Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Rumors
Needless to say, the signing of Blanton to a two-year, $15MM contract last year has not worked out for the Halos. Blanton, 33, threw to a 6.04 ERA in 132 2/3 innings last year, though there was at least some hope of a rebound given his 3.18 K:BB ratio and 3.84 mark in both xFIP and SIERA. Then again, Blanton has consistently underperformed against those metrics in recent seasons. While there had been some consideration of Blanton starting out in the bullpen, the club apparently decided to cut ties after a spring in which he surrendered 16 earned runs in just 20 1/3 innings.
The Dodgers have the highest projected payroll in baseball at $235MM, which means that, for the first time in 15 years, the Yankees do not have baseball's highest payroll, the Associated Press reports. Also, the Dodgers' Zack Greinke will top the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez for baseball's highest-paid player. Greinke will make $24MM in the second year of his contract, and MLB's accounting also includes a prorated portion of his signing bonus. Greinke would have counted as the highest-paid player in the game even if Rodriguez hadn't been suspended for the season. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Pitcher Scott Baker is "making progress" on a deal with the injury-ravaged Rangers, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweets. The Mariners released Baker yesterday. Baker, 32, has played sparingly in the Majors since 2011, due to elbow troubles.
- The Mariners want to find a right-handed hitter, and they might not trade Nick Franklin unless they find one, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. A righty would help the Mariners balance a lefty-heavy lineup that includes Robinson Cano, Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders.
- Veteran infielder John McDonald has made the Angels roster, and he's thinking about what could be his last season in the big leagues, writes MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. "This could be my last year," McDonald says. "I'm not going to have a press conference to announce it. ... You never know what can happen. I don't like putting a timetable on anything. I'm 39. I'm not foolish. There is only so long you can play." McDonald has never played more than 123 games in a season but, mostly thanks to his defense, he's managed to eke out a 15-year career with the Indians, Tigers, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Indians, Phillies, Red Sox and now the Angels.
Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement contains a provision that allows certain free agents who are signed to minor league contracts to receive a $100K retention bonus if they are not on the team's 25-man roster or the Major League disabled list five days prior to the season.
Free agents who qualify for this distinction are those who have at least six years of Major League service time and had a Major League contract expire at the end of the previous season, but signed a minor league deal ten or more days prior to Opening Day.
MLBTR has confirmed with MLB that the deadline for teams to decide on these players is today at 11am central time. By the deadline, teams with these players in camp need to decide whether to:
- Add the player to their 25-man roster or Major League disabled list (or agree to do so in writing).
- Grant the player his outright release from the minor league contract so that he may pursue opportunities with other teams.
- Pay the player a $100K retention bonus to keep him in the organization beyond the deadline and send him to the minors.
Here's the latest news from around the league on Article XX(B) signees and their roster statuses with their respective teams (newest updates on top).
- Delmon Young receives a $100K bonus from the Orioles, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
- The Rockies have decided to pay righty Nick Masset a $100K retention bonus to keep him in the organization, rather than releasing him or guaranteeing him an active roster spot, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com.
- As posted already, Endy Chavez and Humberto Quintero of the Mariners have been released rather than receiving the roster bonus to be held in the minors.
- The Indians have announced that DH Jason Giambi will be placed on the DL retroactive to March 21, meaning that the team will need to add him to its 40-man roster.
- John McDonald has been added to the Angels' 40-man roster and will be the club's utility infielder on Opening Day, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter). The club has already released its three other Article XX(B) free agents.
- The Mets have elected to pay pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka a $100K retention bonus rather than guaranteeing him an Opening Day roster spot or releasing him, the club announced on Twitter. Matsuzaka, who signed as an Article XX(B) free agent, will apparently compete with Jenrry Mejia for the fifth and final rotation slot right up until the start of the season.
- Zach Duke has been informed that he has made the Brewers, tweets MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. Duke will be the third lefty (and, potentially, long man) in the pen.
- Earlier today we learned that Jason Kubel would make the Twins Opening Day roster.
The Angels announced that Carlos Pena and Chad Tracy have been granted their unconditional release. Earlier today, Yorvit Torrealba opted out of his deal to become a free agent rather than stay with the Halos. Today was the deadline for the club to add all three to the 40-man roster.
Pena, a 13-year MLB veteran, was an everyday player until last season. Spending most of 2013 with the Astros, Pena slashed .207/.321/.346 in 328 plate appearances. As that line would indicate, Pena has hung his hat on his ability to get on base via the walk, which he has done at about twice the league-average rate throughout his career. Once a major power threat - he hit 172 home runs between 2007 and 2011 - Pena's HR/FB rate has dropped from a peak of 29.1% down to around the 15% level in recent seasons. Pena, who signed with the Angels in late January, does not plan on retiring because "I love the way it feels when you square up a ball, when you make a good play in the field" (per MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez on Twitter).
Even though Tracy batted just .202/.243/.326 in 136 plate appearances with the Nationals in a pinch-hitting role last season, he batted .269/.343/.441 in a similar role in 2012. Tracy broke through with an outstanding sophomore campaign with the Diamondbacks in 2005 when he belted 27 homers and slashed .308/.359/.553. However, he's been unable to replicate that form in his subsequent big league seasons.
Yorvit Torrealba is set to opt out of his deal with the Angels and become a free agent today, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish. The veteran was waiting to find out if he would be on the Angels' big league roster and it appears that he wasn't going to make the cut.
Torrealba, 35, hit .240/.295/.285 in 196 plate appearances as the backup to Wilin Rosario in Colorado in 2013. He gunned down 29 percent of attempted base stealers in 2013, which is right in line with his career mark of 30 percent. A career .256/.315/.379 batter, Torrealba was brought aboard to provide Halos with some veteran depth behind primary catchers Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger. Now, he'll try and find a big league opportunity elsewhere.
Baseball personnel believe Billy Beane of the Athletics is the best GM in the game, the New York Post's Joel Sherman writes in a survey of scouts and executives. "He continues to find ways to be ahead of trends," says one scout. Joe Maddon of the Rays and Mike Matheny of the Cardinals got the most votes for best manager, and the Angels' Mike Trout got the most votes for best player. Here are more notes from around the West divisions.
- New Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler doesn't understand Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd offseason comments questioning his passion for the game, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. "I'm still trying to figure out where they're coming from," Fowler says. " 'Passion for the game' - I mean, you see me each and every day. This will never change. So I don't know where that was coming from." Fowler also tells Drellich he didn't know whether O'Dowd was even the Rockies' GM, or whether it was assistant GM Bill Geivett. (O'Dowd runs baseball operations, while Geivett runs big-league operations.) The Rockies traded Fowler to Houston in December.
- Joe Blanton is bracing for an uncertain future with the Angels, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez writes. "Whatever happens, happens," says Blanton. "All I can do is just go pitch and try to make the adjustments in-game and keep working hard." Blanton has $7.5MM plus a $1MM buyout remaining on his contract, and does not have a spot in the Angels' rotation after a miserable 2013 season. The Angels could release him, or move him to the bullpen while they wait for their relief corps to get healthy.
GM Terry Ryan, who is recovering from cancer treatments, made a recent visit to Twins spring training and talked about his current role with the team, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Ryan says he sometimes hears information that might be useful, but since he isn't in camp with the team, he merely relays it to assistant GM Rob Antony and the rest of the Twins' staff. "It would be unfair for me to sit in Minnesota not having seen one game and start dictating to Rob and Mike (Radcliff) and Wayne (Krivsky) and Jack (Goin) and Bill (Smith) and people around here that have seen a lot of baseball," Ryan says. "I say, ‘Here’s what I’ve heard. Here’s what they’re looking for.’ And I pass it on." Here are more notes from around the American League.
- Michael Bourn's contract is unlikely to end up hurting the Indians to the degree that Travis Hafner's did, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Although there are reasons to worry about how Bourn will age, his defense means he isn't a "one-way player" the way Hafner was.
- Reliever Mark Lowe's contract with the Rays allows him to opt out on March 31 if he does not make their 25-man roster, MLBTR's Chris Cotillo tweets. Lowe appeared in just 11 games for the Angels in 2013, but he received plenty of playing time out of the Rangers' bullpen in 2011 and 2012. He has a 4.17 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in parts of eight big-league seasons.
- Catcher Yorvit Torrealba can ask to be released tomorrow if the Angels do not add him to their roster, tweets MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. Torrealba does not want to go to the minor leagues, and will instead wait for an opportunity in the bigs. Torrealba, 35, hit .240/.295/.285 in 196 plate appearances as the backup to Wilin Rosario in Colorado in 2013.
Here's the latest from Jon Morosi of FOX Sports:
- The Tigers' recent trade for Andrew Romine suggests that they will not pursue Stephen Drew even though he's the best free agent available at shortstop. As owner Mike Ilitch ages, he may involve himself less with team business, and the team may be less likely to splurge when an opportunity arises. And the loss of a first-round draft pick is a high price to pay.
- As Opening Day approaches, the Angels still haven't signed Mike Trout to an extension. Players and teams sometimes treat Opening Day as a deadline for extension discussions. That doesn't mean the Angels won't sign Trout, Morosi notes, but as of now, a signing does not appear to be on the immediate horizon.
- With Aroldis Chapman out and with Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall returning from injury, the Reds have at least a temporary vacancy at closer. One trade option to fill it could be the Diamondbacks' J.J. Putz, who has closing experience and who worked with current Reds manager Bryan Price when both were with the Mariners.
The 28-year-old Romine will add another name to the mix of internal candidates to replace the injured Jose Iglesias at shortstop for the Tigers. In a career-high 123 plate appearances with the Halos last season, Romine batted .259/.308/.287 and saw action at third base, shortstop and second base. In his limited time at shortstop in the Majors, Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved peg Romine as below average at shortstop, but small sample warnings should definitely be applied, as he's played just 189 innings there at the game's top level. Baseball America ranked him as the best defensive infielder in the Angels' system four times from 2007-11.
Alvarez, 24, made his Major League debut last season and posted a 5.82 ERA in 38 2/3 innings with 7.2 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 40.3 percent ground-ball rate. Opposing lefties roughed him up at a .265/.321/.531 batting line, but he's been much better in the minors. At the Triple-A level, Alvarez has a 2.80 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 128 1/3 innings. He was named Detroit's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013.
The Angels' level of spending did come anywhere near that of the previous two offseasons as the club worked to avoid luxury tax penalties by adding a pair of young arms via trade.
Major League Signings
Notable Minor League Signings
- Brennan Boesch ($800K if he makes the club), Brandon Lyon ($1MM), Yorvit Torrealba ($950K), Mark Mulder ($1MM -- since released), Joe Martinez, Chad Tracy, Carlos Pena, Ian Stewart, John McDonald, Clay Rapada, Wade LeBlanc
Trades and Claims
- Acquired LHP Tyler Skaggs from the Diamondbacks and LHP Hector Santiago from the White Sox in a three-team trade that sent Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks.
- Acquired 3B David Freese and RHP Fernando Salas from the Cardinals in exchange for CF Peter Bourjos and OF Randal Grichuk.
- Claimed LHP Brian Moran from the Mariners in the Rule 5 Draft.
- Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, Jerome Williams (non-tendered), Tommy Hanson (non-tendered) Chris Nelson, Brendan Harris, J.C. Gutierrez, Robert Coello
The Angels entered the offseason with a clearly stated purpose: acquire young, controllable starting pitching without breaking the bank -- and thereby incurring luxury tax penalties -- in order to do so. Plan A may have been Matt Garza, as reports indicated that the eventual Brewers hurler first received a four-year, $52MM offer from the Halos. Garza confirmed the offer, adding that he was on vacation with his wife at the time of the offer and said he didn't want to think about his contract at that point. By the time his vacation was over, Anaheim had pulled the offer. (Garza would sign for $2MM less but with Milwaukee but the opportunity to earn up to $67MM via incentives and an option.)
And so, the Angels turned to the trade market in order to bolster the starting five. Despite having one of the game's worst farm systems (a result of sacrificing numerous first-round picks to sign the likes of Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson and others), GM Jerry Dipoto was able to accomplish this feat by trading Trumbo to the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal.
In Skaggs (pictured), Dipoto acquires one of the pitchers he acquired while serving as Arizona's interim GM in the trade that sent Dan Haren to the Angels. The former Top 10 prospect struggled in 2013 due to diminished velocity but looks to have regained some of that missing heat in 2014 already -- a promising turn of events for Angels fans. Some view Santiago as a reliever and feel his ERA is a mirage thanks to his substandard command. His ERA may be misleading, but even if Santiago can pitch at a mark near his 4.49 career FIP, the addition of him and Skaggs could benefit the Halos for years to come. As fly-ball pitchers, both should benefit from an outfield anchored by Mike Trout in center.
The outfield defense would've been stronger, but Dipoto & Co. saw fit to dispatch Bourjos and former first-rounder Grichuk to St. Louis in exchange for Freese and Salas. Freese is a decent bounce-back candidate but has long had health questions. He could provide an upgrade in Anaheim, as Angels third basemen slashed just .249/.308/.332 as a whole, but he has just two years of team control remaining to Bourjos' three and is considerably more expensive. Salas has pitched at replacement level since a strong 2011 and doesn't figure to benefit from the move to the American League. He'll look to join a bullpen that posted the fifth-worst combined ERA in all of baseball last season (4.12).
It was that underwhelming performance that led the Angels to aggressively pursue Smith -- a former righty specialist who has shown a great deal of improvement versus left-handed hitters in recent years. However, as broken down by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes at the time of the signing, Smith doesn't have elite control, doesn't miss many bats and had his excellent 2013 propped up by an unsustainable strand rate. While his ground-ball tendencies are strong, one wonders if the Angels would have been better suited to wait out the relief market and sign a cheaper arm. Doing so would have allowed them to add a safety net such as Paul Maholm or Chris Capuano on a minor league deal, should Skaggs, Santiago or Garrett Richards need minor league time or should Wilson or Jered Weaver hit the disabled list.
While the additions of Skaggs and Santiago give the Angels a serviceable pair of lefties to round out the rotation, the duo doesn't come without risk. Skaggs has his velocity back, but he's yet to so much as sniff big league success, as reflected by his 5.43 ERA in 68 career innings. Santiago's never topped 149 innings in a professional season, and even Richards, the incumbent third starter, has never topped 157 innings (2011). Joe Blanton offers depth to absorb some starts, but his signing has proven to be an abject bust to this point, and there's little Major League ready depth beyond right-hander Matt Shoemaker and non-roster invitee Wade LeBlanc. All of this makes the decision to non-tender Williams -- who was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn just $3.9MM -- rather puzzling. The veteran swingman could've served as a nice insurance policy given the likely presence of three starters who aren't used to shouldering this type of workload in manager Mike Scioscia's rotation. Instead, the Angels have considered carrying an extra reliever due to rotation questions, as Mike DiGiovanna wrote earlier in the spring.
Among the club's established players, it's a gross understatement to say that health will determine the fate of this club. Albert Pujols missed 61 games and was hobbled by plantar fasciitis even when in the lineup, leading to the worst season of his career. Josh Hamilton's home run power went missing as he played through a variety of minor maladies without ever hitting the disabled list. He also continued the concerning trend of whiffing in roughly a quarter of his plate appearances. Freese missed significant time with persistent back issues, and Erick Aybar hit the DL for a third straight season.
Despite the addition of Smith, the bullpen lacks much in the way of reliable relievers. Ernesto Frieri has emerged as a solid, albeit erratic ninth-inning arm, but the rest of the relief corps will be comprised of Dane De La Rosa, Kevin Jepsen and Sean Burnett (who missed nearly all of 2013). Beyond that, names like Cory Rasmus, Michael Kohn, Salas and Moran will be fighting for spots.
Also worth some degree of concern is the lost power with the departure of Trumbo. The Halos will attempt to recoup some of that pop through the 41-year-old (42 in June) Ibanez, who clubbed 29 homers with the Mariners in 2013. However, Ibanez also posted just a .306 OBP (not that Trumbo was better in that regard) and wilted in the season's second half last year, slashing just .203/.295/.345 with a mere five of his 29 homers. The Angels seem to be counting on him as their everyday DH, but they could be in trouble if his post-All-Star-break form of 2013 was a portent of things to come. A rebound from former first-round pick C.J. Cron in the minors would give them a nice alternative, but the upper levels of their farm system doesn't carry much in the way of impact bats.
Deal of Note
It seems silly that when discussing a team as deep-pocketed as the Angels -- they of $240MM and $125MM commitments to Pujols and Hamilton in 2011 and 2012 -- the "deal of note" would be a mere $1MM signing. However, when that one-year, $1MM contract is issued as a sign of good faith to the game's best player, it carries some weight.
The Angels gave Mike Trout the largest salary ever for a pre-arbitration player that wasn't on a Major League deal coming out of the draft -- a far cry from the meager $510K salary he received following his MVP runner-up in 2012. Trout and the Angels are said to be discussing an extension that could span six years and begin in 2015 (so as to avoid luxury tax implications for the coming season). Trout has gone on record as stating that he's fine with discussing a new contract once the season begins, so there's no rush for the Angels to get a deal done.
However, another MVP-caliber season that positions Trout for a record-setting payday could arguably be a bigger risk for the Angels than signing him to a record-setting extension right now. A third consecutive historic season might be enough to convince Trout that he's better off going year to year through the arbitration process and hitting the open market in search of baseball's first $300MM (and perhaps even $400MM) contract as a 26-year-old.
The Angels have three players on their active roster who have been considered among the game's five to 10 best hitters within the past three years in Trout, Pujols and Hamilton. As such, it would be a mistake to completely write this team off despite the poor performance of the latter two in 2013. A rebound from Pujols and/or Hamilton would drastically alter the perception of this team, particularly in light of injuries suffered by the Athletics (Jarrod Parker) and Rangers (Derek Holland) that will undoubtedly impact their seasons.
However, the uncertainty that shrouds those fading stars could be applied to the entire team. Will Freese stay healthy? Can their rotation succeed with a trio of starters that have never even reached 160 innings in a season? Does Trout have another 10-WAR season in him? Will a largely unproven bullpen be able to hold the leads it inherits?
When it comes down to it, the Angels have a big-market payroll but many of the question marks typically associated with a mid- to small-market club. Contention is a long shot, but if their big guns rebound, the rest of the division had best be on full alert, because the Angels possess enough star power to make a run if things break their way.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.