Michael Trout Rumors

Los Angeles Notes: Dodgers, Harang, Angels

Mike Hampton, a left-handed starter who accumulated 148 wins over 16 big league seasons, is returning to baseball as a pitching coach in the Angels minor league system.  MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez writes that Hampton will join the staff of the Double-A Arkansas Travelers.  Here's more on the Halos, as well as their NL counterparts in Los Angeles:

  • Manager Don Mattingly did not see Aaron Harang as an option for the Dodgers' bullpen even before the righty's rough outing today, and that could make Harang a trade candidate, Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times reports. “Harang doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that pitches out of the pen,” says Mattingly. “To me he’s more of a guy that paints. He keeps you in the game. He’s just not that guy that’s going in and overpower you.”  After the acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Dodgers have a surplus of starting pitching.  
  • Mattingly could see other starters (like Chris Capuano, who has also been pushed down the rotation depth chart), in bullpen roles, A.J. Cassavell of MLB.com explains.
  • With Harang and the rest of the Dodgers' rotation candidates (excluding Ryu) out of minor-league options, and with the bullpen seemingly an unlikely landing spot, the veteran seems aware that his time in Los Angeles could soon end, reports Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times "There's all sorts of scenarios out there right now, and if guys are traded, we're all starters," said Harang.  He went on to explain that he had to maintain the mental approach of a starter: "If we do get sent somewhere else and they want us to be a starter, we can't have the mind-set of, 'Oh I'm going to be a reliever now.' "
  • Former Nationals closer Chad Cordero, on the comeback trail with the Angels after nearly two years away from the game, aspires to return to closing, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Cordero's infant daughter died in 2010, and the Blue Jays released him in May 2011. Cordero, who's still only 30, last pitched in the majors with the Mariners in 2010.
  • While there is some history for pre-arbitration players coming off of outstanding years to receive salaries substantially greater than league minimum, Mike Trout has little leverage, writes Jeff Fletcher of The Orange County Register.  Fletcher goes on to note that "there doesn't seem to be much incentive on either side" to explore a long-term extension at the moment, with the Angels having "enough money that they can afford to wait on Trout" to ensure that "he is as good as his first year showed."  For his part, Trout stated that he is "not even thinking about that now."

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.

L.A. Notes: Greinke, Mattingly, Hamilton, Pujols

Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke is a “baseball junkie,” writes FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, who notes that Greinke participated in scouting trips with the Brewers’ front office while he pitched for Milwaukee. Greinke wanted the Brewers to pick infielder Corey Seager, but Greinke’s current team, the Dodgers, took Seager before the Brewers had a chance to select him. Here are more notes from the Dodgers and Angels:

  • Greinke doesn’t mind making less money than Felix Hernandez, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports. The Mariners right-hander recently signed a seven-year, $175MM extension, topping Greinke’s six-year, $147MM deal with the Dodgers. Hernandez is “a better pitcher than I am,” Greinke says.
  • ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden predicts that the Dodgers will extend manager Don Mattingly’s contract during Spring Training. Bowden suggests that Davey Johnson’s impending retirement, which will create what would appear to be a desirable managerial opening with the Nationals, could help convince the Dodgers to extend Mattingly, preventing him from leaving.
  • New Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton describes hitting in the Los Angeles lineup, alongside Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, as “appealing,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reports (on Twitter).
  • Pujols, meanwhile, says that “We look good on paper, but we still have to go out there and perform,” MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes (on Twitter).

Quick Hits: Trout, Avila, Cardinals

On this date two years ago the Phillies signed Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125MM extension. Right away, critics of the deal wondered why the Phillies would commit nine figures for Howard's age 32-36 seasons when he doesn't play a premium position. Their questions persist two years later since Howard's on the disabled list and his power numbers are in decline. Here are today's links…

Dipoto Talks Catcher, Callaspo, Trout

Angels GM Jerry Dipoto has been on the job for approximately two weeks and he's starting to get an intimate sense of his organization's strengths and weaknesses. He likes what he sees so far, but there's still a gap between the Angels' roster and where Dipoto wants it to be.

"Right now, we're a highly competitive Major League Baseball team," he told MLBTR in Milwaukee. "Where we want to be is we want to win the World Series and that’ll be the goal every year."

The Angels will look to improve their offense — particularly their ability to get on base — this winter. Jeff Mathis, a non-tender candidate with a projected salary of $1.8MM and a career OBP of .257 faces an uncertain future in Anaheim. But Dipoto, a former big league pitcher, knows the value of an above-average receiver.

"I do think there’s a lot to be said for what a catcher does behind the plate, how he calls the game," Dipoto said, speaking in general terms. "I'd be hypocritical if I told you otherwise. I always liked the guys who could catch. But there’s the balance that you have to bring to the game and that’s a fact."

Dipoto doesn't expect a major reversal in offensive production behind the plate to occur instantaneously. It's possible Mathis will return as an arbitration eligible player in 2012. However, I've heard the Angels are asking around about catchers. 

Dipoto likes Alberto Callaspo’s ability to get on base, make contact and control the strike zone. At this point, it's not clear whether the versatile 28-year-old will return to third in 2012 or play another position. The Angels intend for Mike Trout to play every day whether or not he's in the Major Leagues and questions about service time will be secondary to the young outfielder's ability to excel in the Majors.

"You need to put players in a position where they can be effective, where they can change your future," Dipoto said.

Dipoto Talks Angels Offseason

10:43pm: Dipoto said the Angels aren't interested in Aramis Ramirez but are interested in C.J. Wilson, according to Bowden (all links go to Twitter). Dipoto said he's looking for an upgrade at catcher, improved on-base percentage in the lineup and a rotation stabilizer. The Angels intend to tender a contract to Kendrys Morales, who hasn't played since an ill-fated walk-off celebration in 2010.

9:47pm: Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden that the Angels may be interested in Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. Morales and Rookie of the Year candidate Mark Trumbo provide the Angels with two internal options at first base, but Dipoto hasn’t ruled out others.

"Don't assume that we have no interest in Fielder or Pujols," Dipoto said. "We don't want to lock the door. We are a high-revenue team and I'm a big believer in acquiring impact players. However, they are not our greatest need and are not priority number one on our list."

Dipoto explained that the Angels intend to pursue right-handed relievers this offseason in order to strengthen the back of their bullpen. Meanwhile, top prospect Mike Trout hasn’t assured himself of a starting job in the Major Leagues yet. Torii Hunter, Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells have everyday outfield jobs heading into Spring Training and the Angels intend to find regular at bats for the 20-year-old Trout.

"I know one thing, he's going to play every day and if it's not in the Major Leagues then it will be in our farm system," Dipoto said.

For a detailed look at the team's offseason outlook, click here.

Odds & Ends: Loux, Burrell, Dodgers, Trout

On this date six years ago, the Rangers lost Colby Lewis when the Tigers claimed him on waivers. Texas signed Lewis last offseason and the right-hander will take the hill tomorrow as he and the Rangers try to put away the Rays. Here are today's links…

Mike Trout Unlikely To Be Traded

Angels prospect Mike Trout reached base in all four of his at-bats at this year's All-Star Futures Game, twice on hits, and twice after "forcing errors on sharply struck grounders," to quote MLB.com's Lyle Spencer.  It was yet another impressive performance for the 18-year-old Trout, and one that reiterates his value to the Los Angeles organization.  This is why Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that any potential deal of Trout for a proven major leaguer seems highly unlikely.

It shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise that the Halos are hesitant to deal their first-round pick (25th overall) from the 2009 amateur draft.  After all, Trout has a .358/.440/.509 line in 579 plate appearances for the Angels' rookie ball and single-A affiliates, plus 58 steals in 69 attempts and a good center field glove.  Baseball America's John Manuel ranks Trout second amongst all minor leaguers on BA's list of the top 25 midseason prospects

So while holding onto Trout bodes well for LAA's future, it might also curb their ability to acquire a big hitter at this season's trade deadline.  Players like Prince Fielder or Adam Dunn who have been rumored to be on the Angels' radar could almost certainly be had for a trade package that included Trout.  But since Trout seems to be untouchable, Los Angeles probably doesn't have the necessary minor league talent to attract a superstar big bat.  Hank Conger and Peter Bourjos were both ranked on BA's preseason top 100 prospects list, and Luis Jimenez also played well in the Futures Game, but overall, the Angels' system lacks depth.  The 2010 Baseball America Handbook ranked the Angels' minor-league system as 25th among all major league teams, the same spot that they finished in the 2009 ranking.

Dealing prospects at this point would only serve to weaken an already-thin system, so as we approach the deadline, it's most likely that we see the Angels make a "plan B" style move for some bench help.  For example, Hank Blalock's name has already been mentioned in connection with the Halos, and Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles speculates that Russell Branyan could be made available now that Seattle has Justin Smoak at first base.

Angels Sign First Round Pick

According to Eric Schwartz of the Newark Star-Ledger, the Angels have agreed to terms with first round pick Michael Trout.  He was handed a $1.215MM signing bonus and will head to rookie ball in Arizona on Friday.

Trout, selected 25th overall in the June First-Year Player Draft, hit .531 with 49 runs scored, 18 dingers and 45 RBI as a senior outfielder at Millville High School in New Jersey.  He also went 5-1 with a 1.71 ERA as a starting pitcher.