The Angels announced they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Andrew Wantz. Somewhat surprisingly, starter Griffin Canning was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake in a corresponding move. Outfielder Scott Schebler has been designated for assignment to open a 40-man roster spot.
Canning is headed to the minors for the first time since his contract was selected back in April 2019. He’s been a rotation mainstay over the past few seasons, starting 41 of his 43 MLB appearances. He offered league average production from 2019-20 but has struggled this season. Over 62 2/3 innings, Canning has worked to a 5.60 ERA/4.62 SIERA with slightly worse than average strikeout and walk rates (22.4% and 10.1%, respectively).
Of course, there’s no indication Canning’s absence is expected to be particularly lengthy. He got the ball in last night’s start against the Orioles. The Angels, who have a six-man rotation, have an off day after their next five games. With the All-Star Break the following week, the Angels could simply skip Canning’s spot in the rotation during their final turn before the Break. Los Angeles has another off day after five games coming out of the Break, so they needn’t turn to a sixth starter again until July 27.
Optioning Canning could allow the Angels to give him a brief mental reset while also keeping tabs on his innings total. This year, he’s already exceeded the 56 1/3 frames he worked during last year’s shortened campaign, and the righty’s 2019 season was cut short at 90 1/3 innings by elbow inflammation that persisted into 2020. The organization surely wants to be cautious not to overwork a player they expect to be a key starter over the next few seasons.
There doesn’t seem to be a huge benefit for the Angels from a service time perspective by optioning Canning. The 25-year-old won’t accrue major league service while he’s on optional assignment, of course, but he’s already long exceeded his second full year of service this season. Unless they’re planning on leaving him in Triple-A for the rest of this season and much of the first half of 2022- an extremely improbable outcome- Canning’s path to free agency after 2025 will be unaffected.
A lengthy optional assignment could jeopardize his ability to qualify for early arbitration as a Super Two player after this year. That’d likely require the Angels to keep him down for over a month, though, and he doesn’t have the gaudy counting stats (wins and strikeouts) that suggest he’d be particularly likely to break the bank in arbitration regardless. In all likelihood, the optional assignment was more motivated by a desire to open an additional roster spot and keep Canning’s innings in check than it was an extended effort to skirt his potential Super Two eligibility, especially with the 40-41 Angels still on the periphery of the playoff race.
Wantz will take Canning’s place on the pitching staff for now. A seventh-round pick in 2018 out of UNC-Greensboro, he’s earned his first big league opportunity with a strong season at Salt Lake. Through 25 2/3 innings in an offense-friendly environment, Wantz has worked to a 2.10 ERA with better than average strikeout and walk numbers (25.0% and 6.0%, respectively). The 25-year-old has never appeared on an Angels farm system ranking at FanGraphs or Baseball America. He’s clearly elevated his stock in 2021, though, and would’ve been eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter if not added to the 40-man roster before then.
It’s the second time this season the Angels have designated Schebler, who cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment last time around. The 30-year-old hasn’t produced in limited big league time this year but he’s hit a solid .281/.355/.523 over 172 plate appearances with Salt Lake. The Angels will have a week to trade Schebler or again place him on waivers.