Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Rumors
As defensive metrics gain precision and acceptance, we can expect an increasing move toward player contracts that better reflect the contributions of premier glovework, writes Doug Mittler for ESPN The Magazine (Insider link). "The market is established by offense because defensive numbers are difficult to ascertain," said Mets GM Sandy Alderson. Mittler says that current bargains, like Alex Gordon of the Royals and Ryan Hanigan of the Rays, may be harder to find in coming seasons. (I would suggest that some recent extensions of defense-first players -- including those of Andrelton Simmons of the Braves and Elvis Andrus of the Rangers -- may reflect just that kind of movement in the market.)
Here's the latest out of the American League:
- It is early, of course, but the White Sox look like a very different club on the offensive side of the ledger, writes Grantland's Jonah Keri. The preliminary results have put a shine on an offseason that, as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes described, brought significant MLB-ready talent into the South Side. Like Dierkes, Keri advises caution for the prospects this season but foresees a bright future for some of the team's young position players.
- An alternative method of rebuilding -- the Astros' total strip-down of MLB talent and payroll -- took another important step forward with the debut of George Springer. In an interesting interview with Drew Fairservice of TheScore.com, club GM Jeff Luhnow said that he hopes the club's pool of prospect talent will "have an expectation to win" after experiencing success together at the minor league level. And he made clear that Houston will look to take full advantage of its substantial amateur spending dollars. Looking ahead, Luhnow explained that the club is already thinking about how to manage inevitable payroll increases: "With so many young players coming through the pipeline, we’re not going to be able to lock them all up. Just keeping them all through arbitration is going to get expensive and we also want to dip into the free agent market so we’ll have to be wise about how we spend the dollars. Our flexibility gives us the opportunity to make the right investments at the right time."
- As noted earlier, recently-designated Athletics outfielder Sam Fuld is expected to draw interest from several clubs, according to a report from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). The Twins and Angels are among the teams that are likely to be involved on Fuld, says Slusser.
Kole Calhoun will join fellow Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton on a lengthy DL stint, reports Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter). An ugly-looking ankle turn last night resulted in a bad ligament sprain that will put Calhoun on the shelf for four to six weeks, according to manager Mike Scioscia.
Early in his second season of substantial MLB action at the age of 26, Calhoun was off to a .250/.297/.500 start in 64 plate appearances, with three home runs and two stolen bases to his credit. Last year, Calhoun provided to be a nice surprise in Los Angeles, providing a .282/.347/.462 line in 222 plate appearances while knocking eight long balls and swiping two bags. Though defensive metrics saw him as slightly below average at the corner outfield last year, Calhoun has graded out quite well in a small sample thus far in 2014. With 130 days of MLB service to his name entering the year, Calhoun could qualify for Super Two status after the 2015 season.
Replacing Calhoun on the MLB roster in the immediate term is minor league free agent Brennan Boesch, who was called up today with Calhoun hitting the 15-day DL. Boesch will join J.B. Shuck and Collin Cowgill as outfield options to flank star Mike Trout while Calhoun and Hamilton are on the shelf. The Halos could be one of several teams with interest in adding Sam Fuld, who is still in DFA limbo after being designated by Oakland on Saturday, according to a tweet from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. It is difficult to see the team making a more impactful move unless one or both of its injured regulars fall off track in their recovery.
TUESDAY: Blanton has been released by the Athletics, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com.
SUNDAY, 9:57pm: Fletcher now clarifies that Blanton has left the Athletics' Triple-A team, but it's unclear whether he's actually retiring.
8:56pm: Longtime starting pitcher Joe Blanton has retired, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. Fletcher notes that the Angels are still on the hook for the remainder of Blanton's $7.5MM salary for 2014, plus a $1MM buyout for 2015, even though Blanton has started two games for the Athletics' Triple-A team in Sacramento this year. The Angels released Blanton in March.
The Athletics drafted Blanton out of the University of Kentucky with the 24th pick in the first round in 2002, making him the second selection in their "Moneyball" draft class, after Nick Swisher. Blanton made his big-league debut in 2004, then became a regular in the A's rotation in 2005. After several years eating innings in Oakland, Blanton headed to Philadelphia for Josh Outman and two other prospects in 2008. Blanton pitched in the World Series for the Phillies in both 2008 and 2009, and the Phils signed Blanton to a three-year extension prior to the 2010 season. He stuck with the Phillies until 2012 before they traded him to the Dodgers for the stretch run that year.
Blanton then signed an ill-fated two-year, $15MM deal with the Angels, struggling while posting a 6.04 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 132 2/3 innings last season. Blanton, 33, finishes his career with a 4.51 ERA, 6.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 1,567 1/3 innings.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Christina Kahrl looks at the difference between Albert Pujols' in 2013 and his hot start in 2014 with a pair of heat maps to demonstrate that Pujols is doing far more damage on pitches in the zone in the early-going than he was able to do last season. While it's a small sample and his .259/.322/.556 triple-slash isn't exactly vintage Pujols, his hot streak since hitting that first homer is a promising sign after a bleak 2013. Kahrl writes that the Angels' biggest need is for Pujols to fend off Father Time for a few more seasons. As "The Machine" closes in on 500 career home runs -- he's currently at 496 -- here are some more AL West links...
- Mariners left-hander Roenis Elias' dream has come true this season, writes MLB.com's Greg Johns. The Cuban defector talked with Johns (via his interpreter) about the excitement of nailing down his first big league win and the inspiration he drew from his son. Elias impressed his manager, teammates and opponents in a win over the Rangers, as Lloyd McClendon and Elvis Andrus both offered high praise. Said McClendon: "I don't think facing Prince Fielder is really going to scare him that much. He was fighting for his life trying to make it to this country. He's shown a lot of poise."
- In an excellent piece from Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, Baker examines the Mariners' payroll in contrast with the team's overall value, noting a large discrepancy. Last year's purchase of a 71 percent stake in ROOT Sports Northwest more than doubled Seattle's TV revenue, and their growing revenue over the past few years was enough that BizofBaseball.com founder Maury Brown estimated to Baker that the Mariners could fetch $1 billion on the open market were ownership to sell. Recent estimates from Bloomberg pegged the club's value at $720MM, but that was prior to the ROOT acquisition. Brown told Baker that there "should be no limits" on the Mariners in free agency despite mammoth commitments to Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez. Baker concludes by calling baseball a "cash-drunk sport with only a vague notion of its financial ceiling" and noting that the Mariners "can't spot their ceiling with a telescope."
- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that two weeks is the "bare minimum" amount of time needed to make evaluations of minor league players, but many other factors are involved. Among them are whether the player has moved up a level, if they played in the Arizona Fall League or winter ball, and what their Spring Training was like. Luhnow said he expects the club's "most famous prospects" -- presumably George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, Carlos Correa, Mark Appel and Michael Foltynewicz -- to move quickly. As far as the players themselves are concerned, Springer tells Drellich he's not really sure what Super Two status meant, while Singleton "had an idea."
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a new, lengthy notes column in which he begins by examining the early scrutiny of MLB's new instant replay system. He points to a pair of blatantly missed calls on Saturday in which conclusive evidence was seen on TV broadcasts of the games but apparently not by the umpires at MLB's Replay Operations Center in New York. An MLB spokesperson confirmed to Rosenthal that one of those calls was blown and added that the system would continue to work on improvement. Rosenthal reminds that John Schuerholz, one of the architects of the system, said it would be a three-year roll out. However, he adds that MLB can't expect any patience from fans, players or managers when home viewers are able to make better judgments than the umpires at the Relay Operations Center.
Here are some more highlights from his article, which also contains notes on Jose Abreu, struggling offenses around the league and the Dodgers' interleague schedule...
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is the early front-runner for "first manager to get fired" due to the team's 4-11 start, but Rosenthal wonders what more Gibson can do with the pitching talent (or lack thereof) he has been given. GM Kevin Towers thinned out the rotation depth by trading Tyler Skaggs and David Holmberg this offseason, and the loss of Patrick Corbin compounded those moves. Rosenthal wonders how long the Snakes can wait before recalling Archie Bradley.
- One executive said to Rosenthal that any American League team with a need in the infield will have added incentive to work out a deal with Stephen Drew in order to prevent the Tigers from signing him. The AL Central powerhouse is currently going with Alex Gonzalez at short, and the results have been less than stellar.
- Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda told Rosenthal (through his interpreter) that he's never considered retirement as heavily as he did this offseason. The most difficult factor for Kuroda wasn't the separation from his L.A.-based family -- they come live with him in the summer when his daughters are out of school -- but rather that he simply loves and misses Japan. Kuroda again left open the possibility of finishing his career back in Japan.
- Both the Angels and Twins have a need in the outfield with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham on the disabled list, and both teams were interested in the recently DFA'ed Sam Fuld this offseason before he signed with the Athletics. Rosenthal reports that the A's will gauge trade possibilities for Fuld and wonders if the Halos and Twins could have interest.
- After signing a minor league deal in the 2012-13 offseason, Blue Jays right-hander Neil Wagner earned the pro-rated portion that deal's $525K salary while in the Majors last season. However, Toronto's pre-arbitration pay scale called for just a $506,250 salary in 2014, as it is based on service time rather than performance. Agent Jim Munsey and Wagner refused the deal, giving Toronto the freedom to renew Wagner's contract at $500K if they wished, which the team did. Said Munsey of the ordeal: "It's, obviously, disappointing that they cut Neil's pay after such a good season last year. And when we didn't agree to the pay cut, they cut it further in renewing him. Hard to cheer for that. ... The rules allow the Jays to reduce his pay. They also allow us to talk about that at arbitration." MLBTR's Zach Links recently looked at teams' calculation of pre-arbitration salaries.
- Though the Rays' rotation has been ravaged by injuries to Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, the team is planning on using internal options rather than pursuing outside help.
The situation with Matt Moore's UCL injury is still up in the air, as the southpaw is waiting to have his MRIs examined by the Rays' team orthopedic physician, Moore told reporters (including MLB.com's Bill Chastain). Moore may test his elbow by playing catch in a few days, though isn't going to push it. "If there's any pain, it's not going to be something I'm going to try and work through," Moore said. "I think the goal is to get to a place where I don't feel pain. And if I can get to that in the next few days just playing catch, then it's a good sign to keep going. If not, then it's a sign in the [other direction]. I'm optimistic about playing catch."
Here's some more from around the AL East...
- The Yankees have been fined by Major League Baseball for tampering due to comments made by team president Randy Levine in regards to Mike Trout, The Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin reports. The amount of the fine isn't known. Levine cited Trout last December when discussing why the Yankees didn't match the Mariners' 10-year contract offer for Robinson Cano, saying "If it was Mike Trout, I’d offer him a 10-year contract, but for people over 30, I don’t believe it makes sense.” The Angels took exception to Levine's comments and asked the Commissioner's office to investigate the matter.
- Injuries to Mark Teixeira and David Robertson have left the Yankees thin at first base and in the bullpen, two positions that were thought to be lacking in depth going into the season. GM Brian Cashman reiterated to reporters (including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch) that the two positions would be "a developing story" through the season as the team didn't have enough budget space to acquire additional depth in the offseason. "We wanted to fix as much as we could, but acknowledged that we couldn't fix everything that needed to be addressed," Cashman said. "That's with the money we were in position to spend as well as the available talent. The better talent was really heavily in favor of the outfield rather than the infield."
- The Blue Jays' seeming halt on payroll looks to be an ownership response to how none of GM Alex Anthopoulos' big additions from the 2012-13 offseason have yet panned out, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes. Rogers Communications, the Jays' parent company, is essentially saying to Anthopoulos, in Griffin's words, "Show us that the group you brought in last year is as good as you said it was and maybe then we can talk about additions." Griffin also doesn't think the Jays will undergo an Astros-esque total rebuild since Rogers wants to keep the team competitive in order to maintain the Jays' strong viewership numbers on Rogers-owned media outlets.
- In AL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, we collected some Red Sox Notes, and also learned that the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees are three of the teams who are believed to be interested in Joel Hanrahan.
Free agent closer Joel Hanrahan will host a showcase for teams next week, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). In a second tweet, Crasnick lists the Mets, Yankees, Angels, Rangers, Rockies, Royals, Athletics, Red Sox and Rays as teams that are believed to have interest in Hanrahan. He adds that somewhat curiously, he hasn't heard much buzz on the Tigers or Phillies being interested, though that could always change.
The 32-year-old Hanrahan underwent Tommy John surgery and also had his flexor tendon repaired and bone chips in his elbow removed on May 16 of last season. He opened the year as Boston's closer after being acquired in an offseason trade that sent Mark Melancon to the Pirates, but he allowed eight runs on 10 hits (four homers) and six walks with just five strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings for the Red Sox before landing on the disabled list.
Prior to that season, Hanrahan had averaged 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings over a five-year stretch between the Nationals and Pirates. The Bucs acquired Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge from the Nats in a deal that sent Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan to Washington, and Hanrahan blossomed into a two-time All-Star closer with Pittsburgh. Always one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the game, Hanrahan's 96.5 mph average fastball from his 2011-13 peak ranked seventh in the game among qualified relievers.
Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton has suffered a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament of his left thumb as well as a torn capsule, the team announced. He will undergo surgery in the next few days and is expected to miss six to eight weeks.
Replacing the injured slugger will be J.B. Shuck, a 26-year-old outfielder who narrowly missed a roster spot out of the spring. In the most extensive MLB action of his career last year, Shuck put up a .293/.331/.366 line in 478 plate appearances for the Halos. With 1.055 years of MLB service at the start of the season, Shuck will not have a chance to reach Super Two status next year, but could now hope to end the year with over 2 years of service.
Hamilton, of course, is in the second year of a mammoth five-year, $125MM contract. The deal is heavily backloaded, as his $15MM annual salary in the first two years will jump to $23MM next year and then $30MM in 2016-17. Though he disappointed last season, Hamilton -- who will turn 33 during his rehab -- had been off to a hot start to the 2014 campaign with a 1.286 OPS. Needless to say, the loss of Hamilton's bat (especially if it ends up being for longer than two months) will be a significant loss for an Angels club that hopes to compete in a loaded AL West.
The Angels have announced that lefty Brian Moran will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. After being left unprotected by the Mariners, Moran was taken by the Blue Jays in the ninth position in the Rule 5 draft and immediately shipped to Los Angeles in exchange for an international bonus slot.
Moran is expected to remain with the Angels for the coming season while he rehabs from surgery, says MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. The club will be able to keep him while clearing a 40-man spot by placing him on the 60-day DL, and will then have the same rights over Moran as they do at present. Once Moran is activated, the Angels will need to clear a 40-man spot and then maintain him on the active roster for all of next season or offer him back to Seattle.
A similar situation occurred recently with Brad Meyers, who was selected by the Yankees from the Nationals. Meyers spent the entire year on the DL -- including time on the 60-day list -- and was ultimately returned to Washington in the fall following his surgery.
Moran, a 25-year-old lefty, spent the last three seasons in the upper minors with the Seattle organization. In 62 2/3 innings at Triple-A last year, he threw to a 3.45 ERA while striking out 12.2 and walking 2.9 per nine. While those K:BB numbers are quite impressive, Moran did allow 10.1 hits for every nine frames over his first full season at the highest level of the minors.
The Angels had hoped to use Moran as a lefty specialist out of the pen, Gonzalez notes. With fellow southpaw Sean Burnett also still on the shelf, the club has gone with Nick Maronde as its only lefty in relief. The Angels do have some options with MLB experience stashed at Triple-A, including Buddy Boshers, Wade LeBlanc, and Clay Rapada.
Though he's arguably already baseball's best player, Mike Trout is working to improve his arm strength, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Some might say Trout's arm is the weakest of his five tools, which has produced "a little chip on his shoulder," according to Angels bench coach Dino Ebel. While the outfielder was once a fringe-average thrower, he's improved the tool so that it's now average or better, Ebel says. Here are more Saturday night Major League links:
- The Rays are known for aggressively locking up their young stars long term, but the team increasingly shows a willingness to go multiple years with veterans, notes Adam Berry of MLB.com. Today's Yunel Escobar extension the most recent example, but the club has also recently given a two-year deal to David DeJesus and a three-year commitment to catcher Ryan Hanigan. "I think the common denominator is that they're three guys that we like a lot, that fit us well, that will help us win games in the current," GM Andrew Friedman said.
- Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt both signed one-day contracts and officially retired as members of the Astros organization today. Alyson Footer of MLB.com has the details on a pregame ceremony in which the two greats were given personalized rocking chairs and custom Stetson cowboy hats.