If the Angels target a free agent that rejected a qualifying offer, will they lose their first-round Draft pick? If so, wouldn't the Angels be a little reluctant to give that up with a below-average farm system?
-- @chavezjd11 via Twitter
The qualifying offer rules have changed quite a bit under the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The previous CBA required teams to surrender their top unprotected Draft pick if they signed a free agent who had rejected a qualifying offer. Under the new guidelines, teams will still have to cede one or more Draft picks if they sign a qualified free agent, but their highest first-round selection is exempt from forfeiture. Penalties are now determined by the financial status of the team that makes the signing.
Because the Angels did not exceed the luxury-tax threshold and did not receive revenue sharing, they would have to surrender their second-round pick in next year's Draft and $500,000 from their international bonus pool if they sign a qualified free agent this offseason. If they sign two, they'd also have to forfeit their third-highest remaining pick.
The nine free agents who rejected qualifying offers this year are: Lance Lynn, Jacob Arrieta, Wade Davis, Carlos Santana, Alex Cobb, Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain.
The Angels have already expressed some interest in Santana, so I don't think the Draft-pick forfeiture would be a deal-breaker if they believed they were getting good value on a qualified free agent.
With all the talk about signing a first baseman, what is the status of C.J. Cron? Is there a plan to move him?
-- @TonyV1982 via Twitter
I think the Angels aren't sold on Cron, who has a career .307 on-base percentage and has proven streaky over his first four seasons in the Majors. General manager Billy Eppler has said that he's still looking for ways to bolster the Angels' offense this offseason, specifically by boosting his club's on-base percentage to at least .330. I think he sees room for improvement at the corner infield spots, where Cron and Luis Valbuena both underwhelmed this season.
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Since Valbuena plays first and third base, the Angels have the flexibility to explore upgrades at either position. The market for free-agent first basemen is quite robust this winter, with Hosmer, Santana, Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso, Mitch Moreland and Lucas Duda among the available bats, so I think there is more potential for bargains there.
If the Angels add a full-time first baseman this offseason, they can deploy Valbuena at third and trade Cron. If they make a move for a third baseman, they will likely platoon Valbuena and Cron at first.
Assuming there are no additions over the winter, who would be your pick for the five starting pitchers?
-- @Angels_Zags via Twitter
Barring any injuries, I think Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs and Matthew Shoemaker are solid bets to open the season in the Angels' rotation. The fifth spot could get interesting, though. Nick Tropeano will be coming back from Tommy John surgery, but Parker Bridwell and JC Ramirez (assuming he's healthy) will also be rotation options, and they proved to be the Angels' two most valuable starters in 2017 after injuries decimated the pitching core. Right now, Tropeano would probably be my best guess to round out the rotation, with Bridwell beginning the year in the Triple-A rotation and Ramirez in the bullpen. That could obviously change during Spring Training in the event of injury or underperformance, though.
It looks like our starting outfield is now set for the next few seasons. We don't have much outfield depth at the highest levels of the Minors, so is Eppler likely to look to free agency for a fourth outfielder?
-- Derek H., San Dimas, Calif.
I think that's a good assumption. Ben Revere, Eric Young and Shane Robinson are free agents, so the Angels have only three outfielders on their current 40-man roster. I think prospect Michael Hermosillo will be added to the mix next week, but the Angels will still have to make other external additions to recoup their depth.