- The Angels placed catcher Geovany Soto on the 15-day DL with knee inflammation, as Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Soto had appeared to be a plausible August trade candidate, but his knee surgery earlier this year seems to have lingered. The 33-year-old carries a useful .269/.321/.487 slash on the year, though he has compiled that in only 86 plate appearances. He is set to return to the open market at season’s end.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports kicks off his weekly Inside Baseball column with a look at the job security of a number of managers, noting that Mets skipper Terry Collins, D-backs manager Chip Hale and White Sox manager Robin Ventura could all be on the hot seat, while Braves interim manager Brian Snitker doesn’t seem especially likely to shed the interim label and keep his post. Other names mentioned include Mike Scioscia (Angels), Brad Ausmus (Tigers), Kevin Cash (Rays), Paul Molitor (Twins), Bryan Price (Reds) and Walt Weiss (Rockies), but none from that group seems to be eminently in danger of losing his job even at season’s end, per Heyman.
- There wasn’t much chatter pertaining to Yunel Escobar prior to the non-waiver trade deadline (and there’s been less in August), but Heyman writes that Escobar did draw interest in July. However, the Angels like what he’s been able to give to the club offensively, batting .316/.365/.397 in 474 plate appearances. I’m not sure I see the logic behind not being willing to move Escobar but trading a similarly priced and very arguably more valuable asset with the same amount of club control (Hector Santiago) for what amounted to an injured prospect, but perhaps the Halos simply didn’t receive an offer to their liking for Escobar.
It’s not often that news relating to an ulnar collateral ligament is promising, but it certainly seems as if there’s now real hope that Angels righty Garrett Richards can avoid Tommy John surgery. The staff ace’s latest trip to the doctor revealed sufficient healing that he can begin throwing, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times was among those to report (Twitter links).
Richards did indeed pick up the ball today, making 25 tosses from 45 feet. He says that it felt like the first day of spring camp — which seemingly represents yet another sign of hope. Presumably, his throwing program will be heavily dependent upon how he feels and will proceed at a measured pace.
While there are still many hurdles remaining for the 28-year-old, it is remarkable that he has made it this far in his endeavor to avoid going under the knife. At the time that Richards’s UCL tear was first reported, in early May, the assumption was that he was headed for a procedure. While some minor tears don’t require surgery, his was initially seen as a clear case.
It was surprising, then, when the news emerged that Richards — as well as lefty Andrew Heaney — would attempt a platelet-rich plasma and stem cell treatment. By not immediately undertaking a TJ procedure, Richards sacrificed any chance of returning for the end of next season if he did ultimately have it performed. But he also gained the possibility, however slight it seemed, of pitching a full 2017 season.
Heaney chose the same path, but ultimately did not show sufficient improvement and ended up with a replacement UCL. But Richards has continued to respond to the treatment, saying recently that his arm feels great. It still remained to be seen whether and when his doctors would clear him to throw, but he finally was allowed to do so with promising results.
While it is certainly fantastic news that Richards has reached this point, the true tests are yet to come. The expectation is that he’ll try to build up towards competitive action this fall — perhaps including a stint in the Arizona Fall League. If Richards can stay on that track and return to full mound work in live game action, then there would be sufficient confidence in the ligament that he’d look to prepare for Spring Training in 2017.
The stakes remain high for both player and team. Indeed, if anything, they are increasing. If he were to swap out UCLs within the next month or two, he’d likely be ready for the start of the 2018 campaign. If he ultimately needs it at a later date — say, early next year — then much of that season could too be in jeopardy.
In spite of the downside, it’s hard not to see the reasoning behind the decisionmaking. For Richards, a return to health now would mean a chance not only to return to action in short order, but also to earn a slight bump on his $6.425MM arbitration salary rather than potentially hitting the open market following a non-tender.
For the Halos, it’s an opportunity to reap the rewards of Richards’s highly valuable pre-free agent seasons. Even if he had gone through with the surgery in May, it would have been difficult to tender him a contract for each of the next two years just in hopes that he’d be ready to go for the start of the 2018 season — his final campaign before qualifying for free agency.
After all, a healthy Richards represents a powerful, top-of-the-rotation piece for a Los Angeles team that badly needs one. Working off of a mid-to-upper-nineties fastball, Richards has nudged his swinging strike rate upward in recent years while generally limiting the damage on balls put in play against him with a solid groundball rate. Since the start of his breakout 2014 season, Richards has worked to a 3.11 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 over 410 2/3 innings.
This story is notable even beyond what it means for Richards and the Angels. It scarcely bears mentioning that the fragility of the ulnar collateral ligament has been a major issue in baseball in recent years. Numerous high-profile hurlers have succumbed to the surgery, and while its success rate remains quite high, it’s no sure thing — and also represents a major risk factor for another such procedure. If Richards’s seemingly novel treatment works out, it could provide an alternative in appropriate cases.
The Angels have signed reliever Andrew Bailey to a minor league contract and released fellow bullpen option Al Alburquerque, per a club announcement. Bailey, an Excel Sports Management client, had been on the market since the Phillies released him last Saturday.
Injuries have helped derail the right-handed Bailey’s once-promising career, but he has finally stayed healthy this year. Unfortunately, an inability to prevent runs brought an end to the 32-year-old’s short tenure in Philadelphia. In 32 1/3 innings with the Phillies, Bailey posted a 6.40 ERA, but he did log a solid 9.2 K/9 and a usable 4.18 BB/9.
A former closer with the Athletics, Bailey has thrown 259 major league innings and recorded a 3.20 ERA, 9.24 K/9 and 3.09 BB/9 as a member of four different teams. While Bailey’s results and velocity have trended in the wrong directions since the impressive beginning of his career, he could work his way into an Angels bullpen that has been among the majors’ worst this season. Further, the Halos’ two primary late-game options – fellow righties Huston Street and the lights-out Cam Bedrosian – are currently on the disabled list, as their depth chart indicates.
Alburquere barely cracked LA’s ’pen this year, amassing only two innings. He spent the majority of his Angels stint at Triple-A Salt Lake, where he threw 23 2/3 innings and put up a 3.80 ERA, 9.89 K/9 and 4.94 BB/9. Alburquerque had a successful run in Detroit from 2011-15, during which time he posted a 3.20 ERA, 11.04 K/9, 5.00 BB/9 and 47.4 ground-ball rate across 225 frames.
The Angels have designated infielder/outfielder Sean Coyle for assignment, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. The move clears space on the Angels’ 40-man roster for outfielder Nick Buss, whose contract has been selected. Buss will take Shane Robinson’s 25-man spot as Robinson hits the DL with a right hip flexor strain.
The Angels claimed Coyle from the Red Sox last month. The 24-year-old has never hit much (with a career .236/.317/.418 minor league line and a mere .159/.263/.274 performance in the high minors this season) and has never played in the Majors, although he does offer a bit of flexibility, since he can play second, third and center field.
Ege, 25, will head to Triple-A Salt Lake City to begin his tenure in the Los Angeles organization. He has spent most of the year at that level with Miami, compiling a 4.50 ERA over 44 frames with 7.2 K/9 and 5.5 BB/9.
That obviously isn’t a terribly promising pitching line, though Ege did earn a brief MLB promotion. He was also much better in the upper minors last year — good enough, in fact, to be a part of an under-the-radar deadline trade that has turned out to be more important than it initially seemed.
Ege was dealt along with Tomas Telis in the deal that sent Sam Dyson to the Rangers. That swap has certainly had an impact on both organizations, as Texas has utilized Dyson as its closer while the Fish have been forced to hunt for extra arms at the back of their pen.
The Angels’ bid to put together a stadium deal in Tustin has not panned out, leading the team to resume talks with the city of Anaheim, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. While teams like the Braves, Rangers, and D-Backs are in various stages of replacing their still-serviceable ballparks, the Halos are still playing in Angel Stadium, which opened in 1966. The current lease runs through the 2029 season, but includes a provision allowing the club to opt out before 2019. That, naturally, spurred talks of renovation work and a new agreement, with the Angels exploring alternatives when discussions didn’t proceed as hoped.
- Angels righty Garrett Richards could be cleared to throw next week if his check-up on Monday goes as hoped, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. The 28-year-old is attempting to avoid Tommy John surgery despite a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He has been ramping up his workout regimen as his PRP/stem cell treatment has continued to show promise, and the next step may be to build up toward throwing and then full-blown mound work. The outlook remains uncertain, but Richards expressed loads of optimism. “I literally feel like my arm is just refreshed,” he said yesterday. “Everything feels great. My shoulder feels nice and loose. I feel zero discomfort in my arm. Nothing even close to what I was feeling when I was put on the DL.”
Wednesday’s minor transactions from around baseball:
- The Orioles have released right-hander Sam Deduno, reports FanGraphs’ Brad Johnson, who adds that the 33-year-old is now healthy after rehabbing from a hip injury (Twitter links). Deduno, whom the Orioles signed to a minor league deal in February, hasn’t gotten past Rookie ball this year because of his hip ailment. That issue limited Deduno to just 22 combined innings with the Astros and their Triple-A affiliate in 2015. Prior to posting a 6.86 ERA in 21 major league frames last season, Deduno combined for 287 2/3 innings between the Twins and Astros from 2012-14. In that time, he logged a 4.22 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 and an excellent 57.2 percent ground-ball rate.
- The Braves have signed free agent left-hander Brian Moran to a minor league contract, per a team announcement. Moran’s entire pitching resume with major league organizations has come as a member of the Mariners, though the Blue Jays selected the reliever in the fifth round of the 2013 Rule 5 draft and then traded him to the Angels for an international bonus slot. However, the Halos returned Moran to the Mariners a few months later after learning that he needed Tommy John surgery. Moran missed all of 2014 while recovering from the procedure, but he returned last year to log a total of 33 1/3 minor league innings with the Mariners. Most of those innings (30 1/3) came at the Double-A level, where Moran recorded a 3.56 ERA, 8.6 K/9 and 5.04 BB/9. The 27-year-old (and the brother of Astros third baseman Colin Moran) has pitched this season with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League.
- The Angels have announced the release of shortstop Ryan Jackson, who has divided his season between their Triple-A affiliate and Philadelphia’s. Jackson, a Cardinals fifth-round pick in 2009, debuted briefly in the majors with St. Louis in 2012 and reentered the big leagues last year with the Angels. The 28-year-old garnered just 39 combined plate appearances in those two call-ups, however. In 1,809 Triple-A PAs, Jackson has hit .274/.352/.356.
The Angels announced several roster moves this afternoon, including the placement of right-hander Cam Bedrosian on the 15-day disabled list due to flexor tendinitis in the middle finger on his right hand. Additionally, the Angels have claimed left-hander Brett Oberholtzer off waivers from the Phillies and selected the contract of fellow righty A.J. Achter. Oberholtzer will join the Major League club but will not do so today, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register.
The injury to Bedrosian means that the Angels will now have both closer Huston Street and Bedrosian, their top setup man and interim closer, on the disabled list at the same time. Those injuries and the trade of setup man Joe Smith to the Cubs creates some uncertainty at the back of manager Mike Scioscia’s bullpen. Right-hander Deolis Guerra has had the most impressive season thus far of any of the team’s remaining relievers, but righty Fernando Salas tops him in terms of experience. Bedrosian’s loss is a notable one for the Halos, as he’s quietly delivered one of the best seasons of any reliever in baseball. The 24-year-old has posted a brilliant 1.12 ERA with 11.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 49.5 percent ground-ball rate in 40 1/3 innings in his breakout campaign.
As for Oberholtzer, the 27-year-old went from Houston to Philadelphia in last December’s Ken Giles blockbuster, but he was unable to find his footing as a member of the Phils. In 50 1/3 innings this year, Oberholtzer limped to a 4.83 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 44.8 percent ground-ball rate. He hasn’t factored into a big league rotation much recently, but Oberholtzer does has 42 Major League starts under his belt. That could be key for an Angels organization that is thin on rotation depth with Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano and likely Garrett Richards all slated to miss the 2017 season (or most of it) due to Tommy John surgery. While Oberholtzer certainly isn’t an overpowering arm, he has a 4.09 career ERA in 304 big league innings.
Achter, 27, has a 3.98 ERA in 20 1/3 innings out of the Angels’ bullpen this season but has fanned just nine batters in that time. He has plenty of Triple-A success under his belt though: a 2.90 ERA with a 164-to-64 K/BB ratio in 183 innings. The Halos have designated Achter for assignment and outrighted him twice already this season.
TUESDAY: Lincecum has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. That means Lincecum will continue his career with the Salt Lake Bees, hoping to eventually get another shot in the Majors. As a former MLB star, that likely means Lincecum is swallowing his pride, but he also likely believes that heading to Triple-A provides his clearest path back to the big leagues at this point.
SATURDAY: The Angels have designated right-hander Tim Lincecum for assignment, reports Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). The club’s hope is that Lincecum will stay in the organization and accept an assignment to Triple-A Salt Lake, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Indeed, the Angels are under the impression Lincecum will head to Salt Lake, per Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). In the meantime, Los Angeles has recalled righty Jose Valdez to take Lincecum’s roster spot.
Lincecum joined the pitching-needy Angels as a free agent in May after undergoing hip surgery and then showcasing himself around the majors in somewhat ballyhooed fashion, but his stint with the organization has been a disaster. In possibly his final start of the season, Lincecum surrendered six earned runs on nine hits, two walks and a strikeout in 3 1/3 innings of a 6-4 loss to the Mariners on Friday. That outing increased Lincecum’s ERA to a hideous 9.16 through nine starts, and manager Mike Scioscia was wary of committing to him afterward. Lincecum averaged just over four frames in those nine outings and recorded only one quality start, which came in his June 18 season debut.
A lofty walk rate (5.4 per nine innings) and a decrease in ground balls (40.7 percent rate, down from his career 46.4 percent mark), the latter of which helps to explain his unmanageable 22.9 percent home run-fly ball ratio, are largely behind Lincecum’s run prevention issues. So is a .432 batting average on balls in play, though FanGraphs indicates that Lincecum has been quite susceptible to hard contact, and the 32-year-old’s high-80s fastball velocity hasn’t helped his cause.
Struggles aren’t necessarily anything new for Lincecum, who posted a subpar 4.68 ERA in 615 1/3 innings with the Giants from 2012-15 as his mean fastball velo fell from the low- to mid-90s to the upper 80s. However, he did manage an impressive K/9 (8.4), a playable BB/9 (3.9) and a 45.9 percent grounder rate. Still, the version of Lincecum everyone has seen since 2012 is a far cry from his heyday, in which he was a dominant member of the Giants’ rotation from 2008-11 and took home a pair of National League Cy Young Awards.
The fact that Lincecum wasn’t able to hold a rotation spot, let alone a place on the roster, for an Angels team without fellow starters Garrett Richards, C.J. Wilson, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano – all of whom are on the disabled list – obviously bodes poorly for his future. Barring a significant turnaround this year, his days as a starter could be over. Fortunately for the Angels, they only invested a prorated $2.5MM in Linceum upon signing him.