Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Rumors
We already know that the 2013-14 free agent market has featured incredible spending levels, but what does that mean for how teams value a win (above replacement)? Dave Cameron of Fangraphs breaks down the cost of a projected win for each player that signed a major league deal. The results show that teams have spent at levels that, depending upon what discount rate and precise methodology is employed, value an expected win at between $5MM and $7MM. In a follow-up piece, Cameron observes that, at least for players who are expected to be regular contributors, the spending shows a non-linear escalation of the price of a win (i.e., teams are paying a premium to lock up high-WAR players). Then again, says Cameron, one team -- the Yankees -- bid on all and signed most of the top (3+-win) players who were on the market, which could have skewed the results. Be sure to read both pieces for all the details on this fascinating topic.
Here are more notes from around the league:
- The Yankees' rash of spending may have pushed him to the periphery of the team's roster, but Ichiro Suzuki is not changing his approach, writes Dave D'Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger. "Whatever my role is here -- whether I'm a starter or not -- my preparation never changes," said Ichiro. "Every day I'm going to do the exact same thing regardless of what my role will be. ... If I was the type of player who changes the way I prepare myself, I wouldn't be the player I have been."
- Outfielder Andy Dirks of the Tigers will undergo back surgery and is expected to be out of action for three months, reports the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter). Dirks had been expected to be the left-handed-hitting side of a left field platoon with Rajai Davis. GM Dave Dombrowski indicated that the club hopes to rely on its internal options -- including Davis, the switch-hitting Steve Lombardozzi, and left-handed swinging Don Kelly -- to fill the void, James Schmehl of MLive.com reports. "We think we have some good candidates," said Dombrowski, "but we'll just have to wait and see. I don't want to proclaim that to be 100 percent, but we do have some people that we feel have the chance to play a bigger role for us."
- After coming over as the key piece in the Mark Trumbo deal, 22-year-old lefty Tyler Skaggs is a key to a high-priced Angels club, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. "He's very important to our season, very important to our future," said GM Jerry Dipoto. "Tyler, being that he's the youngest and least-experienced of our starters, it's an important spring for him to take that next step and establish himself at the major league level."
Let's take a look in at the American League West:
- After being acquired at the trade deadline last year for Michael Morse, outfielder Xavier Avery of the Mariners has the attention of new manager Lloyd McClendon, reports MLB.com's Greg Johns. The speedy 24-year-old is very much in contention to join Seattle's outfield mix, said McClendon, who gushed that Avery "has a couple tools that are game-changing."
- Another recently traded player, David Freese of the Angels, is all but assured a regular spot with his new club. As Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times recently reported, for Halos' GM Jerry Dipoto, getting Freese was in part about taking advantage of his former club's good work. "The Cardinals are in a pretty unique position of depth, like the Braves in the '90's," he explained. "That made Freese an expendable piece for them. Any time a player is traded, it doesn't mean it's a pending disaster for the other team." Dipoto said that the club is not expecting Freese to be "a gaudy, 30-home run third baseman," explaining that the team "understand[s] what we're getting."
- The most irreplaceable player in the game, without question, is Angels center fielder Mike Trout. In an ESPN Insider piece, Dave Cameron argues that Trout should decline to accept an extension of the type rumored (giving up three or four years of free agency with a total $140MM to $170MM guarantee). As Cameron argues, Trout has done enough already that he'll earn a huge arbitration salary even if he suffers unexpected performance decline or takes a serious injury. With his downside protected in all but the most dramatic of scenarios, and the Angels' roster profile not inspiring much future confidence, Cameron says that the rewards are worth the risk of Trout waiting to sign a new deal.
Between Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, Super Bowl champ Russell Wilson and former NBA star Tracy McGrady, MLB has an excellent opportunity to generate more interest in baseball among young African-Americans, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Winston closes for Florida State University's baseball team, while Wilson will be in Rangers camp this week after being picked in the Rule Five draft in December. McGrady, of course, is trying to catch on with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters as a pitcher. MLB should handle the situation differently than it did Michael Jordan's foray into professional baseball two decades ago, which was viewed with hostility by many in the game at the time, Sherman says. Here are more late-night links from around the majors:
- The Pirates' ability to "fix" Edinson Volquez is likely to have a big impact on their playoff hopes, David Golebiewski of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says.
- Braves outfielder B.J. Upton sought help from no one during his lost 2013 season, The Associated Press reports.
- Despite 2014 being a must-win season for Angels GM Jerry Dipoto, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes that the executive didn't set out this offseason to acquire veterans who could provide a short-term band-aid for the club. "That's not in my DNA," he said. "The best representation of the job you do over time is what you leave behind." Dipoto also feels that the club has "a lot of veteran players in that 29 to 31 zone. That is when you win."
- Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria are competing for the Rangers' closer job, but the former hasn't impressed early in camp, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. "Feliz was not sharp in his intrasquad game and I’m told his mechanics are still kind of out of whack," Grant notes.
A long-term agreement between Mike Trout and the Angels would carry upside and risk for both player and club, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. Agent Paul Cohen, whose clients include Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki, tells DiGiovanna he's generally in favor of such deals. "Our view is you never turn down your first fortune, especially if you can keep your free agent years intact at age 29 or 30," Cohen comments. However, Scott Boras chimes in to argue that such deals often benefit teams. Boras discloses that the Indians attempted to extend his client Shin-Soo Choo with a deal in the $27MM-$42MM range. Choo, of course, waited and cashed in this offseason with a seven-year, $130MM free agent deal with the Rangers. Here are more notes from around the majors:
- Continuing our extension theme, the Red Sox and Jon Lester's representatives have had at least two conversations about a long-term deal, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe tweets.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman's suggestion earlier this week that the Orioles' 2012 success was a fluke has rankled some in Baltimore, but the club has largely been quiet on the matter, writes Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun.
- Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press Sports says there are parallels to be drawn between Dave Dombrowski's administration of the Tigers and John Schuerholz's tenure running the Braves.
If you share my excitement for the onset of spring (or, at least Spring Training), you'll want to give a quick listen to the late, great Ernie Harwell reciting the "Voice of the Turtle" to announce the start. (Via James Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press; hat tip to Scott Miller.) Here are some AL notes to round out the day:
- Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners will keep his right middle finger in a splint for three more weeks, the originally expected timetable, the club announced. With the hurler unable to begin his full pitching program until that time, needless to say, he is unlikely to be be in the team's rotation when the season opens.
- The Blue Jays expect Ryan Goins to handle the bulk of the club's second base duties, manager John Gibbons said today, as MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm reports. Toronto's second base position has long been an area of speculation as to a possible addition; while a change of direction is always possible, of course, Gibbons did not make it seem like that was likely. "We're giving Goins every opportunity to be the guy," said the manager. In an excellent recent profile of Goins' progress, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca broke down some reasons for the team's optimism.
- In his podcast yesterday (audio link), ESPN.com's Buster Olney talked with colleague Jayson Stark about a possible extension for Mike Trout of the Angels (among many other topics). His record $1MM pre-arbitration deal is already in the bag, but what's next? Olney says that executives around the league tell him that, if Trout agrees to anything less than a monster ten-year (or greater) deal, their take would be that he hopes to have a chance to make a triumphant return to his native east coast with a large-market team. Otherwise, now is the time to cash in given his incredibly high standing and youth.
The Mariners announced today that Taijuan Walker will be shut down for the next week due to shoulder inflammation. It's a precautionary move, it would seem, based on manager Lloyd McClendon's comments. Said McClendon (via the Tacoma News Tribune's Bob Dutton on Twitter): "This guy, we’re not just talking about 2014. Hopefully, we’re talking about the next 15 years." The injury doesn't appear major for the Mariners right now, but it's another reason for some concern in the wake of a finger injury to Hisashi Iwakuma. The Mariners will learn the results of his tests on that injury tomorrow. Here's more on the Mariners and the AL West...
- Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio feels that the Mariners should sign both Ervin Santana and Kendrys Morales (ESPN Insider required). Bowden feels that the competitive nature of the AL East will make it too difficult for two Wild Card teams to come from that division. Assuming one Wild Card from the East, the Mariners could compete with the Rangers, Angels, Indians and Royals for the second spot, in Bowden's opinion. Adding that pair would also allow the club to hang onto Nick Franklin for the time being, allowing him to serve as a strong fallback option in the event of an infield injury.
- The Angels aren't committed to carrying a long reliever in their bullpen, and as such they could trade or release Joe Blanton prior to Opening Day, writes Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. Blanton could slot into the rotation in the event of an injury or should Tyler Skaggs need further minor league time, but his contract doesn't make him a lock for the roster in Shaikin's mind.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports discusses Prince Fielder's impact on the Rangers' lineup as he analyzes the merit of lineup protection. Morosi also acknowledges the statistical evidence that it may be somewhat of a myth. Morosi spoke with several executives and players in his in-depth piece, with Rangers backstop J.P. Arencibia specifically stating: "Robinson Cano is a guy that, hey, we’re going to pitch around him, bottom line," when referring to the division-rival Mariners.
Chuck Myron, lead writer for our sister site Hoops Rumors and occasional MLBTR contributor, has co-written an excellent book called Hits and Misses in the Baseball Draft. Authors Myron and Alan Maimon have created a must-read for any baseball fan hoping to understand why so many of the best young players fail to make meaningful contributions in The Show, and so many teams make the wrong choices on draft day. Please check out Hits and Misses in the Baseball Draft; we think you'll like it. Note, also, that if you are planning a trip to Florida for Spring Training, you can meet Chuck and Alan at either of two scheduled book signings. The authors will appear at two Barnes & Noble locations in mid-March: in Clearwater on March 14 at 7pm and in Fort Myers on March 15 at 3pm.
Moving on, here are some notes from around the league for your Thursday evening reading...
- Engel Beltre and Michael Choice will both be fighting for roster spots in Spring Training, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, but Beltre is the favorite to stick due to the fact that he is out of options. The Rangers aren't likely to let him go, and while Choice could help as a right-handed option in a DH platoon, Texas is wary that such a limited role could hinder his development.
- In an effort to prove Mike Trout's sky-high value without relying on advanced metrics, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs adds the 2013 production of Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo (using standard stats such as singles, doubles, triples, homers, steals, etc.) and subtracts Mike Trout's numbers. Cameron finds that the result is surprisingly similar to Eric Young's 2013 totals. Because Young was acquired for a replacement-level arm, Cameron suggests that acquiring a partner to match the output is nearly free. In the end, he suggests that Trout is worth more than Choo and Ellsbury combined.
- In a subscription-only piece, R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus looks at how the players he ranked in his Top 50 stacked up to the expected average annual value he laid out prior to the offseason. Anderson concludes that he underestimated the market for back-end starters, setup men and veterans with perceivable upside remaining. Because of that last category, he wonders if names like Asdrubal Cabrera and Chad Billingsley could see larger paydays than many are expecting next winter.
- Sticking with Baseball Prospectus, Phil Hughes tops a free list of nine players that the minds at B-Pro expect to see show improvement in 2014. Also appearing on the list are Matt Cain, CC Sabathia and Brett Lawrie, amongst others.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier breaks down the numerous Spring Training decisions facing the Red Sox, including homegrown prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. and reclamation project Grady Sizemore fighting for center field (Speier writes that it's Bradley's job to lose). Within the piece, Speier wonders if spring struggles from Middlebrooks would make the Red Sox reconsider their stance on Stephen Drew.
Let's take a look at updates on some situations shaping up around the league:
- Mike Trout's one-year, $1MM contract with the Angels is surely just the start of some historic earnings, and ESPN.com's Jim Bowden breaks down what it would cost the Halos to lock up their young star for different possible terms. Bowden values Trout's arbitration years at a total of $66MM, and says that he should earn between $32MM and $35MM for his free agent years. A six-year deal, then, would be worth $162MM, while a ten-year extension would land at $302MM. Bowden says the Angels want to get as many years as possible, and adds that, were he in charge, he would demand at least four free agent seasons.
- The Mets have no active trade dialogue concerning first baseman Ike Davis, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPN.com. Nevertheless, Rubin says he expects the chatter to pick up over the coming month.
- Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia has had his MRI reviewed by the team physician and Dr. James Andrews, and neither found evidence of structural damage, reports MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. While that has the team feeling better about things, GM John Mozeliak still advocated caution. "I think the days of feeling perfect are over," he said.
- Though he downplayed an earlier report that the White Sox had scouted Yankees catchers recently, Chicago GM Rick Hahn said that the team was still exploring trade possibilities with other clubs, reports Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. Hahn also noted that the club has ample middle-infield depth, which led to Jake Elmore being designated for assignment today. The GM added that the team hopes to be able to trade Elmore, Hayes adds on Twitter.
- Rehabbing reliever Joel Hanrahan told Bowden on XM MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) that he hopes to sign with a new club before the spring wraps up. Hanrahan said that he is still considering any and all interested suitors.
- Union chief Tony Clark said today that the MLBPA is still in the early stages of learning information about the Phillies' role in the recent suspension of former draftee Ben Wetzler, reports CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury. "The interest is the same we would have in the draft in general," Clark said. "These guys are connected to our institution. ... To that extent, we are gathering information as we speak. Yes, we are concerned. Based on what we find out will determine what, if anything, lends itself to further discussion, but we are concerned enough to be inquiring." Salisbury reports that the Phillies felt a handshake agreement was in place with Wetzler, and that someone in the organization later reported him to the NCAA for having an agent present during talks with the team.
While the rumored long-term deal has yet to come to fruition, the Angels and Mike Trout agreed to a record-setting one-year deal, according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. Trout will earn $1MM in 2014, marking the largest payday in Major League history for a pre-arbitration player. Trout's deal surpasses the $900K guarantee achieved by Ryan Howard in 2007 and Albert Pujols in 2003 (though as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets, Howard's deal was farther north of the then-lower league minimum salary).
The $1MM salary likely makes it easier to extend Trout; as MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reported earlier in the week, once Trout's 2014 salary is agreed to, the Angels can structure a long-term deal to begin in 2015 without fear of incurring luxury tax penalties in 2014. Talks with Trout are rumored to be surrounding a six-year, $150MM extension. That mark would be historic in its own right and would buy out three years of free agency, were it to begin in the 2015 season.
Earlier this morning, our own Zach Links examined how pre-arbitration salaries are determined, noting that several teams use rigid scales that afford only minimal raises to players with 0 to 3 years of Major League service time. As that post explains, performance is often factored into the salaries of pre-arb players, but a raise of this magnitude is virtually unheard of for a player who has yet to hit arbitration.
Angels GM Jerry Dipoto called the deal a "landmark," when speaking to reporters (including Shaikin). Fletcher tweets that Dipoto feels that Trout's performance merited breaking a rule on their 0-to-3 pay scale (referring to years of service time). Indeed, Trout has been arguably the best player in baseball over the past two seasons, slashing an otherworldly .324/.416/.560 with 57 homers, 82 steals, two All-Star bids, two Silver Slugger awards, a Rookie of the Year trophy and a pair of runner-up finishes in the American League MVP voting.
The contract is a notable step up from last year's $510K renewal, which was met with some harsh criticism from agent Craig Landis, fans and the media. This coming season marks Trout's final year before arbitration eligibility, and it's fair to assume that Trout could shatter records in arbitration as well, if the two sides are ultimately unable to agree on a long-term deal.
MONDAY: MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports that the Angels don't have to wait until Opening Day to sign Trout to an extension in order to avoid luxury tax ramifications. Because Trout has already had his 2014 salary set, the Angels can structure an extension beginning with the 2015 season without undergoing penalty. In other words: they can extend Trout as soon as they want. This, Gonzalez writes, is the same rationale the Yankees used when signing Brett Gardner to a four-year extension that doesn't kick in until 2015.
SUNDAY, 2:00 pm: "No comment, but I like how a lot of people are writing it. It's pretty funny," Trout told reporters, including Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
12:46 pm: Mike Trout and the Angels are discussing a six-year deal worth about $150MM, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports. The deal would buy out two free agent seasons, and allow Trout to become a free agent at age 28. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets the Angels' desire is for a seven-year pact in the $150-160MM range. Trout is represented by LSW Baseball.
There are still details to iron out, as Passan notes that there remains a difference between the two sides in the "low eight figures." The deal will cover one pre-arbitration season, as well as three arbitration years. Fangraphs' Dave Cameron recently wrote about the possibility of a Trout extension and estimated Trout might make a total of $60MM during his arbitration seasons, so a $150MM extension over six years might essentially buy out two free agency years at a little less than $45MM apiece.
Passan suggests that, in practice, Trout might actually get $35MM and $38MM in those seasons. Those still sound like enormous figures, but they're hardly surprising given the escalation of salaries throughout baseball and given that those two free-agency years would be the age-26 and age-27 seasons for the best player in the game. The $25MM average annual value would tie teammate Josh Hamilton as the richest for an outfielder (per Cot's Baseball Contracts), but the six-year, $150MM proposal would still fall far short of the record-setting seven-year, $215MM extension Clayton Kershaw signed with the Dodgers last month.
The timing of the extension is crucial to the Angels, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. The Angels are not believed to be interested in signing Trout to a deal that includes 2014, because it would likely push them over the $189MM luxury tax threshold. Fletcher reports the Angels are approximately $15MM under the threshold now and, by reaching a deal on a 2015 contract sometime after Opening Day, could avoid going over because it would not count against this year's cap, even if Trout receives a sizeable signing bonus to be paid in 2014.
Recently, Jeff Todd asked MLBTR readers about the parameters of a Trout extension. The consensus (as measured by the median of responses) was the Angels should be willing to give Trout a 10-year, $300MM deal, but a nine-year, $250MM contract is more likely to be reached.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.