Rumor Royalty: Mike DiGiovanna (Angels)

Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times has been named Rumor Royalty for the Angels; he is the best source of Halos hot stove buzz.  He was kind enough to answer three questions for MLBTR.

MLBTR: What do you make of the Paul Konerko rumors?  Do you think the Angels and Sox have had post-Meetings discussions about him, despite Kenny Williams’ claim otherwise?

DiGiovanna: I had heard the White Sox and Angels might be up to something four or five days before that report came out. I made several calls looking into the matter, as did my counterpart from the Chicago Tribune, White Sox beat writer Mark Gonzales, and after two or three days, we determined that there had been exploratory conversations between the teams during the winter meetings but nothing substantive since. Neither of us decided to write anything on it. Then a report was published claiming the Angels and White Sox were discussing a deal that would send Howie Kendrick and Ervin Santana to Chicago for Konerko. I was very skeptical about it because the Angels would not trade Kendrick straight up for Konerko, let alone Kendrick AND Ervin Santana. Then that afternoon, Kenny Williams shot down the rumor forcefully, saying on the record that there had been no talks with the Angels since the winter meetings and that he hasn’t discussed Konerko. I know GMs don’t always tell the whole truth, but when a GM knocks down a rumor so forcefully, I tend to believe him.

I know Angels Manager Mike Scioscia likes Konerko a lot, but Konerko will be 32 this season, he’s got three years and some $30 million left on his contract, and I don’t think his power projects as well outside of U.S. Cellular Field, a known hitter’s haven. The Angels might get almost as much production, though without as many homers, from first baseman Casey Kotchman for a lot less money over the next three years.

MLBTR: Will the Angels will make a push to sign Francisco Rodriguez to an extension during the season?  What kind of dollars and years would you expect?

DiGiovanna: New GM Tony Reagins does not seem at all motivated to secure Rodriguez to a long-term deal, and since the two sides were unable to come to terms on a 2008 contract before exchanging arbitration figures last week—Rodriguez wants $12.5 million; the Angels offered $10 million—that’s an indication that they are still far apart on a multiyear deal. Rodriguez believes he is one of the top closers in the game and thinks he should be paid like one, so I would not be surprised if he is seeking a deal similar to the three-year, $45-million contract Mariano Rivera signed this winter. The Angels like Rodriguez and would love to lock him up for a few years, but I don’t think they want to pay him $15 million a year. I think Rodriguez will become a free agent after the season, the Angels will move Scot Shields into the closer role and, if there is still no spot for him in the rotation, convert Ervin Santana to a set-up man.

MLBTR: Is Ervin Santana the odd man out as far as the Angels’ six starters?  Do you expect him to be with the organization on Opening Day?

DiGiovanna: Barring injury to any of the other starters, yes, I think Santana will be the odd man out unless he has a phenomenal spring training and Joe Saunders struggles. John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Jon Garland and Jered Weaver are rotation locks, so Saunders and Santana will battle for the fifth spot. But in talking to Angels scouts and front-office executives, I get the sense they think Saunders—now that Bartolo Colon is out of the picture—has earned a big league spot, that he has done all he can in the minor leagues, and that another demotion to triple-A Salt Lake would be detrimental to the left-hander. They also like having at least one left-hander in their rotation.

However, I think Santana will not only be with the organization on opening day but on the big league roster. He has shown during his brief stints as a reliever that he can be very effective coming out of the bullpen, and he would be valuable as a swing man, a guy who could pitch long relief or spot start in case of injury. The Angels also may use this season to start grooming Santana into a short reliever.

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