AL West Notes: Cruz, Feliz, Blanton, Astros

Nelson Cruz's market seems almost non-existent in the eyes of Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan, who goes through every team in baseball to try and find a home for the outfielder.  Twenty-nine teams are "stretches" or "not a fit," while only the Orioles are a "decent" candidate, and Kendrys Morales might be a better fit for them.  A return to the Rangers would be a "stretch," and GM Jon Daniels recently said that he expects Cruz to sign elsewhere now that Shin-Soo Choo is in the fold.  MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth also took a crack at examining Cruz's market a few days ago — a reader poll pegged the Mariners as the best contender to sign Cruz, though they garnered just over 23% of the vote. 

Here's the latest from around the AL West…

  • Neftali Feliz wants to be a reliever for the rest of his career and he's intent on regaining his old job as the Rangers' closer, the righty tells MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan via a translator.  Feliz said he is "finally" recovered from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for most of 2012 and 2013, cutting short his stint in the Texas rotation at the start of the 2012 season.  Feliz has pitched well out of the bullpen in the Dominican Winter League and he'll compete with Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers for the closer's job in 2014.
  • The Angels will bring Joe Blanton to Spring Training and if they can't find a trade for the veteran hurler, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez opines (via Twitter), Blanton will simply be released.  Blanton posted a career-worst 6.04 ERA in 2013, though the advanced metrics (3.84 xFIP, 3.92 SIERA) indicate that ERA was inflated thanks to an ungainly 19.1% home run rate and a .346 BABIP.  The Halos would eat $8.5MM if they released Blanton — his $7.5MM salary for 2014 and the $1MM buyout of his $8MM 2015 option.
  • Gonzalez also tweets that he expects the Angels to sign another free agent pitcher to their rotation.
  • Since the Astros have been in full-on rebuilding mode for virtually all of GM Jeff Luhnow's tenure, some player agents told Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle this offseason that they were simply weren't that familiar with Luhnow.  “All of our current players have representatives, and I’ve dealt with a lot of the agents and agencies through the draft over the years…But yeah, it’s a different position that we’re in this year relative to last year. Remember, in 2011, I was hired in December, and at that point things were fairly far along and there was not a lot of flexibility of doing much except for trades we did," Luhnow said.  "To a certain extent, having the position flexibility and financial flexibility to participate in the free-agent market has been a new experience for me as a general manager, and a good one.” 
  • With all the big moves in the AL West this offseason, Drellich opines that some of the would-be contenders in the division could have already peaked in a couple of seasons' time, when the Astros will be ready to step up and contend themselves.
  • In AL West news from earlier today, Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson found a new agent and we got some updates on Mark Mulder's contract with the Angels.


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