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Mike Trout Rumors
The Rangers didn't really expect to re-sign Nelson Cruz this winter, yet did their due diligence by keeping in touch with Cruz's agent Adam Katz, GM Jon Daniels told MLB.com's Lyle Spencer. "We've touched base every week or so," Daniels said. "Nellie's highly regarded here. We have a good relationship with Adam. We made our moves and kind of expected [Cruz] to sign elsewhere. But we'll see where it goes. It's a unique situation for him as a free agent. When we made our decision to sign [Shin-Soo] Choo, it was with the understanding that [Cruz's] best opportunity would be to sign elsewhere. I don't know what's going on with other teams and Nellie."
Here's some more from around the AL West…
- The Rangers' view on re-signing Cruz is "unchanged," FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets, in that the team would only bring him back at a lower price and if he can't find any other suitors.
- Nick Franklin was almost traded to the Diamondbacks last offseason and had been the subject of trade rumors this winter as well since the Mariners' acquisition of Robinson Cano. Despite all of the speculation, Franklin tells Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that he's just focusing on the upcoming season. “I mean, as far as I know, I’ve been traded 20 times, and I’m still here," Franklin said. “It doesn’t really bother me at all. All I can do is control what I can and go out and play the game.”
- A 10-year, $300MM contract for Mike Trout has often been cited as a possible extension for the young superstar, though MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez opines that Trout's representatives might take a lesser deal given that Trout still has four years until free agency and his stock could drop in the interim. Also, a shorter deal would set Trout up for another massive contract later in his career. Gonzalez suggests a seven-year, $200MM extension could work. In my opinion, while the $200MM mark is a major threshold for any player, I'd guess the Angels would happily lock Trout up at that price.
- Athletics manager Bob Melvin told reporters, including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, that there is very little chance top prospect Addison Russell begins the season on the Major League roster. The A's are already set at shortstop wth Jed Lowrie (with Nick Punto and Eric Sogard as backup options), and as Slusser notes, there is little reason to start Russell's service time clock at this point in his young career.
MLBTR joins many others in offering its condolences to the family and friends of Jim Fregosi, who passed away today at age 71. Though he was a part of several organizations during his 53-year run in professional baseball, Fregosi will perhaps be remembered best for his important role in the Angels organization. He went to the team in the 1960 expansion draft, saw time during their first season of competition, and then spent nearly a decade as the club's shortstop. After wrapping up a stellar playing career, Fregosi got his start as a big league manager with the Halos at age 36. The club retired his number 11 in 1988.
Here are a few notes on the current Angels ballclub:
- Team owner Arte Moreno covered a number of topics today in an interview with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Though recent reports on the team's ballpark lease negotiations have been positive, Moreno said that discussions are now "at a stalemate." That does not mean that the club is pushing for a new stadium — Moreno said "we haven't crossed that line yet" — but the owner said he has a deadline "in mind" for negotiations to conclude before he looks at other options. "We don't know how long it's going to take for that land to be profitable," he said. "We have the fourth-oldest stadium in baseball. It still has the original plumbing, electrical, concrete. It's going to cost between $125MM and $150MM just to keep it serviceable."
- The team did in fact offer free agent starter Matt Garza four years and $52MM, said Moreno, slightly more than the amount that Garza ultimately signed for with the Brewers. But Garza declined the offer, believing he could land a bigger deal.
- On the speculation that manager Mike Scioscia and GM Jerry Dipoto faced the axe after a disappointing campaign, Moreno said that he remained confident in both men. "Mike has been here for 14 years, and I tried not to look at the capsule of one season," said Moreno. "He's been a winning coach. And I like the front office team Jerry has assembled. They're smart, they communicate well, and I like what our minor league staff is doing." The owner added that Dipoto deserved a chance to build out the team's talent pipeline, while offering a stark assessment of its stockpile of arms. "You look at our system, and there's no pitching coming in," he said. "You go to the cupboard, you're hungry and there's nothing in the cabinet."
- Moreno indicated that the team could cross the $189MM luxury tax line, but said "it has to be for the right guy." He continued: "If we get out of the box good, we get to the All-Star break and someone becomes available who could really enhance the team, we'll do our best to get him." With payroll currently standing at about $173MM for luxury tax purposes, Moreno indicated that the club was comfortable continuing to spend at a high rate but did have limits. "The reality is we have an operating budget below the threshold, we made money last year, and we're not interested in being in the red financially," he said.
- Of course, the contract status of star Mike Trout is an important aspect of the team's future financial standing. Extension negotiations are ongoing, said Moreno. "I can't say anything is close, but I'm optimistic by nature," he said. "It always gets down to the numbers. He likes it here, and we like him. We have four more years of control, and the farther you take someone out on a contract, the more risk the team assumes."
- Indeed, the numbers on a prospective Trout deal remain a fascinating topic to watch. ESPN.com's Buster Olney weighed in on the issue in an appearance on WEEI's Mut & Merloni (via Jerry Spar of WEEI.com). The club is feeling the pressure to sign Trout before his free agent horizon gets too close, said Olney, and baseball sources say that a 12-year, $400MM deal would not be an unfair target for the young superstar. Asking several GMs what they thought Trout could land on a one-year deal, Olney was given prices in the range of $35MM to a remarkable $50MM.
Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to be out for four-to-six weeks with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand (Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune has the details on the injury). While the injury doesn't appear to be too serious, one wonders if it could spur the M's to bolster their rotation with a free agent starter, as the club was already rumored to be asking about Ervin Santana earlier this week.
- The Astros' increase in spending this offseason had nothing to do with a statement from MLBPA head Tony Clark that the team was being monitored for its low payroll, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. The additions of Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and others will boost Houston's payroll to over $40MM in 2014 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts), not counting several players making the league minimum. Owner Jim Crane noted that the Astros were willing to spend even more this winter but did not succeed in signing Masahiro Tanaka or Jose Dariel Abreu.
- Speaking with reporters (including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan) today, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said that he has kept in touch with Nelson Cruz's representatives but he doesn't think a reunion will happen. "We check in periodically, but nothing has changed," Daniels said. "My expectation is he will sign elsewhere." Cruz has been heavily linked to the Mariners within the last week, and Texas only seems interested in re-signing Cruz if his market completely dries up.
- The Rangers' arbitration case with Mitch Moreland is a week away and Daniels said the two sides are "so close, I would like to think we would avoid it. But until you have a deal, you have to be prepared for anything." Moreland asked for a $3.25MM contract for 2014 while the Rangers countered with a $2.025MM offer.
- While the Rangers have been looking for a right-handed bat, Daniels said "We're not talking to anybody" on the free agent market. The GM hinted that Texas would turn to internal options like Michael Choice as candidates to provide a right-handed hitting balance to Moreland.
- Darren Oliver will work with the Rangers as a special assistant and will spend a week with the club during Spring Training, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Oliver retired following his 20th Major League season and is now enjoying his first (mostly) free spring in over two and a half decades. Oliver also shared a few opinions about what his former team, the Blue Jays, needs to do to improve in 2014.
- The Angels made a number of low-cost moves this offseason, a tactic MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes is a nod towards saving money to lock Mike Trout up to a long-term extension. Trout's future price tag is the biggest question facing the Angels franchise and "the most captivating contractual conundrum in the game today." We heard earlier today that Trout and the Angels would discuss a multiyear deal this spring.
The Angels and Mike Trout will enter negotiations about a multiyear contract this spring with the hopes that a deal will be reached shortly after Opening Day, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. Since Trout is still a year away from arbitration eligibility, the Halos could renew his contract for slightly more than the league minimum (as they did last year, with some controversy), though Trout would get a lot more money in his pocket immediately due to a signing bonus from a new extension.
Though the Angels control Trout through the 2017 season, an extension would give them some cost certainty through his three arbitration years, which seem likely to reach record levels. The Halos would surely look to cover at least a couple of Trout's free agent years in an extension, and agent Craig Landis of LSW Baseball could easily ask for at least $25MM for each of his client's free agent years.
The financial terms are mind-boggling for a 22-year-old player who has only 336 Major League games to his name, yet Trout's performance has justified such an inflated price tag. Trout hit .324/.416/.560 with 57 homers in 2012-13, and factoring in his speed (82 steals in 94 attempts) and outfield defense, Trout has accounted for a league-best 20.8 WAR in that span, according to Baseball Reference. If Trout and the Angels are looking for an extension in the range of nine or 10 seasons, such a deal could quite possibly eclipse Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275MM contract with the Yankees as the most expensive contract in baseball history.
The career of the Rays' Tim Beckham, who was the first overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, hasn't gone as planned, but Beckham finally did make it to the Majors at the tail end of the 2013 season. 2014, though, may turn out to be a lost year for him, as he tore his ACL in his right knee, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times notes (on Twitter). Beckham, who turns 24 in January, hit .276/.342/.387 in 522 plate appearances at Triple-A Durham last season. Here are more notes from around the American Legaue.
- Yankees president Randy Levine's recent comments about Mike Trout and the Angels displeased Major League Baseball, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. In reference to Robinson Cano's ten-year contract with the Mariners, Levine said, "If Mike Trout was here, I’d recommend the 10-year contract. But for people over 30, I don’t believe it makes sense." That led MLB to investigate whether Levine's comments broke any rules regarding tampering with another team's players. Levine says he called Angels president John Carpino to apologize, and he considers the matter settled.
- The Orioles are still negotiating with free-agent closer Grant Balfour, but Balfour wants three years and the Orioles only want to give him two, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets. The Orioles indicate that they are willing to look elsewhere to fill their closer job if they can't find common ground with Balfour.
- The Orioles discussed a big-league deal with Jason Kubel's agency, Wasserman Media Group, MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko reports. Kubel ended up signing a minor-league deal with the Twins, however, and Kubatko suggests that's because Kubel is very confident he'll make the team in Minnesota (Twitter links).
- After adding Robinson Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, the Mariners still want to add a starting pitcher, a reliever and another catcher, MLB.com's Greg Johns reports. They'd like to add relief help to offset the departure of Carter Capps, who headed to the Marlins in the Morrison trade, and they're looking for a catcher because they have just two, Mike Zunino and Jesus Sucre, on their 40-man.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff have narrowed their list of possible selections for the first pick in this year's Rule 5 Draft to roughly 10 players, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. One possibility on their list is Pirates right-hander Zack Thornton. The 25-year-old pitched to a 2.63 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 across three levels in 2013, topping out at Triple-A. Here's more out of the AL West in the midst of the calm before the storm that is the Winter Meetings…
- Two general managers told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that they wouldn't part with Taijuan Walker in a package to land David Price (Twitter link). Last week, it was reported that the Mariners could push for Price but that Walker would need to be included in any trade.
- The Mariners have received a lot of interest in Dustin Ackley, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. As Heyman notes, Ackley had a solid finish to his 2013 season, batting .290/.360/.412 over his final 65 contests.
- Heyman also tweets that the Mariners' targets include David Price, Nelson Cruz, Joaquin Benoit and Corey Hart. Hart was drafted by General Manager Jack Zduriencik when Zduriencik was with the Brewers.
- The record for the highest payout through the arbitration process is $10MM, but one person familiar with the process tells Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that Angels outfielder Mike Trout could get $15MM in his first go 'round through arbitration, $20MM in his second year, and $25MM in his third trip through the process. Even for a star of Trout's caliber, those numbers seem lofty.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Jerry Dipoto is plotting the Angels' future, even though, after a very disappointing 2013 season, it's unclear whether he'll still be around to see his plans bear fruit, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. "I'm not going to get into it," says Dipoto when asked about his future. "I don't want to have this conversation." DiGiovanna notes that, although there's been buzz for months about the possibility of either Dipoto or manager Mike Scioscia leaving after the season, it looks increasingly possible that both could stay. Dipoto says that he will be looking for "young, controllable starting pitching," and DiGiovanna implies that one way of acquiring it would be to trade Howie Kendrick or Mark Trumbo. Here are more notes on the Angels.
- The Angels appear unlikely to extend a qualifying offer to Jason Vargas, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The team will already be close to the luxury-tax threshold of $189MM, and Gonzalez notes that if Vargas took the qualifying offer of around $14MM, the Angels would "basically already be over budget." Vargas has posted a 4.01 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 143 2/3 innings in 2013.
- The luxury tax is an obstacle to signing Mike Trout to an extension, Gonzalez writes. The luxury tax is calculated based on the average annual value of the players on a team's 40-man roster. So, Gonzalez notes, if the Angels were to sign Trout to a ten-year, $300MM deal, $30MM per year would count toward the luxury tax, even if the contract is backloaded. Without an extension, Trout will again make near the league minimum in 2014.
Mike Scioscia is as committed as ever to the Angels, the manager tells MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom. Scioscia discusses such topics as his relationship with GM Jerry Dipoto and owner Arte Moreno, his frustrations over the Angels' disappointing season and things he'd like to change on the team in 2014.
- The Angels will look to add starting pitching to next year's roster, with an eye towards obtaining young arms, if possible. "Really what we need is organizational starting pitching. We need starting-pitching depth; we need options from within," Dipoto said. "We need young, controllable starting pitching. Essentially guys that when something goes wrong at the Major League level — inevitably an injury will occur, somebody's going to struggle for a period of time — guys that can step in and guys that you can build toward. It's gold in the game."
- Third base will be an area of concern for the team this winter. "In an ideal world, we’ll come up with what we believe is a combination of players" to play the position, Dipoto said. Chris Nelson, Grant Green, Luis Jimenez and Andrew Romine are some of the Halos' current third base options.
- Dipoto will look to add bullpen depth but Ernesto Frieri is expected to continue closing.
- Dipoto offered no comment on any extension talks with Mike Trout, though "obviously, we'd like him to be here long-term." Craig Landis, Trout's agent, said yesterday that there have been no negotiations of a multiyear contract with the team. Trout is under team control through the 2017 season and Dipoto declined to comment on whether the team had altered its policy on pre-arbitration contracts given the controversy surrounding Trout's 2013 salary.
- Dipoto didn't comment on whether or not the Angels would non-tender Tommy Hanson or Jerome Williams. Hanson is a "slam-dunk" to be non-tendered, Gonzalez opines (Twitter links), but Williams is a tougher decision since he could return to Japan rather than re-sign with the Angels at a lower price, plus the team likes his "flexibility" as a swingman. Hanson is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility while Williams is entering his third.
Mike Trout is arguably baseball's greatest value at a salary of $510K, but the time will come when the Angels will have fork over a whole lot more to keep him long-term. However, that time might not be this offseason as agent Craig Landis says that things are still status quo, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
“I'll answer one question on contract talks — there have been no discussions,” said Landis. “Obviously, Mike's future is extremely bright. We'll be patient. Mike's a young guy. However it goes, he's going to make a lot of money and be a great player.”
For his part, Trout says that he loves playing with the Angels but he also feels that it's time to go house shopping and he'd like to know if he'll be buying in southern California or elsewhere. Some still fear that there is lingering resentment between Trout and the Halos for his salary this season and while they can name a better price in 2014, he'll be eligible for arbitration the following year. The 22-year-old is scheduled to hit the open market after the 2017 campaign.
Trout followed up his Rookie of the Year winning performance in 2012 with even stronger offensive production this season. The center fielder owns a .324/.431/.557 slash line with 26 homers in 698 plate appearances.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that there are several top teams that will have surpluses in certain areas this offseason that will be second guessing whatever move they make. In the case of the Dodgers, they have four strong outfielders in Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford. One would imagine that Ethier, who is frequently in trade rumors, would be the one to go, but GM Ned Colletti could also give some thought to dealing Kemp if the right offer comes along. Here's more from today's column..
- After bouncing back from a slow start, catcher Carlos Ruiz is desirable again and the Phillies are more enthused about the idea of re-signing him. That may prove to be difficult once Ruiz gets to the open market as he’d be a cheaper alternative to Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia and more consistent than Dioner Navarro.
- According to Mike Napoli's agent Brian Grieper, there still haven't been contract talks with the Red Sox. It appears they will play it out and decide about a qualifying offer. One possibility is that they put Xander Bogaerts at third and Will Middlebrooks at first, taking Napoli out of the equation.
- Tim Hudson, 38, wants to return from the ankle fracture he suffered in July. Hudson, who should cleared for baseball activities by mid-December, will be a free agent but wants to stay in Atlanta. It'll come down to the money for the veteran, who earned $9MM this season.
- Grady Sizemore tried to get back playing this season, but he needs more time for his knees to heal. He'll likely be ready for a major league camp next spring and work out for teams this offseason to show he’s healthy. If he looks OK, he’ll probably get a few teams interested.
- Some still believe that it was a mistake for the Angels to only pay Mike Trout $510K this season and that he won't forget it when it comes time to work out a new deal with the club.