain successful despite playing in such a small ballpark. Left handed pitching tends to neutralize left handed hitting and that is huge in preventing home runs to right field in Yankee Stadium.

So a trade for Santiago would be relying heavily upon factor like that. It would be a trade for results like the 3.55 ERA as opposed to worrying about how he gets to those numbers. And it really could work. It worked for Pettitte. The Yankees have been missing a good left handed starter the last few years and perhaps Santiago could manage to be that.

I do think the Angels would be far more willing to deal Santiago than Richards and as a result a deal may not be as hard to reach. If I'm the Yankees though, I tell the Angels they can have Brett Gardner straight up for Santiago or otherwise there's nothing to talk about. Those previously mentioned peripherals are no doubt scary and I don't think the Yankees would be wise to trade anything more for a guy who might just meltdown in Pinstripes. Gardner for Santiago would be a good, but not great move for the Yankees, thus the team should be reluctant to add anymore.

Article by: Nick Scott
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All statistics provided via Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, and MLB.com
All photos provided via Foxsports.com

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