Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Rumors
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.
Here are today's minor moves from around the league.
- MLB.com's Bill Ladson tweets that the Nationals have released minor leaguers Clay Hensley, Kyle Attl, Taylor Wrenn, Drew Rossi, Casey Selsor, Greg Holt and Martires Arias. Of the group, only Hensley has big league experience. The 34-year-old explained to MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko last month that a weighted-ball program had allowed him to rediscover his velocity, prompting his comeback attempt. Hensley fired 4 1/3 scoreless innings in Nationals camp but walked four batters in that time. He has an even 4.00 ERA in 517 career innings with the Padres, Marlins and Giants. Hensley's last Major League action came in 2012.
- The Giants have released right-hander Casey Weathers, per the club's official transactions page. The 27-year-old was drafted eighth overall by the Rockies in the 2007 draft, but underwent Tommy John surgery following the 2008 season and never regained his form. Weathers had a solid ERA and gaudy strikeout numbers in that 2008 season but struggled with his command and has seen his control issues worsen since surgery. His last minor league action came in the 2012 season with the Cubs when he walked an alarming 53 batters in 34 innings of work.
- The Angels have traded 1B Matthew Scioscia (Mike's son) to the Cubs for OF Trevor Gretzky (Wayne's son), Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Scioscia, 25, hit .194/.248/.224 in three minor-league levels last year. The 21-year-old Gretzky, a seventh-round pick in 2011, hit .274/.300/.333 in the low minors in 2013.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Padres have already taken a hit to their starting pitching depth after losing Cory Luebke to a second Tommy John surgery, and now right-hander Joe Wieland could suffer the same fate. Wieland is scheduled to have an MRI on his sore right elbow today, and Yahoo's Jeff Passan tweeted late last night that there's "significant concern" throughout the organization, with a re-torn UCL being the worst-case scenario. Wieland, like Luebke, spent the 2013 season recovering from 2012 Tommy John surgery. A second Tommy John surgery has become a familiar refrain around MLB of late; Daniel Hudson underwent his second Tommy John last summer, and there's a strong likelihood that Braves hurlers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy will do so as well. D'Backs lefty Patrick Corbin could be headed for his first Tommy John surgery as well.
Here are a couple of other NL-West-related items...
- The Dodgers are currently on the lookout for bench help, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who questions how the club could spent $225MM on payroll but enter the season with such a weak group of reserve players. Rival evaluators in Spring Training consider the Dodgers' bench to be the weakest in the division, says Rosenthal.
- Within that piece, Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers indicated to Mark Ellis early in the offseason that another two-year deal was a possibility. However, Ellis eventually grew weary of the Dodgers' indecisiveness, as they offered a one-year deal after signing Alexander Guerrero. Rosenthal adds that one potential scenario last summer was for the Dodgers to flip Zach Lee to the Angels for Howie Kendrick, then move Ellis to Kansas City for Luke Hochevar, but ownership nixed the Kendrick-for-Lee swap.
- Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes that while the Rockies initially thought right-hander Jordan Lyles would need some time in the minors when they acquired him in the Dexter Fowler trade, Lyles is forcing his way into immediate rotation consideration. He's competing with Franklin Morales for the fifth starter's role, and Lyles could benefit from the fact that Morales has bullpen experience. Manager Walt Weiss told Renck that Lyles is viewed strictly as a starter, so Morales could end up in relief with Lyles in the starting five.
Here are today's minor moves from around baseball.
- The Brewers have traded infielder Hector Gomez to the Angels for a player to be named, MLB Daily Dish's Justin Millar reports. Gomez, who recently turned 26, hit .196/.238/.255 in 406 plate appearances with Double-A Huntsville in 2013. He briefly appeared in the big leagues with Rockies in 2011. UPDATE: The Angels say there is "zero truth" to the Gomez report, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter).
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was in attendance for North Carolina State pitcher Carlos Rodon's start Friday, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. The left-hander is widely considered the top talent in this summer's draft. In his outing, Rodon allowed two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings, walking four but striking out 12. While Luhnow wouldn't discuss Rodon specifically, he commented that the trip "made me miss my scouting days." Here are two more AL West notes:
- A source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo that the Mariners feel "no urgency" to trade infielder Nick Franklin, who appears to be without a position following the Robinson Cano signing. There's healthy interest in Franklin after the 23-year-old flashed promise in his 2013 Major League debut, but a trade "doesn't seem like a given at this point," Cotillo writes.
- Joe Blanton could change minds in the Angels organization with another strong start, Bill Shaikin writes for the Los Angeles Times. The team previously "did not even pretend" that Blanton was in competition for a rotation job, and he struggled in his early spring outings. The Angels' limited pitching depth will likely be a factor in their ultimate decision on Blanton.
- Alternately, If the right-hander continues to show improvement and the Angels begin receiving calls on him, they would probably eat most of his salary in a trade, Shaikin says.
Here are the day's minor moves, all via Matt Eddy of Baseball America unless otherwise noted:
- First baseman Mike McDade has agreed to a minor league deal with the Blue Jays, tweets Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. The 24-year-old had a tough run at Triple-A for the Indians and White Sox last year, slashing just .250/.313/.371 after posting superior on-base and slugging figures over his previous time in the upper minors. McDade will return to the organization with which he spent his first six years in professional baseball.
- The Angels have released lefty Andrew Taylor, who was looking to work back after missing all of 2013, tweets Eddy. The 27-year-old saw a cup of coffee with the Halos back in 2012, but has spent most of his time in the upper minors in recent years. In 2012, he thre 59 innings of 4.27 ERA ball at Double-A and Triple-A, striking out 8.5 batters per nine innings while walking 3.8 per nine.
- Towering Diamondbacks righty Brett Lorin has also been cut loose, Eddy tweets. The 26-year-old reached Triple-A for the first time last year, and posted a solid 2.96 ERA in 51 2/3 innings across the upper minors in 2013. Lorin came to the organization as a Rule 5 pick, and the team liked him well enough to work out a trade to keep him, but he never reached the bigs in Arizona.
Though many players prefer to table extension talks once the season gets underway, Mike Trout doesn't appear to be putting any such deadlines on his negotiations with the Angels. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times wrote last night that Trout is perfectly fine with discussing a new contract over the course of the regular season. "It doesn't matter to me," Trout told DiGiovanna. "Nothing bothers me. I go out there and play, man. I don't worry about any of that stuff.
Trout is under contract for the 2014 season already after agreeing to a record-setting $1MM contract for a pre-arbitration player. Because of that, an extension with the Angels can officially begin in the 2015 season, thereby sparing GM Jerry Dipoto's club any luxury tax implications for the upcoming campaign. Many have speculated that the record-breaking pre-arb commitment was a show of good faith from the Angels that will make a contract extension easier to reach. The two sides were said to be discussing a six-year extension as recently as late February. That contract would run through 2020, buying out three arbitration years and three free agent years.
The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options. That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so. I've included players on multiyear deals. This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources. Our series concludes with the AL West.
Frieri is the team's closer, and Jepsen has a spot in the pen as well. About a week ago, Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times noted that Angels manager Mike Scioscia said the team could open the season with an eight-man bullpen. DiGiovanna further explained, "Carrying an extra reliever and a five-man rotation would limit the Angels to a three-man bench consisting of a backup catcher, utility infielder and outfielder."
Carter will serve as the team's designated hitter. Harrell is looking to reclaim a spot in the Astros' rotation, which is something of an open competition behind Scott Feldman. Valdes, a lefty reliever, is the oldest player in Astros camp at age 36, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. He's competing for a lefty relief spot with Darin Downs and Kevin Chapman, wrote Drellich a week ago.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about Taylor on Monday and Tuesday, noting that a scout told her a change of scenery might do some good for the 28-year-old outfielder. Slusser says non-roster invitee Sam Fuld is ahead of Taylor to potentially fill in for Craig Gentry if Gentry needs to start the season on the DL. Slusser wrote Monday that Barton will need at least a few more days to recover from a hamstring strain. Barton doesn't fit well at first base in a potential platoon with Moss, wrote John Hickey of the Mercury News in February, so it could be difficult for him to find a roster spot. Moss seems assured of semi-regular first base duty after hitting 51 home runs for the A's over the past two years. Donaldson is the team's starting third baseman after a breakout 2013.
Gimenez is seemingly fourth on the A's depth chart at catcher, so he has an uphill battle for a roster spot out of camp.
MLB.com's Chris Gabel wrote about Abad yesterday, noting that he's competing with Drew Pomeranz and Joe Savery to become the second lefty in Oakland's bullpen. Though Abad has surrendered a few runs in his six innings of spring work to date, Gabel quotes A's manager Bob Melvin as praising the 28-year-old, leading the writer to speculate that "he might already have secured a spot in the A's bullpen." Last week, MLB.com's Jane Lee wrote that Chavez "appears to be a lock" for the team's pen.
Mariners: Hector Noesi
The Mariners have an open rotation competition after Felix Hernandez in the wake of injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, wrote MLB.com's John Schlegel on Tuesday. James Paxton, Scott Baker, and Erasmo Ramirez might be the favorites, though, meaning Noesi is really competing for one spot. Noesi could instead be a long reliever out of the bullpen, Bob Dutton of the News Tribune suggested a week ago.
In a roster projection from Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News today, he included both Beltre and Michael Choice, noting that the team doesn't want to lose Beltre. Keeping both Beltre and Choice might mean sending catcher Robinson Chirinos to Triple-A despite an impressive spring. Grant sees Rosales as the team's best backup infield option over Brent Lillibridge and Kevin Kouzmanoff, because Rosales can play second base, shortstop, and third base.
Kirkman is part of Grant's projected seven-man bullpen, while Figueroa is not. As a lefty who throws 95 miles per hour, Figueroa was intriguing enough to the Rangers for the club to claim him off waivers from the Rays in late January. It seems the Rangers will be forced to choose one of the two, barring a trade or injury.
How do teams take players from promise to big league production? Grantland's Jonah Keri takes a look at some different developmental approaches for players approaching MLB readiness, most of them from AL clubs. The Twins, for example, advance players based upon their readiness to fill a need at the MLB level, while the Rays pay close attention to service time in a bid to maximize the value of each player asset. Here's more from the American League:
- The Indians are still believed to be discussing an extension with second baseman Jason Kipnis, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. With just two years and 69 days of service, Kipnis will not reach arbitration eligibility until next year (though he received a relatively sizeable $554,900 contract from Cleveland for the coming season). As Hoynes notes, there is an interesting comp in the Cardinals' recent six-year, $52MM extension of Matt Carpenter, an older player with less service (and, on the whole, a less impressive overall track record).
- Grady Sizemore is an increasingly plausible option not just to break camp with the Red Sox, but to beat out Jackie Bradley Jr. for the center field job, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. He has shown enough for the club (and, perhaps, Sizemore) to dare to dream, even if manager John Farrell is still preaching caution. But the skipper also joined those offering praise for Sizemore's performance thus far in camp. "The fact that Grady's having encouraging signs in spring training is not a bad thing for Jackie Bradley or for anybody," Farrell said. "It means we've got another good player. Grady gives us the potential to build another talented and deep roster."
- Though an achilles tear ended Mark Mulder's comeback bid this year with the Angels, the 36-year-old says that does not mean he is giving up entirely, reports MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. "Barring a setback, or me not being able to pitch with my ankle for some reason, I don't see why not," Mulder said. "My arm's still going to be the same next year."