Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Rumors
Rick Ankiel could be nearing the end of his well-documented but still-surreal path through baseball, writes Joe Posnanski of NBCSports.com. Evoking the poet Dylan Thomas ("rage, rage against the dying of the light ... do not go gentle into that good night"), Posnanski notes that Ankiel's journey has taken one more incredible turn. In 42 plate appearances this season prior to this evening's game, Ankiel posted a remarkable 26:0 strikeout to walk ratio, but was slugging over .600 thanks to his five home runs and two doubles. While long known as a free swinger with contact issues, Ankiel appears to be bringing both those labels to heretofore unseen extremes for the struggling Astros. Elsewhere around the American League:
- It is time to wonder whether and when the Mariners will start firing people, writes Dave Cameron at U.S.S. Mariner. While Cameron is no fan of manager Eric Wedge, he feels that there is little to be gained from a mid-season firing of the team's skipper. And while the team might be tempted to can GM Jack Zduriencik, that could create major logistical difficulties with the upcoming draft and then trade deadline. Ultimately, says Cameron, Seattle will be hard pressed to avoid reaping what it sowed in a confounding offseason.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan says it was "just happenstance" that this offseason saw the club acquire a series of groundball-inducing righties (Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, and Kevin Correia), Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports. Ryan has a background in what Berardino describes as "old-school scouting principles." Nevertheless, the GM says that he does not make any decisions without consulting his statistics guru, Jack Goin, whose official title is manager of major league administration and baseball research.
- The Angels have outrighted right-handed Elvin Ramirez to Triple-A after the pitcher cleared waivers, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (via Twitter). Ramirez was acquired from the Mets for cash about a month back. The move means that the club has cleared a spot on its 40-man roster, Gonzalez also notes.
- After being designated for assignment to make room for Aaron Laffey, pitcher Ramon Ortiz has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A by the Blue Jays, according to the club's Buffalo affiliate (on Twitter). He made one appearance for Toronto this year after spending all of 2012 in the Yankees' system.
Earlier today, ESPN's Buster Olney joined WEEI's Mut & Merloni to talk all things Red Sox and we have the highlights courtesy of Annie Maroon..
- One major league GM told Olney that the Red Sox would get nothing by trading pitcher Alfredo Aceves. His trade value is extremely low because of his reputation as a poor teammate, though it's conceivable that he could go elsewhere and rebound. The best Boston could do might be to get some salary relief for Aceves and a team starving for bullpen help like the Angels could be a fit.
- Rival teams were shocked that the Dodgers gave up both Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa in the blockbuster trade seeing as how they were taking so much dead money off of Boston's payroll. In fact, baseball people felt that Red Sox GM Ben Cherington pulled off one of the best trades in years, even when factoring in all of the talent he parted with.
- Olney sees Mike Napoli’s hip condition impacting the offers he’ll see as a free agent next year but he was surprised to see the catcher's deal affected so much by the hip issues this past offseason with the Red Sox. Olney expected another team to jump in while the deal was in limbo and steal him away, but that didn't happen. At the same time, it's possible that Napoli had other attractive offers on the table but decided that he liked the situation in Boston and the chance to show that he can provide value at first base.
Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo has been hit by an incredible nine pitches already, which, combined with a very discerning eye at the plate, has lead to an MLB-best .523 OBP. SB Nation's Rob Neyer opines that the Reds correctly assessed that the gap between Choo's offense and Drew Stubbs' offense would outweigh the defensive downgrade. While Choo won't keep this pace up, Neyer points out that Reds leadoff men combined for a .254 OBP last season, making the addition of Choo a worthwhile move.
Choo currently ranks third on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, and a career-year in terms of OBP would certainly help keep him near the top of that list. Here's more from around the league...
- MLB.com's Lyle Spencer writes that Miguel Cabrera was nearly traded to the Angels prior to the 2007 trade that sent him to the Tigers. Cabrera himself told Spencer that he thought he was being traded to Anaheim. The Angels and Marlins discussed Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders in the deal as well as young infielders Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood. Ultimately, Cabrera said that he thinks he wound up in Detroit because the Tigers were more willing to take on Dontrelle Willis and his $7MM salary.
- Former Athletics left-hander Dallas Braden implied via Twitter that he could be entertaining a comeback attempt. Braden, now 29 years old, made just three starts in the 2011 season and hasn't pitched since thanks to a pair of shoulder surgeries. Braden famously threw a perfect game against the Rays on May 9, 2010 with his grandmother in attendance.
- The Mariners' offensive woes present the "biggest crisis of the Jack Zduriencik era," writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. While he concedes that it's a small sample, Zduriencik made several moves to bolster the lineup this offseason but the Mariners find themselves in 29th place in nearly every offensive category. The collapse of Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero -- who were supposed to be the team's young core -- is a major setback in Zduriencik's blueprint.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum is upset with his team's recent play and says that players who don't perform won't have big-league jobs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times reports. That goes for top young players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. "I don’t think [anyone’s] invincible if you’re not performing," Sveum says regarding Castro and Rizzo. "It’s not about what we think can happen three or four years from now. It’s time to perform on a consistent basis."
Wittenmyer writes that Sveum's harsh words for Castro and Rizzo "threw a sudden dose of skepticism and doubt into the widespread assumptions about the Cubs’ core," but acknowledges that, in reality, Castro and Rizzo will be with the Cubs for the foreseeable future. Sveum is suggesting they might be demoted, but that seems extremely unlikely, and it's even less likely that either of them would be traded. The Cubs signed Castro to a seven-year, $60MM contract last August. Rizzo is not signed to a long-term deal. Both players have hit well this season despite occasional mistakes in the field. Here are more notes from around the majors.
- John Poloni -- also known as the "fat scout" in Michael Lewis' Moneyball -- lobbied for the Athletics to draft Tim Hudson in 1997, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Hudson wasn't regarded as a top draft prospect due to his size, but Poloni told the A's that Hudson had "the best sinker he'd ever seen." 16 years later, Hudson is nearing his 200th win in the big leagues. That doesn't mean Poloni is rushing to take credit, however. "He exceeded my expectations, too," Poloni says. "A lot of times, it's pure luck."
- Last offseason's big-ticket free agents haven't performed well so far, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel. One of the highest-profile disappointments thus far has probably been Josh Hamilton of the Angels, although it's still early enough in the season that one big series could make any player's statistics look considerably better.
The White Sox are back at home after a 3-7 road trip, and they were 7-9 overall heading into an afternoon matchup against the Twins. But GM Rick Hahn says he isn't concerned about his team's slow start, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports. "With just about 10 percent of the season played, I don't think you can draw any grand conclusions about where things sit right now," Hahn said. And with so small a sample, Hahn isn't about to start making big moves. "It certainly is a temptation to explore other options, but it's way too soon to avert from the plan except when forced to due to injury," he says. Here are more notes from the American League.
- The Angels' lack of pitching talent could cost GM Jerry Dipoto, manager Mike Scioscia, and pitching coach Mike Butcher their jobs, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times argues. The Angels are currently 6-10, and their starting rotation has a 5.62 ERA. But DiGiovanna says owner Arte Moreno might ultimately be most responsible for the Angels' current roster construction, as Moreno's "infatuation with marquee names" led the team to sign hitters Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to enormous contracts. Instead of signing Hamilton, the Angels could have tried to retain Zack Greinke, who ended up heading north to the Dodgers. Among Dipoto, Scioscia and Butcher, Butcher's seat is the hottest, DiGiovanna says. Firing Scioscia seems much less likely, due to Scioscia's enormous $50MM contract.
- Scott Kazmir will make his Indians debut tonight, and it will be his first big-league appearance in over two years, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. After being released by the Angels in May 2011, Kazmir pitched for the independent-league Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012. He won a spot in the Indians' rotation out of camp, but his 2013 debut was delayed by a rib cage injury.
A setback in Derek Jeter's ankle injury will keep the Yankees shortstop out until after the All-Star break, Mark Feinsand of New York Daily News reports. Jeter's doctor found a "small crack" near where Jeter's injury originally occurred. He will not need surgery as a result of the setback, but this news ensures that the Yankees' lineup will be without its highest-profile star, in a season in which the lineup has frequently been filled with new Yankees like Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- Despite the news of Jeter's extended absence, the Yankees will stick with Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix at shortstop, GM Brian Cashman tells MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. Not only is it difficult to make trades early in the season, but Cashman says he feels Nunez and Nix have earned more playing time (although neither of them have an OPS higher than .603). "Those guys have done a nice job. They've earned the right, and regardless, this time of year is certainly going to be a factor in anything that happens," says Cashman.
- Now the third-base coach of the Indians, former Astros manager Brad Mills returns to Houston Friday night with no regrets, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart writes. Mills was fired last August 18. There's been plenty of roster turnover since then, and the Astros are also playing in a new league. "It's going to be different, no doubt," says Mills. "It's going to be fun to see some of the fans, fun to visit with some of the players and some of the workers there at the stadium, people you gain a relationship in three years."
- The Angels are off to a 4-10 start, but we shouldn't expect them to make a trade anytime soon, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. As MLBTR noted last week, it's difficult to make early-season trades (and Gonzalez notes that the Angels' trade for Ernesto Frieri in May 2012 was tricky). Also, the Angels would prefer to stay beneath the Competitive Balance Tax threshold, and that gives them little flexibility. "We put ourselves in this situation, and we have to figure out a way to get ourselves out," says Angels GM Jerry Dipoto.
We'll keep track of today's minor moves from around the league in this post...
- Outfielder Scott Cousins has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Salt Lake City according to Angels manager of communications Eric Kay (on Twitter). The 28-year-old has batted just .183/.231/.291 in 188 Major League plate appearances -- all coming with the Marlins. Cousins had been designated for assignment by the Halos on Saturday.
Todd Helton says he won't play for anyone but the Rockies, reports MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom. It sounds like Helton is considering retirement: "I have other interests in my life besides baseball, even though I enjoy everything about it," he says. "... I do have other things in my life -- kids, family -- and a lot of things that the game has given me the chance to enjoy." Helton is in his 17th season playing for only the Rockies, and Bloom points out that Helton holds records in homers, doubles, hits, RBIs and runs scored for the young franchise. He is set to become a free agent after the season. Here are more notes from the two West divisions.
- The Rangers are "growing confident" that they'll be able to trade outfielder Julio Borbon, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reports. The Rangers designated Borbon for assignment on Tuesday. Sullivan says that the Rangers aren't expecting much in return, which makes sense -- Borbon is 27 and has yet to establish himself in the majors. Texas might receive a reliever in return for Borbon, Sullivan suggests.
- For reliever Dane De La Rosa, pitching for the Angels is "a bit of a childhood dream," writes MLB.com's William Boor. De La Rosa grew up in Southern California, but spent the last three years with the Rays organization, mostly pitching thousands of miles to the east in Triple-A Durham and Double-A Montgomery before making his big-league debut in 2011. The Rays traded De La Rosa to the Angels for Steve Geltz in late March. "It's just cool being able to play on the West Coast, actually showing my family and friends that I do play baseball," says De La Rosa. "I don't think they believed me for the past few years, just because I've been so far away. It's just nice to be around family and I've had a lot of friends come out."
We'll track today's minor transactions here:
- The Reds have signed Italian amateur pitcher Davide Anselmi, George Von Benko of MLB.com notes. Anselmi, who was born in 1995, plays in the Unipol Bologna organization. The news of his signing with the Reds appears to have been broken by the Italian website GrandeSlam.net.
- The Angels have designated outfielder Scott Cousins for assignment in order to make room on their 40-man roster for Michael Roth, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports (on Twitter). Cousins, 28, posted 175 at bats for the Marlins from 2010 through 2012, hitting .183/.231/.291.
- Righty D.J. Mitchell has cleared waivers and will become a free agent, reports Larry Stone of the Seattle Times (on Twitter). The Mariners had designated Mitchell for assignment to clear space for Endy Chavez. Mitchell, who turns 26 next month, appeared in four games for the Yankees in 2012. New York shipped him to Seattle in July, along with Danny Farquhar, for Ichiro Suzuki.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com lists the ten MLB managers who are or may soon be on the hot seat this year. His top three to watch are the Phillies' Charlie Manuel, the Twins' Ron Gardenhire, and Clint Hurdle of the Pirates. The list also includes high-profile skippers like the Dodgers' Don Mattingly, the Angels' Mike Scioscia, and the Yankees' Joe Girardi. Elsewhere around baseball:
- The Nationals attempted to acquire Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks before landing Denard Span from the Twins over the offseason, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com (via Twitter). The club was previously known to have been interested in Justin's older brother, B.J. Upton, to fill the club's center field vacancy. Presumably, Bryce Harper would have stayed in center had the younger Upton gone to the Nats.
- While the Nationals are off to a solid start, the club has been let down at times by its supposedly improved bullpen, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Instead of replacing set-up man Sean Burnett with a lefty specialist, GM Mike Rizzo added to the top of the bullpen by signing the premier relief pitcher available, closer Rafael Soriano. Yet Soriano has scuffled at times, and the bullpen has collectively sported a 6.34 ERA that is the worst in baseball. Last night, the pen coughed up a lead in a loss to the Nats' most worrisome NL East competitor, the Braves.
- Another team that came into 2013 with high expectations, of course, was the Angels. Yahoo's Tim Brown wonders what owner Arte Moreno is thinking as the team has struggled out of the gates again. Brown says that, after making yet more big salary investments this offseason, the competitive Moreno must surely be wondering whether there is anything he can do to get the club going, such as replacing the long-tenured Scioscia.