- First baseman/outfielder Ji-Man Choi has been outrighted to Triple-A by the Angels after clearing waivers, the team announced. He had been designated for assignment recently. Choi, 25, hit a robust .346/.434/.527 over 227 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors and earned his first trip to the majors in 2016. He put up a meager .170/.271/.339 slash there, however, over his 129 trips to the plate. The left-handed hitter could still compete for a bench spot in camp, particularly if Albert Pujols is slow to return from his offseason surgery.
To set the stage for the remainder of the offseason, we’ll take a look at the most pressing remaining needs of every team in baseball over the coming week or so, division by division. (Hat tip to MLBTR commenter mike156 for the idea.) We often discuss things through the lens of an organization’s trajectory; thus, a rebuilding team might “need” to move some salary, while a contender might “need” an expensive starter. But with camp in sight, every club is making final calls on who’ll compete for big league jobs in the season to come (while also pursuing broader opportunities), so the focus here is on specific positions on the MLB roster. Fortunately, the task of roster analysis is made much easier by the MLB depth charts available at RosterResource.com. Each team listed below is linked to its respective depth chart, so you can take a look for yourself.
- First Baseman/DH: The Rangers make obvious sense for a first base/DH addition after watching Mitch Moreland and Carlos Beltran depart via free agency. Texas can utilize Joey Gallo and/or Jurickson Profar in those roles, but neither has hit to expectations in the majors. The club has been tied frequently to Mike Napoli, but there are other options on the open market as well. Relatedly, the Rangers will need to decide what to do with both Gallo and Profar in the near term, as both appear to have uncertain futures in Texas.
- Starting Pitcher: Though the Rangers already slotted in Andrew Cashner after declining a club option over Derek Holland, the team also lost Colby Lewis from last year’s staff. He is among the veterans still available in free agency, presumably on short-term arrangements, and Texas could certainly stand to bolster the back of its rotation. At present. A.J. Griffin seems likely to take the fifth slot, though a few upper-level youngsters could also factor in. Texas would do well at least to enhance the overall depth here, at a minimum.
- Sorting out the bullpen: Texas has a variety of interesting arms available to take closing duties, with last year’s ninth-inning man Sam Dyson returning. But the club has been rumored to be dangling some of its righty arms in trade, and could conceivably deal from what is something of a surplus to improve elsewhere (or even just to bolster its prospect pool).
- Starter: Seattle’s first three rotation spots are set. Behind that group, though, the club is currently set to sort through Ariel Miranda, Nathan Karns, Chris Heston, Rob Whalen, Brad Mills, and Christian Bergman in camp. Adding another established arm isn’t perhaps an outright necessity, but it would go a long way to firming up the roster.
- First Base/Corner Outfield mix: Currently, the M’s project to utilize some sort of platoon involving youngster Dan Vogelbach (a lefty hitter) and Danny Valencia (a righty). But the latter could also factor into the outfield mix while also providing a reserve at third. Meanwhile, the corner outfield situation includes a whole variety of options, including lefty Seth Smith, who is said to be on the trade block. Adding a righty slugger from the still-stocked free-agent market while thinning the corner outfield herd could make good sense for Seattle.
- Utility Infielder: With Jean Segura locked in at shortstop and the durable Robinson Cano set to return at second, there’s not a huge need in the middle infield. But projected reserve Shawn O’Malley has never hit much in the upper minors or in his brief MLB time, so at least adding some camp competition would be worthwhile.
- Left-handed Reliever: Entering the winter, Houston was said to be looking for a southpaw to pair with Tony Sipp, who disappointed after returning via free agency last winter. Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan, J.P. Howell, and Travis Wood (who’d also represent some rotation depth) are among the open-market options. Houston could also continue exploring the trade market; the club is said to have checked in on Justin Wilson of the Tigers.
- Starter: Houston has a five-man rotation mix in place after already adding Charlie Morton early in the offseason, and possesses some quality young arms as well, but the team could certainly stand to improve its starting staff as a way of rounding out an aggressive winter. The club has been tied to pitchers such as Jose Quintana, Danny Duffy, and Yordano Ventura, while the free-agent market still includes Jason Hammel and a few bounceback options. Even if a larger strike doesn’t prove achievable, adding a minor-league free agent could make sense.
- Another bat? There are limits to the number of true needs for some organizations, and that’s particularly true of Houston, which has accounted for most of its roster holes and touts plenty of versatility on its roster. But the club has looked for ways to add yet more talent in a variety of ways, and reportedly stayed involved on Edwin Encarnacion right up to his eventual signing. It would rate as a surprise at this point, but the ’Stros could conceivably add a power bat at first base (bumping Yulieski Gurriel into the corner outfield mix) or acquire a center fielder (shifting George Springer back to a corner spot) if an opportunity arises.
- Closer: While Los Angeles has options for the ninth inning — Huston Street could re-take the reins if he can return to form, Cam Bedrosian has the arm for the job, and Andrew Bailey is back after spending time as the closer late last year — that doesn’t mean the organization should rest on its laurels. Several experienced late-inning arms remain available in free agency, potentially creating a solid value opportunity and adding what could be an open camp competition for the closer’s job.
- Left-handed Reliever: Jose Alvarez has turned in two solid campaigns as a lefty setup man, but he’s hardly an overwhelming pitcher. Adding another lefty — some possible options are noted above — might provide a nice boost to the late-inning mix while allowing the club to use Alvarez for matchups earlier in a game.
- Rotation Depth: Signing Jesse Chavez likely rounds out the Halos’ staff, but that doesn’t mean there’s adequate depth. That’s especially true given the health questions surrounding Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, and Matt Shoemaker. While pitchers like Alex Meyer, Nate Smith, Chris Jones and perhaps Manny Banuelos and John Lamb provide upper-level depth, it wouldn’t hurt to plug in a veteran on a minor-league deal (or perhaps even aim higher, if a good value can be found on a pitcher such as Hammel).
- Center Fielder: The A’s currently project to utilize some combination of Brett Eibner and Jake Smolinski up the middle, making for one of the least promising center-field situations in baseball. At a minimum, adding a veteran, left-handed hitter (such as Michael Bourn) would allow the team to set up a platoon. There are also some bounceback players on the open market (including Austin Jackson and Desmond Jennings), and the A’s could still pursue a more impactful asset via trade.
- First Base: It came as something of a surprise when Oakland reached agreement on an arb deal with Yonder Alonso, who had seemed a non-tender candidate. But the club has still looked to improve at first, most notably chasing Encarnacion, despite also possessing some other internal possibilities. Stephen Vogt is one, though he could serve as the DH and still appear at times behind the dish; Mark Canha is back as a righty bat; and Ryon Healy may profile as a first bagger if he can’t handle the hot corner defensively. With so many sluggers still floating around in free agency, Oakland could add some thump while deepening its overall roster. As an alternative, the A’s could add a third baseman (Luis Valbuena and Trevor Plouffe remain available) while bumping Healy into the first base/DH mix.
- Veteran Starter: While the A’s are said to be high on their rather expansive mix of young starters, the current staff is short on MLB experience outside of staff ace Sonny Gray, who will be looking to return to form in 2017. There’s not a need, strictly speaking, for innings, but Oakland has had success in the past with short-term starters, and a targeted strike could pay dividends — by improving the team’s near-term outlook, but also by adding depth to account for a hypothetical mid-season trade of Gray and reducing the need to press less-established arms into major-league service.
In the wake of Edwin Encarnacion’s signing, there are now a whole lot of power hitters who could be next in line to sign. That situation provides much of the impetus behind the latest notes column from Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. You’ll want to read the whole thing to get his full take on the market, but here are a few notable items of information:
- The Athletics’ entry into the chase for Encarnacion helped push the action that led to his signing, per Heyman. Oakland proposed two separate scenarios, he notes, one of which would’ve been a straight two-year, $50MM deal and the other of which would have tacked on a third-year option in exchange for an opt-out clause. Before those offers pushed the Indians to boost their own deal, Encarnacion had been fielding many less-desirable possible arrangements. Indeed, the Blue Jays were mostly engaged with their former star on one-year possibilities most recently, Heyman notes.
- With Encarnacion now off to Cleveland, the many remaining sluggers will be looking to land with a variety of other suitors. Heyman suggests that the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rangers are all “very likely” to add bats, while listing a number of other teams that could get involved as well. That includes the Rays, Giants, Phillies, White Sox, Angels, and Rockies, each of whom has at least some interest in the remaining market.
- Mark Trumbo is probably now the player with the highest earning capacity who has yet to sign, but his landing spot remains hard to peg. Beyond the Orioles and Rockies, Heyman says, “a couple more opportunities may have cropped up” of late.
- It seems unlikely that the Blue Jays will punt a pick to sign Jose Bautista (which they’d technically be doing, as they’d no longer be in line for the comp pick they stand to gain when he signs elsewhere), he adds, even if he’s now available on a one-year pact. Toronto does need to make some outfield additions, though, and Heyman writes that the club has kept tabs on free agents Michael Saunders and Brandon Moss, along with “many others.” The Orioles are also said to have interest in Saunders, as has been suggested previously, and Heyman suggests that the Phillies — who’d prefer to add a lefty bat — have some interest in Moss.
- Mike Napoli was said to be seeking a three-year deal earlier this winter, but this report now indicates that he’s seeking a two-year contract, which seems quite a bit more plausible. The Rangers are reportedly a “strong possibility” for Napoli, though Heyman notes the possibility of the ever-popular “mystery team” in Napoli’s market, suggesting that Napoli has at least one suitor that has yet to be linked to him publicly.
- While the Dodgers are willing to give up Jose De Leon in a trade that would net them Brian Dozier from the Twins, they’re not willing to include first base prospect Cody Bellinger or well-regarded right-handed pitching prospects Yadier Alvarez or Walker Buehler alongside De Leon. Heyman writes that some clubs feel the Dodgers are being “stingy” with their prospects and overvaluing their minor league talent, though as he points out, that approach worked to their benefit with regards to Corey Seager and Julio Urias (although none of the names listed are as well-regarded as that pair was).
- In addition to Jered Weaver, veteran right-handers Jake Peavy and Colby Lewis are on the Padres’ radar. Peavy would love the opportunity to return to San Diego, where he established himself as a star and won the 2007 National League Cy Young Award. I’ll point out that Lewis, too, has some connections to the Padres, as GM A.J. Preller was in the Rangers’ front office when Lewis returned from Japan and cemented himself as a Major League-caliber arm.
The Angels have officially agreed to a one-year, $4MM contract with free-agent outfielder Ben Revere, as ESPN.com’s Buster Olney first reported (Twitter links). There are also incentives in the deal based upon plate appearances that could boost its final value by up to $2.25MM, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag adds (Twitter links). Los Angeles has designated first baseman Ji-Man Choi for assignment to create roster space, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports on Twitter.
With Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun entrenched as everyday options in center and right, it seems likely that Revere will mostly share time with Cameron Maybin in left field. The Maybin-Revere pairing figures to represent a higher-grade version of last year’s left-field platoon; while they’ll cost a combined $13MM, both are youthful players who won’t come with any future obligations.
[RELATED: Updated Angels Depth Chart]
Of course, there’s a reason that the fleet-footed Revere was available for such a limited commitment. Though he has been a heavily utilized player for the better part of the last six seasons, and offers quite a lot of versatility, Revere is coming off of a 2016 season which was the worst of his career at the plate.
Revere came to the Nationals last winter after playing in over 150 games in each of the two prior seasons — over which he carried a solid .306/.333/.369 batting line. He also swiped a combined eighty bags and rated as one of the game’s most valuable overall baserunners.
But things simply never took in D.C. After an oblique injury slowed him at the start of the season, Revere ultimately hit just .217/.260/.300 over 375 plate appearances. Though he continued to display excellent contact ability (34:18 K/BB ratio), his BABIP plummeted by about a hundred points (to .234) and drug his average down with it. And while Revere did steal 14 bases, he delivered only average value on the bases.
Given the struggles, Revere’s projected $6.3MM arbitration salary proved too rich for the Nats, who non-tendered him. Now, he’ll join fellow former Nationals Danny Espinosa and Yunel Escobar (each of whom was acquired via trade) as important role players in Los Angeles.
For the Halos, Revere appears to represent a solid value that solidifies an excellent outfield and adds flexibility for skipper Mike Scioscia. If he can return to being even a marginal offensive presence, Revere figures to represent at least a strong fourth outfielder who won’t cost quite as much as many similar players. While he carries neutral platoon splits, the left-handed-hitting Revere represents a natural platoon mate for Maybin and is plenty capable of spelling Trout at times up the middle.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Angels on Friday announced that they’ve claimed right-hander Blake Parker off waivers from the Brewers, marking the second time that the Halos have won a waiver claim on Parker since the regular season ended. Anaheim also claimed Parker from the Yankees back on Oct. 5, but designated him for assignment in late November when clearing spots on the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft. The Brewers scooped Parker up on waivers shortly thereafter, but his stay in the Milwaukee organization will ultimately last just one month.
The 31-year-old Parker split the 2016 season between the Mariners and Yankees, and wound up pitching 17 1/3 innings in the Majors. During that brief stint, he turned in a 4.67 ERA ball with 15 strikeouts against eight unintentional walks. Parker actually averaged a career-best 92.2 mph on his fastball in 2016 and comes with a 3.67 career ERA in 90 1/3 innings at the Major League level. He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher and has averaged 10.5 K/9 in parts of nine seasons at Triple-A but has also averaged 4.2 walks per nine innings there.
3:38pm: The Brewers have announced the trade.
3:07pm: Righty Drew Gagnon is the other piece of the deal, Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America tweets. The 26-year-old spent most of 2016 at the Triple-A level with Milwaukee, converting mostly relief work after spending most of his prior professional career as a starter. He worked to a 5.56 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 over 55 innings at Colorado Springs.
2:53pm: The Brewers have agreed to a trade with the Angels to acquire catcher Jett Bandy, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). Heading back in return are fellow catcher Martin Maldonado and a minor-league pitcher, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.
The 26-year-old Bandy has just one full season in the majors under his belt. He slashed .234/.281/.392 with eight long balls last year for the Halos over 231 plate appearances. Stat Corner rated him as an average framer, while Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) was slightly more bearish — though it gave him better marks as he came up through the system.
Maldonado, 30, is in his second year of arb eligibility. MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz project him to earn $1.6MM. Functioning mostly in a reserve capacity behind former Milwaukee backstop Jonathan Lucroy, Maldonado has posted a .217/.299/.342 batting line in 1,094 plate appearances over the last six seasons.
Though he is somewhat limited with the bat, Maldonado has high-quality framing metrics. He’s mostly average in other areas of catching defense (per BP, subscription required), but certainly comes with a quality overall reputation behind the dish.
The Nats’ decision to move on from Espinosa came shortly after Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reported the 29-year-old’s displeasure with the club’s acquisition of outfielder Adam Eaton. In trading a haul to the White Sox for Eaton, the Nationals picked up a player who should be their long-term answer in center field, thereby sending Trea Turner to shortstop. With Daniel Murphy entrenched at second base, Espinosa would have had to take on a bench role in 2017 had Washington kept him.
Now on his way out of D.C., Espinosa will head back to his native California and join an Angels team that, prior to Saturday, was in dire need of a second baseman to pair with shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Before settling on Espinosa, the Angels made recent inquiries to the Padres, Cardinals and Phillies about their second base options. Espinosa will also reunite with a former teammate in third baseman Yunel Escobar, whom the Nationals traded to the Angels exactly one year ago.
A lifetime .226/.302/.388 hitter in 2,972 plate appearances, Espinosa is fresh off a season in which he slashed .209/.306/.378 with a career-best 24 home runs in 601 PAs. The majority of the switch-hitting Espinosa’s offensive success has come versus left-handed pitchers, against whom he has posted a .257/.327/.454 career line in 736 trips to the plate. But he has provided most of his value via the field, having amassed 25 Defensive Runs Saved and an Ultimate Zone Rating of 27.0 in 4,400-plus innings as a second baseman. With Espinosa and Simmons, one of the majors’ foremost defenders, the Angels should have an enviable double-play combination for at least next season. Espinosa will make an estimated $5.3MM through arbitration in 2017, his final year under team control.
Of the two pitchers the Halos sent to the Nationals, McGowin is the more notable. The 25-year-old ranked as the Angels’ 20th-best prospect, per MLBpipeline.com, which credits the 2013 fifth-round pick for his three-pitch mix and suggests that he has back-end starter upside. The 25-year-old hasn’t generated great results during his minor league career, though, and just finished a season in which he recorded a 6.11 ERA, 7.58 K/9 and 3.58 BB/9 over 116 1/3 innings in his first taste of Triple-A action.
Adams, also 25 (and not to be confused with the Indians righty), was impressive in relief for the Angels’ Double-A affiliate in Arkansas in 2016. Although he issued too many walks (5.28 per nine), the 2012 eighth-round pick offset that somewhat with a sky-high K/9 (13.28). All told, he registered a 3.05 ERA across 41 1/3 frames. In assessing Adams in 2015, former FanGraphs prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel complimented his above-average fastball and plus slider, though he also noted Adams’ lack of control.
The Angels asked the Cardinals about second baseman Kolten Wong this week, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. The Cardinals, though, greatly prefer to keep Wong, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch explained earlier this week. They see Wong’s defensive ability as a plus, manager Mike Matheny says.
“None of us have shied away from the fact that this should be a top-tier defender at second base,” says Matheny. “And we’re never going to back off that, and neither should he.”
The Cardinals would trade any player if offered the right deal. But, GM John Mozeliak says, “We’re not actively shopping him.”
Still, it’s easy to see why the Angels asked. They have an acute need at second base, and with Jedd Gyorko also in the Cardinals’ fold, St. Louis theoretically could afford to part with Wong. Wong’s big-league career thus far has been uneven, but his combination of defense and modest pop still make him an asset overall, particularly at the relatively low price $24.25MM over four years — that’s the guaranteed money he has remaining on the five-year extension he signed with the Cardinals in March.
The Angels have agreed to trade Rule 5 Draft pick and right-handed pitcher Justin Haley for cash, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times tweets. His ultimate destination will be the Twins, as Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press and others tweeted. When the Angels announced the deal, however, they announced that they had traded Haley to the Padres. The Padres also acquired first overall Rule 5 pick Miguel Diaz from the Twins, so it seems that Haley was part of that deal as well.
Haley was the eighth pick in the draft from the Red Sox system, and the Twins had already selected a player, Miguel Diaz, by that point. (Diaz is also a candidate to be traded at some point today.) The 25-year-old Haley pitched 146 2/3 innings between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket and posted a solid 3.01 ERA, 7.7 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. He was a sixth-round pick of the Red Sox in 2012.
The Angels and Padres have discussed a trade recently, potentially involving the Padres’ collection of second basemen, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. Fletcher points out that the Padres have four lefty-hitting infielders who could help the Angels fill their void at second base: Yangervis Solarte, Ryan Schimpf, Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje.
Of those four, Solarte is the most established hitter, and he’s coming off a strong .286/.341/.467 season. He played primarily third base in 2016, however, and has limited big-league experience at second. Schimpf played 68 games at second in 2016 while having an unusual breakout rookie season in which he batted just .217 but had a remarkable .533 slugging percentage, to go with 20 homers in just 330 plate appearances.
Spangenberg has spent the bulk of his career at second, but he missed most of the 2016 season due to injury and has a more modest track record as a hitter, in both the Majors and the minors. Asuaje, one of the prospects the Padres acquired in the Craig Kimbrel deal, had a good season at Triple-A El Paso in 2016 (batting .321/.378/.473, albeit in a favorable hitting environment) and made his big-league debut.
In return for one of their infielders, Fletcher suggests the Padres could target one of the Angels’ depth starters. Someone like Triple-A lefty Nate Smith might make sense, Fletcher tweets, apparently speculatively.
The Angels’ desire to acquire a second baseman comes as no surprise. They’ve lately been connected to trade targets such as the Phillies’ Cesar Hernandez, as well as free agents like Chase Utley and Stephen Drew. Hernandez is a switch-hitter, while Utley and Drew bat from the left side; a lefty hitter at the keystone would be a better fit for the Angels, who only have one lefty (outfielder Kole Calhoun) among their everyday players.