Angels Acquire Gordon Beckham

Angels director of communications Eric Kay announced today that the team has acquired second baseman Gordon Beckham from the White Sox in exchange for a player to be named later and cash considerations (Twitter link). The Angels can clear a 40-man roster spot for Beckham by placing the injured Garrett Richards on the 60-day disabled list. The team announced earlier today that Richards is out six to nine months due a torn patellar tendon in his left knee that will require surgery.

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Beckham, 27, has struggled this season with the White Sox, hitting just .221/.263/.336 in 390 plate appearances. The former No. 8 overall draft pick hasn’t panned out the way the White Sox hoped back in 2008 as he is a lifetime .244/.306/.374 batter despite playing the majority of his games in the very hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Park-adjusted metrics such as OPS+ (83) and wRC+ (82) suggest that Beckham has been about 17 to 18 percent worse than a league-average hitter over the course of his career, although the offensive bar for a middle infielder is considerably lower than that of a corner infielder/outfielder.

Beckham will bring some degree defensive versatility to the Angels, and Jeff Fletcher of the O.C. Register tweets that he will come off the bench. Beckham has played primarily second base for the Pale Hose in his career, but he broke into the Majors primarily as a third baseman back in 2009 and was initially drafted as a shortstop out of the University of Georgia. Defensive metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved have pegged Beckham’s glove as roughly average over the past four seasons.

The Angels will have control of Beckham through the 2015 season if they wish, as he is arbitration eligible for the final time this offseason. Beckham’s agents at Relativity Sports avoided arbitration with the White Sox by securing a one-year, $4.18MM contract this winter. He is owed roughly $913K of that figure from now through season’s end. Despite the down performance in 2014, Beckham will be in line for a slight raise, making him a non-tender candidate following the season.

That Gordon reached the Angels means he either cleared waivers earlier this month or went unclaimed by every other team in the American League, as Anaheim currently possesses the best record in the Majors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Diamondbacks Outright Bradin Hagens

The D’Backs have trimmed their 40-man roster to 39 by outrighting minor league right-hander Bradin Hagens, tweets Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

The 25-year-old Hagens made his Major League debut for the Snakes just last week, appearing in two games and allowing a run on four hits and three walks in 2 2/3 innings. He’s split the majority of the season between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno, posting a combined 3.95 ERA with 4.8 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 120 2/3 innings.

Twenty of Hagen’s 26 minor league appearances this year were starts, but he’s no stranger to bullpen work. The 2009 sixth-round pick spent the first two seasons of his pro career as a reliever before converting to the rotation in 2011. He split the 2012 season between the ‘pen and the rotation before returning to the rotation full time in 2013, and he’s been starting in the minors since early May this year.


Garrett Richards Out Six To Nine Months For Knee Surgery

Angels right-hander Garrett Richards has been diagnosed with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee and will undergo surgery that will come with a recovery time of six to nine months, the Angels announced (Twitter links). Given the length of the recovery period, it’s possible that the Halos’ breakout star could miss the beginning of the 2015 season as well.

Richards is the second young pitcher that the Angels have lost this month, as they also received the news that lefty Tyler Skaggs required Tommy John surgery. If there’s a slight silver lining for Angels fans, it’s that Richards will almost certainly be able to contribute next season, whereas Skaggs is unlikely to do so.

Nonetheless, it’s a crucial blow to an Angels team that is in a close race with the Athletics for the AL West division title. The 26-year-old Richards has been an anchor for manager Mike Scioscia’s rotation this season, pitching to a 2.61 ERA with 8.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 50.9 percent ground-ball rate in 168 2/3 innings of work.

The Angels will now lean even more heavily on Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson atop their rotation, with likely contributions from Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago and perhaps Wade LeBlanc at the back of the starting five. LeBlanc was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake today after posting a 4.00 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 123 2/3 innings this season, but the 30-year-old veteran hasn’t seen consistent time in a  big league rotation since 2011 with the Padres. He has a career 4.56 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 424 1/3 Major League innings.

The Richards injury will only further speculation that the Halos could look outside the organization to add an arm for the stretch drive. Reports yesterday indicated that Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon has yet to hit the waiver wire, and he would be a logical target for the Angels if he reaches them (a team like the Mariners, however, could block their division rivals by placing a claim). MLBTR’s list of players that have reportedly cleared revocable waivers does include a few pitchers, but it seems highly unlikely that any of Yu Darvish, Jon Niese or Gio Gonzalez would truly be available. Hypothetically speaking, Niese is the most realistic option, as the Mets aren’t contending. However, the Angels’ depleted farm system likely doesn’t have the necessary chips to make such an acquisition.

Richards’ injury could also have an impact on GM Jerry Dipoto’s offseason strategy, as it likely increases the importance of adding veteran pitching depth — even on minor league deals. Of course, for the time being, Dipoto and his lieutenants will be focused on the next two months as they hope to make a postseason appearance, which would be their first since 2009.



NL East Links: Phillies, Colon, Cabrera, Braves

MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki runs down a number of decisions with which the Phillies are faced in the coming offseason and examines some of the perceived problems on the roster. Sources have indicated to Zolecki that despite manager Ryne Sandberg’s desire to play Darin Ruf more often at first base, the Phils feel they need to let Ryan Howard play if they have any hope of moving him to an AL club this winter. Zolecki adds that while Sandberg would like to learn more about Ruf via extra playing time, the organization feels it knows that Ruf is a platoon player — a view shared by other clubs as well.

Here’s more from the NL East…

  • Despite the common belief that the Mets should move Bartolo Colon this offseason, Ben Berkon of SNY.tv’s MetsBlog opines that the pitching-rich Mets should at least consider the possibility of moving a different starter such as Jon Niese. While Colon could potentially net some minor league pieces to help out in 2017-18, flipping Niese and his desirable contract (but oft-questionable health status) could bring the Mets more immediate help. Berkon speculates that Niese — perhaps paired with prospects Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Plawecki and/or Rafael Montero — could allow the Mets to land an impact bat that the Mets have been lacking despite strong seasons from Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.
  • The acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera has helped the Nationals not only on the field but in the clubhouse as well, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. Manager Matt Williams offered nothing but praise for Cabrera’s professionalism, and shortstop Ian Desmond said he strives to live up to the clubhouse reputation and league-wide repsect that Cabrera has built.
  • Between top prospects Christian Bethancourt and Jose Peraza, only Bethancourt should expect a September callup, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Peraza has very little experience above Class A to this point, whereas Bethancourt impressed the Braves in his handling of the pitching staff in a brief two-week audition this summer. Bowman feels that the Braves’ comfort level with Bethancourt’s glove increases reason to believe that Evan Gattis should be traded to an AL club this winter. That seems like a leap in my eyes, given Bethancourt’s modest production at Triple-A and struggles against MLB pitching. Of course, Bethancourt, 22, is quite young to have played a full season at Triple-A as well, making his pedestrian numbers more understandable.

Marcell Ozuna Joins Boras Corporation

Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna is now being represented by the Boras Corporation, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports.  According to MLBTR’s Agency Database, Ozuna had previously been represented by the Kinzer Management Group.

As Ozuna isn’t eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, it’s probably no surprise that Frisaro reports that Miami hasn’t discussed a contract extension with the 23-year-old outfielder.  The cost-conscious Marlins may not want to make a notable financial commitment to Ozuna unless they can get some kind of a bargain over his arb years, and Scott Boras’ track record would seem to make such a team-friendly deal unlikely.

Ozuna’s first full season in the majors has been a successful one, as the 23-year-old has posted a .261/.316/.440 slash line, a 110 wRC+, 18 homers and 56 runs scored in 448 PA.  He’s also been solid in center field, exhibiting a strong throwing arm and saving eight runs according to the Defensive Runs Saved metric.

MLBTR’s Agency Database contains agent information for more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any errors or omissions, please let us know via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.


Neal Cotts Staying With Rangers

Rangers left-hander Neal Cotts will not be traded, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  Cotts was recently claimed by an unknown club, giving the Rangers and this mystery team a 48.5-hour window to work out a trade.  Since no deal was worked out and Texas isn’t letting the claiming team take Cotts for nothing, it would appear that the veteran reliever will spend the rest of the season in Arlington.

Cotts, 34, has a 3.48 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.90 K/BB rate over 54 1/3 IP out of the Rangers’ bullpen this season.  It marks his second straight quality season with Texas (he had a 1.11 ERA over 57 IP in 2013), and Cotts’ performance is all the more impressive considering that he didn’t pitch at all in the majors from 2010-12 due to injury.  The southpaw will be a free agent this winter.

The Nationals were rumored to have interest in Cotts after the July 31st trade deadline had passed, though there’s no indication they were the team who claimed him.  It’s pretty unlikely that Cotts even reached the Nats given that every other team in baseball would’ve had to pass on the lefty before NL-leading Washington could’ve claimed him.


Phillies Notes: Burnett, Amaro, Tomas, Kendrick

Following a tough start on Tuesday night, A.J. Burnett sounded as if retirement was on his mind when asked by reporters if he planned to pitch in 2015.   “I have no idea.  Probably not, but we’ll see,” Burnett told the media, including Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  As Narducci notes, Burnett’s comments could be stemming from frustration given how both he and the Phillies have struggled this season, so it’s too early to assume Burnett is hanging up his glove.  Narducci also cites Burnett’s competitive nature and his increasingly pricey player option for 2015 as reasons why the veteran righty won’t want to end his career quite yet.

Here’s some more from the City of Brotherly Love…

  • In a radio interview with Mike Missanelli of 97.5FM radio yesterday, ESPN’s Jayson Stark said he wasn’t surprised that team president David Montgomery recently gave GM Ruben Amaro a vote of confidence but Stark feels no decision has been made about Amaro’s future yet.  The Phillies’ other owners could get involved, and the anti-Amaro sentiment amongst the team’s fans could also play a role.  “They are certainly going to make changes in the organization.  There’s a lot of rumors swirling about all sorts of stuff below Ruben,” Stark said.  With just one left year on Amaro’s contract, if the Phillies decide to keep him, Stark wonders if the GM could actually receive an extension in order to avoid lame-duck status.  (Hat tip to Peter Mucha of Philly.com for the partial transcript of Stark’s interview.)
  • “There are indications” the Phillies will make a strong play for Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports.  Tomas is expected to become eligible to sign this offseason, and the recently-defected outfielder is considered to be an intriguing power prospect.
  • Burnett retiring would only make the Phillies’ offseason need for starting pitching all the more dire, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes.  The Phillies could have as many as three rotation spots to fill given Cliff Lee‘s injury issues, Burnett’s uncertain status and pending free agency for Kyle Kendrick and Jerome Williams.  Lawrence predicts the Phils will target mid-tier starters this winter given how much payroll space is already tied up by Lee and Cole Hamels.
  • Speaking of Kendrick, the right-hander recently discussed his free agency in general terms with reporters, including MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.  Kendrick isn’t sure if he’ll remain in Philadelphia, saying “I want to go where whoever wants me. That’s where I want to go. If it’s here, great. If they want me. You want to go somewhere where you’re wanted. We’ll see. I don’t know.”
  • Ken Giles looks like a closer of the future for the Phillies, and ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) suggests that that the team could take the bold step of installing Giles as the closer right now.  The switch could also prevent Jonathan Papelbon from reaching his $13MM vesting option for 2016, which would help increase Papelbon’s trade value.  Olney notes that Papelbon could easily file a grievance over the situation, though I’d argue that given Papelbon’s past comments about wanting to play for a contender, he might begrudgingly go along with the move if it helps get him out of Philadelphia.

Astros Could Still Reach Deal With Brady Aiken

11:46am: “There’s nothing to report, nothing going on there,” Astros owner Jim Crane tells Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston (Twitter link) in regards to a possible Aiken deal.

11:25am: The Astros could still end up signing first overall draft pick Brady Aiken, and “the expectation from those close to the negotiation” is that the two sides will reach an agreement around the time of Jacob Nix‘s grievance hearing, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reports (Twitter links).  The MLBPA filed the grievance on Nix’s behalf last month, and the hearing will reportedly be held during the offseason.

As McDaniel puts it, the possibility of Aiken inking a deal beyond the July 18th deadline for signing draft picks is an “MLB’s discretion situation.”  It had been presumed that Houston had forfeited their right to sign Aiken (plus Nix and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall) when they couldn’t reach agreements with any of the players by July 18th.  In failing to sign Aiken, the Astros received the second overall pick in the 2015 draft as compensation.

Aiken had a verbal agreement in place with the Astros just a few days after he was selected as the #1 pick in the 2014 draft, but no official deal was finalized due to the team’s concerns over Aiken’s unusually small UCL, a detail discovered during a post-draft physical.  This led Houston to drop their offer from the agreed-upon $6.5MM bonus (which was already over $1.4MM below the assigned slot price of the first overall pick) to $5MM.  This set off a chain reaction that caused the Astros to pull their $1.5MM agreement with Nix off the table, as signing Nix at that price would’ve put the Astros over their draft pool limit and put them in danger of facing penalties such as the loss of two future first-round picks.

Needless to say, it would be surprising to see Aiken wind up wearing Astros orange given the harsh words that Casey Close (the agent for both Aiken and Nix) had for the organization and GM Jeff Luhnow in the wake of the controversy.  As it stands, Aiken would have to either attend a junior college and re-enter the draft next year or commit to a college and not be able to turn pro for three more years.  It’s possible the high schooler is simply eager to begin his professional career and/or wants some financial security now, given that anything could happen to lower his stock over the next 1-3 years.

For the Astros, signing Aiken would help the team save face after it was widely criticized for its handling of the situation.  Aiken has until September 1 to file a grievance himself, though that deadline could be extended.


NL West Links: Quackenbush, Peralta, Upton

With the injuries piling up within the Dodgers‘ rotation, Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times wonders if the team erred by not making any significant additions both at the trade deadline or even last offseason.  In refusing to deal any of their top prospects for Major League upgrades, “you have to wonder if the Dodgers’ desire to have it both ways — win now while simultaneously rebuilding the farm system — might not cost them their best chance at winning this season,” Dilbeck writes.  Here’s some more from around the NL West…

  • Rookie Kevin Quackenbush recorded his first career save last night, and if the youngster produces over the rest of the season, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune feels the Padres might go with the younger (and cheaper) option at closer in 2015.  This would make Joaquin Benoit, the Friars’ current stopper, into an offseason trade candidate.
  • David Peralta went from being a failed Cardinals pitching prospect to a reliable everyday outfielder for the Diamondbacks with an independent league stint in between, and FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi chronicles how Peralta’s unlikely career revival was due to one persistent D’Backs scout.
  • Justin Upton is enjoying another strong season with the Braves, which again begs the question of why the Diamondbacks traded of the star outfielder in January 2013.  A former D’Backs employee tells Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC subscription required) that the low-key Upton simply didn’t fit Arizona’s model for a superstar.  “Management there wants it done a certain way. They want their guys to be Luis Gonzalez, who was very active in the community,” the source said.  “They wanted Justin to be the face of the franchise — they had that ‘Uptown’ sign in the outfield — but that’s not Justin. He would say, ‘I just want to play the game.’

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Rusney Castillo Rumors: Thursday

There’s still a lot of uncertainty about where Cuban outfielder/second baseman Rusney Castillo will sign, even amongst Major League teams.  An executive who has been scouting Castillo for the last month tells Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that “no one knows who’s getting him or which teams will jump in unexpectedly.”  Following yesterday’s updates, here’s the latest on the Castillo sweepstakes…

  • Castillo privately worked out for the Reds and Mariners within the past week, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.  The late date of these workouts was due to scheduling, Rosenthal notes, and shouldn’t be thought of as a hint that Castillo is favoring either of these two clubs.  Six other teams (the Cubs, Giants, Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees) have now had Castillo in for a private workout, Rosenthal lists.
  • The Red Sox are one of the three teams “most actively involved” for Castillo’s services, Rosenthal reports.  Presumably the other two teams are the Tigers and Giants, as Rosenthal cited two days ago.
  • “There’s definitely a growing sense” the Cubs will be outbid for Castillo’s services, a source tells CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney.  Another source predicts Castillo will receive a contract “much closer” to $68MM (what Jose Abreu received from the White Sox) than $42MM (what Yasiel Puig received from the Dodgers).
  • MLive.com’s Chris Iott warns that a number of hurdles will have to be jumped for Castillo to be able to contribute to a team in September.  Fans also might want to temper their expectations for Castillo, as while he is expected to be ready for the majors immediately, Iott notes that it would be hard for a contender like the Tigers to just hand Castillo a starting job down the stretch in a pennant race.

Quick Hits: Colon, Angels, Cardinals, Stanton, Cashner

The Mets have not yet tried sending Bartolo Colon through revocable waivers, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. One reason this is significant is because Colon would represent one possible upgrade for an Angels team that just lost Garrett Richards to what appears to be a significant knee injury. It’s unclear whether Colon would be claimed by another team before getting to the Angels. He’s pitched fairly well this year, despite his age, and he’s set to make a reasonable salary of $11MM in 2015. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • At least so far, the David Freese / Peter Bourjos trade has worked out fairly well for the Angels, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes. Freese got off to a slow start but has hit well since June, while Fernando Salas has been steady out of the Angels’ bullpen. Meanwhile, Bourjos hasn’t hit well in a part-time role with the Cardinals (although he continues to provide defensive value), and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk has spent most of the season at Triple-A.
  • Calls for the Marlins to trade Giancarlo Stanton may have been premature, writes Rosenthal. Next season, Stanton will still only be 25 and under control through 2016, and the Marlins will have a healthy Jose Fernandez. They might also get more help from young hitters Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, so they could contend in 2015. While they likely won’t be able to sign Stanton long term before he becomes eligible for free agency following the 2016 season, they might be able to simply wait to trade him, perhaps for established players rather than prospects.
  • Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner will make his first start since June 18 on Saturday in Arizona, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. On his way back from a shoulder injury, Cashner pitched five innings in a rehab start for Triple-A El Paso Monday. Cashner has emerged as one of the top starters in the National League in the past two seasons, and he had a 2.76 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 76 1/3 innings this year before he got hurt.

Extension Candidate: Kole Calhoun

The Angels’ farm system hasn’t won much praise recently, but it seems to have produced a hit in Kole Calhoun. The outfielder sped through the minors despite a relatively modest pedigree (he was an eighth-round pick as a college senior in 2010), skipping Double-A and making it to the big leagues in two years. Last season, in his first extended shot in the Majors, he hit .282/.347/.462 in 222 plate appearances, and this year he’s proven that was no fluke, hitting .294/.349/.485 so far. Offensively, Calhoun combines high batting averages with good power, and he also provides reasonable baserunning and corner outfield defense.

Since he’s already nearly 27, Calhoun’s opportunities to cash in on his early-career success might be somewhat limited. He can’t become a free agent until the 2019-2020 offseason, by which point he’ll be 32. With so much time remaining before free agency, and after receiving a very modest $36K signing bonus out of college, it would probably behoove Calhoun to consider the security of a long-term deal. A pre-free agency extension might represent the best chance for Calhoun and his agent, Page Odle, to land a big contract.

USATSI_8000156_154513410_lowresGiven that the Angels already control what are likely to be Calhoun’s prime years, an extension need not be such a priority for them. And since he isn’t exceptionally athletic and already plays corner outfield, betting on him continuing to be productive well into his thirties seems excessive, from the Angels’ perspective. Signing Calhoun to an extension would, however, have the benefit of controlling his arbitration salaries while possibly also giving the Angels options to control a year or two more than they do now.

Extensions for players with between one and two years of service time used to be somewhat rare, but they’ve become increasingly common since Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo signed deals in Spring 2013. Via MLBTR’s Extension Tracker, seven players with between one and two years of service have agreed to extensions this year: Julio Teheran, Andrelton Simmons, Jose Quintana, Starling Marte, Yan Gomes, Jedd Gyorko and Sean Doolittle.

Since Marte is an outfielder, his six-year, $31MM deal (which also includes two options) is the most obvious precedent that might guide a long-term deal for Calhoun. Before that, the last extensions for outfielders with between one and two years of service time were those of Jose Tabata (2011) and Denard Span (2010). Both contracts are now too ancient to really matter, with contracts for players like Simmons and Freddie Freeman reshaping the extension landscape since then.

The problem with using Marte’s deal as a precedent, though, is that a Calhoun contract would have a slightly different purpose. Marte was a toolsy, high-upside 25-year-old at the time of his deal, so for the Pirates, his contract was about retaining him long term. Calhoun is older and may have already reached his upside. On the other hand, his offense-heavy profile is more likely than Marte’s was to get him paid in arbitration. Therefore, we might expect a Calhoun contract to be a bit shorter than Marte’s, and perhaps a bit less option-heavy. We might also expect Calhoun to make more than Marte in his seasons of arbitration eligibility.

The possibility of Calhoun becoming a Super Two player following the 2015 season is also a factor. Calhoun entered the 2014 season with 130 days of service. This year’s projected Super Two threshold is two years and 128 days of service time, which means Calhoun could end up on either side of the line. Quintana had one year and 133 days of service when he signed his extension before the season, and his contract with the White Sox contains a clause that pays him an extra $5.5MM if he becomes Super Two eligible. Perhaps a Calhoun extension could include a similar clause.

Of course, Super Two eligibility would not affect Calhoun’s free agency timeline. A five-year deal (beginning in 2015) with one team option might make sense for both Calhoun and the Angels — such a deal would buy out all of Calhoun’s pre-free-agency seasons while giving the Angels the rights to his first season of free agency eligibility. Calhoun would become eligible for free agency as a 33-year-old at the latest, potentially giving him another shot at a multi-year deal if he continued to hit.

Given that the Angels already control one or perhaps two of those five years at the league minimum, the total guaranteed figure for a Calhoun extension need not be huge. Marte will make $21MM over the course of his contract if one leaves aside the last guaranteed year (including his signing bonus and a $2MM buyout on his option in 2020). Calhoun might get a little more than that guaranteed over a five-year deal if he is not Super Two eligible (including a buyout on the Angels’ option for a sixth year), perhaps with a clause bumping his contract to $27MM-$30MM if it turns out he is.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL West Notes: Richards, Altuve, Athletics

Angels pitcher Garrett Richards suffered what appeared to be a significant knee injury while trying to make a play at first in the second inning of a game against the Red Sox Wednesday. He fell while still running to first and spent several minutes on the ground in obvious pain before being removed on a stretcher. There’s no word yet on the severity of the injury (which the Angels described as a “left knee/patellar injury“) but if it’s as serious as it appears to be, it would be a big blow to the Angels. Entering tonight’s game, Richards had posted a 2.53 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 167 innings this season, and the Angels are currently fighting the Athletics for first place in the AL West. Here are more notes from the division.

  • Diminutive Astros star Jose Altuve has made it big despite his size, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “He’s an anomaly,” says Astros assistant GM David Stearns. “He’s tough to explain, other than the fact he works as hard or harder than anyone, he’s got freakish hand-eye skills, he loves baseball and he wants to be great.” History indicates that Altuve is, in fact, very unusual, Kepner writes — there isn’t anyone in the Hall of Fame listed at 5-foot-6 or shorter who debuted in the Majors since the early 1940s. Altuve signed for just $15K as an amateur out of Venezuela.
  • The Athletics have struggled since their surprising trade of Yoenis Cespedes and a draft pick for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, John Branch of the New York Times notes. It’s not clear that the trade is to blame, however. “We were struggling some before the trade as well, and we haven’t been as good offensively as we have been for the better part of a season,” says manager Bob Melvin. “But I expect us to get much better offensively because we still do have a very deep lineup.”

AL East Notes: Miller, Beltran, Lester, Pompey

Andrew Miller‘s transition from the Red Sox to the Orioles has gone smoothly, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com reports. “There’s a ton of differences. Things in general match up,” says Miller, for whom the Orioles traded at last month’s deadline. “The winning teams I’ve been on have a nice, loose clubhouse that expects to win.” Miller has pitched brilliantly in his first 7 1/3 innings with the Orioles, striking out 11 and walking three while allowing just two hits and one run. Here’s more from around the AL East.

  • Carlos Beltran will see a doctor after feeling something wrong with his elbow while swinging last night, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets. The Yankees scratched Beltran from their lineup tonight. It’s been a rough season for Beltran, who’s hit .233/.291/.416 (weak numbers for a DH/OF with little defensive value) while battling injury in the first year of a $45MM deal.
  • Jon Lester is not likely to return to the Red Sox this offseason, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Instead, the Yankees and Cubs could emerge as possible suitors. It is, perhaps, no surprise that the Red Sox aren’t considered the favorites to sign him — they just traded him, and reportedly weren’t close in extension negotiations before that. Lester should be able to get a six- or seven-year deal in free agency, Heyman writes, and the Red Sox are likely to consider that to be too risky. Heyman does note, however, that the Red Sox may have been prepared to offer Lester five years and $100MM last month.
  • The Blue Jays have promoted top outfield prospect Dalton Pompey to Triple-A Buffalo. Pompey, 21, hit .295/.378/.473 in 127 plate appearances at Double-A New Hampshire. MLB.com ranks Pompey the No. 3 prospect in the Jays’ system (behind Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez), praising his plate discipline and speed.