- The Angels have acquired infielder Ryan Jackson from the Phillies in exchange for cash considerations, the Phillies announced. Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times tweets that Jackson will be assigned to Triple-A Salt Lake. Jackson, 28, returns to the Angels organization after pending the majority of the 2015 season playing for their Triple-A affiliate (he also went hitless in 14 plate appearances for their big league club last season). Jackson split last season between the Royals and Angels organizations and hit a combined .294/.372/.374 in 362 plate appearances. He’ll give the Halos some depth at shortstop with both Andrelton Simmons and Cliff Pennington on the disabled list — a pair of injuries that has forced the club to acquire Brendan Ryan from the Nationals and bring Gregorio Petit up from Salt Lake. Jackson was not on the 40-man roster, so no corresponding move is necessary for the Halos.
The Angels are on pace to exceed the league’s $189MM luxury tax threshold, GM Billy Eppler told reporters including Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). While other in-season moves could well impact the final result, that represents a notable development given the team’s oft-reported operating philosophy.
Los Angeles has long been said to target a level of spending that does not exceed the cap, with that reasoning often cited in explaining the team’s level of interest in seemingly appealing trade and free agent targets. For instance, the hopeful contenders forewent several notable corner outfield options this winter in favor of a budget platoon. Of course, running just past the cap number is quite a bit different than blowing past it with a major acquisition.
But with a whole variety of injuries hitting the club, especially in the pitching department, it was necessary to add reinforcements. The Angels acquired Jhoulys Chacin, taking over his $1.1MM salary, and added Tim Lincecum on a deal that will pay him a pro-rated portion of a $2.5MM annual payout (plus incentives). That last move has apparently pushed the organization past the line, at least if its roster composition holds its current form.
Some have suggested that the Halos could be more comfortable moving above the cap for a single year, and that appears to be the case. Indeed, owner Arte Moreno suggested as much before the 2015 season, and Eppler called it a possibility just this winter. All said, it seems that the club has heavily weighed the luxury tax, but obviously doesn’t view it as a hard cap.
For one thing, Los Angeles will only have to pay a 17.5% tax on any overages as a first-time offender. For another, it may be relatively easy for the team to duck back below the line next year — thus avoiding a bump in the rate — because several high-priced veterans will reach free agency, including C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver, Joe Smith, and (if his option isn’t exercised) Yunel Escobar.
It remains to be seen whether moving into position to hand over some extra cash will have much of an impact on the team’s plans the rest of the way. The Angels entered play today three games under .500, but they’re still fully in the mix in a crowded AL West. It’s possible to imagine the organization trimming some payroll to dip back under the limbo bar if it falls out of contention, or perhaps being slightly more comfortable in going further over, though it’s hard to see such considerations driving the decisionmaking.
Only six organizations have ever paid luxury tax bill, including the Angels in one prior season (2004). The Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, and Tigers appear currently set to do so in 2016. New York, of course, has accounted for the vast majority of the tax dollars over the years. Of course, other organizations could conceivably join them — most notably, the Giants and Cubs. San Francisco edged past the line in 2015 after several mid-season trade acquisitions.
Luxury tax calculations, notably, are not as simple as tabulating annual salaries. Long-term deals are averaged, and there are many nuances that make assessment based on public information a tall task — not least of which is the constantly changing set of players owed salary at the major league level and the ex post calculation of bonuses and options. Plus, there’s a charge (usually estimated at around $11MM) for all teams to account for assorted additional player expenses, such as insurance and pension benefits.
Reynolds, 24, was claimed off waivers from the Astros in early April. He’s bounced around the waiver wire a fair bit of late, with organizations obviously intrigued by his arm but finding it difficult to continue dedicating a valuable roster position to hold onto him.
Originally a third-round pick by the Halos, Reynolds rated as L.A.’s 16th-best prospect, per Baseball America, heading into the 2015 season. BA cited his upper-90s heater and hard-to-hit, but inconsistent, slider.
Reynolds hasn’t progressed as hoped since, however. He pitched to a 4.57 ERA with 10.4 K/9 against 5.8 BB/9 over 43 1/3 innings last year with the Angels’ Double-A affiliate. And Reynolds hadn’t taken a step forward in the early going this year upon returning to Arkansas. To date, he has posted a 5.62 earned run mark in 16 frames, with 15 strikeouts and a dozen walks on his ledger.
Former National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is staying in California, but he’s changing leagues and donning a new uniform. The Angels announced on Friday that they’ve signed Lincecum to a one-year, Major League contract for the remainder of the 2016 season. Lincecum, a client of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, will reportedly earn a $2.5MM pro-rated base salary for his time in the Majors.
The veteran can also earn up to $1.7MM in incentives under his new deal, though he’ll have to make the rotation and stay in it for much of the rest of the season to come close to maxing them out. Lincecum can earn four separate $125K roster bonuses upon his fourth, 30th, 60th, and 90th days on the active MLB roster, according to the Associated Press (via John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle; Twitter links). Days spent on the DL for a right hip injury won’t count toward the tally. The bigger chunk of Lincecum’s incentives are tied to games started. He’ll earn $25K upon his 11th start, $50K for his 13th, $100K if he makes a 15th, $200K for his 17th, and then $400K apiece if he can reach 19 and 21 starts. (For what it’s worth, that last mark looks to be out of the question unless Lincecum zips through the minors faster than expected.)
Los Angeles desperately needs solid innings with injuries running rampant throughout its staff. That dovetailed nicely with the availability of the soon-to-be 32-year-old righty, who put on a showcase about two weeks ago that drew wide attention around the league. Observers were interested to see how he looked after undergoing surgery last September to repair a hip that had seemed to further limit an already-diminished pitcher.
It remains to be seen just how much Lincecum has left in the tank, but obviously the hope is that he can at least provide a serviceable option for the Halos. Scouting reports suggested that Lincecum didn’t look like the two-time Cy Young winner of yore, but still profiled at least as a useful major league swingman. Per Eric Longenhagen, writing for ESPN.com, the one-time ace was working around the 90 mph level with his fastball, which is where he sat between 2012 and 2014.
That viewpoint on Lincecum’s stuff is certainly reflected in the price that the Angels will pay for his services, as is his recent track record. It’s tempting to see this as an upside play, but realistically it’s been quite a long time since Lincecum looked like the top-line arm he once was. Since the start of 2012, when he was coming off of what was then a typically dominant season entering his age-28 campaign, Lincecum has run up a 4.68 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 over 615 2/3 frames. Even as his walk rate has trended upward, he’s seen a year-over-year decline in strikeouts-per-nine over that four-year span.
Lincecum’s timeline remains unclear, but he’s said to have already reached 90 pitches several times in pen sessions and evidently waited to sign until he had built up his arm strength. On the one hand, that means that the Halos may not be able to hope for much gain in the velocity department, though he could still build up somewhat in live game action. On the other, it suggests that he may not require much more than a typical rehab trip through the minors.
Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported that the two sides were closing in on a Major League deal and that Lincecum would take his physical on Thursday of this week (links to Passan on Twitter). Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported that Lincecum had passed his physical and reported his base salary (Twitter links) as well as his incentives (link).
Angels general manager Billy Eppler tells Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times that he hasn’t taken a single call asking about the availability of Mike Trout in the midst of his team’s injury-riddled season. There’s been a perhaps surprising amount of speculation about the Halos eventually making Trout available with a poor on-field product at the moment (due in part, though not necessarily entirely due to the aforementioned injuries) and the team’s dismal farm system. As one rival GM put it when speaking to Shaikin: “You’re getting a guy who’s being paid at the very top of the food chain and trading three to five potential impact players in return. I don’t think there is a scenario where that is going to happen.”
More pertaining to the Halos and their division…
- Angels ace Garrett Richards spoke to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link) about his decision to hold off on the Tommy John surgery he was reported to require for a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. “The way my timetable lines up, as far as being back by 2018 if I did have surgery, is not any different if I have surgery now versus in a couple of months from now,” said Richards, who plans to first attempt stem-cell therapy to treat his injury. “This is just something that was an option, and I decided to take it. Why not, right?” Even the most optimistic projections for a Richards return would’ve been a late May/early June return for Richards in 2017, and if he follows a 14- to 16-month recovery timeline for Tommy John, then he’d indeed have missed most or all of the 2017 season anyhow.
- The Rangers optioned reliever Andrew Faulkner to Triple-A yesterday, which should clear a path for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to be activated from the disabled list today. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram tweets that with Choo’s return, he’ll return to his role as the everyday right fielder, with rookie Nomar Mazara sliding over to left field. The Rangers, following Delino Deshields’ recent demotion, will move forward with Mazara and Choo flanking a resurgent (and re-positioned) Ian Desmond in center field. Choo appeared in only five games for the Rangers this season before suffering a calf injury that necessitated a roughly six-week stay on the disabled list.
- Evan Gattis’ return to catching drew strong reviews from Astros right-hander Collin McHugh, writes MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Gattis, who was solely a DH in his first year with Houston, was recently optioned to Double-A Corpus Christi to once again familiarize himself with catching, and the plan is for him to catch a couple of times per week when he isn’t serving as the club’s designated hitter, per McTaggart. “The story of today is Evan Gattis,” said McHugh following a strong start against the White Sox. “…He’s a big league catcher and everybody needs to understand that and recognize that. He did a really phenomenal job tonight, both calling the game and blocking.” Despite hitting 27 homers last season, Gattis’ .285 on-base percentage made his work as a DH questionable overall. However, if he can deliver relatively similar production while serving as a part-time catcher in 2016, he’ll obviously become a considerably more valuable commodity for the Astros, even if his defense behind the dish isn’t premium.
MAY 19: Lincecum is taking a physical for the Angels today and, if and when he passes, his deal with the team will be complete, reports Passan (Twitter link). Lincecum will head to the minors to build up endurance, per Passan, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post adds that the expectation is that he’ll need about 25 days to do so (links to Twitter). Also, per Sherman, the deal will not be official for another 48 to 72 hours, which aligns well with the fact that he’s getting his medical work done now.
MAY 18: The sides are still moving toward a deal, but likely won’t finalize things today, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link).
MAY 17, 3:46pm: The two sides are indeed moving closer to a deal, but they’re “still working through a few issues” and the deal isn’t quite finished, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
2:39pm: Right-hander Tim Lincecum is “leaning toward” signing with the Angels and could wrap up a deal today, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Meanwhile, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the two sides are “closing in” on a deal, adding that the White Sox and Giants are out of the mix (links to Twitter). Passan adds that the dollars remain unknown, but the deal being discussed is a Major League pact. Lincecum is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.
Lincecum, 32 in a month, underwent season-ending hip surgery early last September and spent the offseason recovering from the procedure. Initial reports pegged his first showcase for teams in late January to early February, but the audition was ultimately pushed back until early May. More than 20 clubs were said to have watched Lincecum throw back on May 6, though the three clubs listed by Passan above were the primary clubs said to have interest. ESPN’s Eric Longenhagen wrote following the showcase that Lincecum sat in the upper 80s to low 90s with his fastball and displaying a slider that looked above-average at times, a “generally average” curveball and a more inconsistent changeup.
Whether Lincecum can succeed as a starter in the Majors following the operation remains to be seen. While he was, of course, one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball shortly after his arrival on the scene in the Majors (back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008-09 and a 2.81 ERA in 881 2/3 innings from 2008-11), his production has deteriorated since his velocity began to drop off in 2012. Since that time, Lincecum has a 4.68 ERA in 615 2/3 innings of work, and his most recent big league action, last season, came with a fastball that averaged 87.2 mph in his 76 1/3 innings of work. Lincecum did have a very successful 2011 season sitting at about 92 mph with his fastball, so he doesn’t necessarily need the heater that averaged 94+ mph when he first broke into the Majors in order to succeed. However, the upper 80s and low 90s have been where he’s struggled for much of the past four seasons, so it’d be nice for the Halos if the velocity he showed at his audition continued to tick upward as he gets into game action.
Lincecum was said to be throwing about 90 pitches per outing in simulated games, though I’d imagine that he’ll still require some time in the minor leagues to re-acclimate with a game setting at the professional level. His preference all along has seemingly been to return to a rotation, and of the listed clubs, the injury-ravaged Angels present the clearest opportunity for him to do just that. The Angels have lost ace Garrett Richards to a significant elbow issue, while left-hander Andrew Heaney is on the DL indefinitely and is said to have some damage to his own UCL. Fellow left-hander C.J. Wilson has yet to pitch in 2016 and isn’t expected back for another month or so, and former ace Jered Weaver is sporting a 6.10 ERA with a fastball that is averaging just north of 82 mph this season. Meanwhile, rehabbing southpaw Tyler Skaggs has seen his return from Tommy John surgery slowed by other arm difficulties and hasn’t been pitching in game settings recently.
Suffice it to say, the Halos could use all the rotation depth they can get. A trade for Jhoulys Chacin last week helped to address the need to some extent, but with what figures to be a fairly reasonable price tag and an enormously attractive pedigree, Lincecum makes sense for the Angels as an upside play. Even in the event that he simply pitches more like a capable fourth starter than the ace he once was, Lincecum would be a dramatic improvement to the club’s rotation picture. And, if he continues to exhibit the same struggles he’s had in recent seasons, it’ll be easier for the Halos to move on than it would have been for a club like the Giants, with whom Lincecum has a storied history that could make a split between the two sides difficult from a public relations standpoiint.
- Righty Javy Guerra has accepted his outright assignment with the Angels, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (Twitter link). Guerra cleared waivers yesterday. He’ll look to cut back on his walks upon his return to Triple-A Salt Lake and hope for another promotion to a big league team that’s cycling through plenty of arms.
MAY 18: The Angels decided against adding Cotts to the 25-man roster and have released him, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. He’s now a free agent and can sign with any club.
MAY 17: Veteran southpaw Neal Cotts has exercised an opt-out clause in his deal with the Angels, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). That provision came with a May 15 date, so the team’s clock on deciding whether or not to add him to the active roster has already begun to run.
It’s not clear whether today represents the deadline for the Halos to act on Cotts, but such provisions typically have a 48-hour window. With numerous other pitching moves in the works for the organization — including a minor league deal for David Huff earlier today — it remains unclear whether he fits at the major league level.
Cotts, 36, joined the Angels on a minor league deal after he was released by the Astros late in the spring. He’s since thrown 13 2/3 innings at Triple-A, posting a 3.29 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9.
Cotts has generally been a sturdy option since re-emerging from a long layoff back in 2013 with the Rangers. Since that time, he’s run up a 3.03 ERA over 187 MLB frames, with 186 strikeouts against 63 walks.
Angels catcher Geovany Soto will miss the next four to six weeks due to a torn meniscus in his right knee that will require surgery, GM Billy Eppler told reporters, including Pedro Moura of the L.A. Times (links to Twitter). Catching prospect Jett Bandy will join the Angels tonight, Moura adds.
Soto becomes the latest in a seemingly ceaseless cavalcade of injuries for the Angels, who currently have Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, C.J. Wilson, Andrelton Simmons, Huston Street, Daniel Nava, Craig Gentry, Cory Rasmus and Cliff Pennington on the Major League disabled list. That list doesn’t include left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery but has had some recent setbacks at the Triple-A level.
Soto, 33, has hit well in limited action with the Halos this season, batting .283/.338/.483 with three homers in 67 trips to the plate. He signed a one-year, $2.8MM contract with the Angels this offseason. With Soto on the shelf, Bandy will pair with 25-year-old Carlos Perez behind the plate to comprise the Angels’ primary catching tandem. Bandy made his big league debut for the Angels in 2015 but received just two plate appearances in his brief promotion to the Majors. The former 31st-round pick rated 23rd (MLB.com) and 27th (Baseball America) in a weak Angels farm system heading into the season. He’s off to a .274/.314/.411 start with a pair of homers at Triple-A Salt Lake this season, and he’s caught 13 of 27 potential base thieves (48 percent). Bandy has halted 36 percent of stolen base attempts over the course of six minor league seasons.
- The Angels’ bad luck in the injury department has shown no signs of abating, as the team has placed outfielder Daniel Nava and reliever Cory Rasmus on the 15-day DL. As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes, both players are dealing with groin strains, though neither is expected to be out for much more than the minimum.