- Another high-leverage reliever, Angels’ right-hander Ty Buttrey, expects to throw off a mound by next Thursday, reports Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Buttrey suffered an intercostal strain last week, but it never seemed particularly serious. He should be a full go for Opening Day, Fletcher adds.
- Angels manager Joe Maddon will sit down with first baseman/designated hitter Albert Pujols nearer to the season to discuss his 2020 role, per Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. The 40-year-old future Hall of Famer appeared in 131 games last season, but it went down as the third straight campaign in which he logged below-replacement-level numbers. Pujols batted .244/.305/.430 with 23 homers and minus-0.2 fWAR over 545 plate appearances. The majority of his work came at first, though he may have to battle Tommy La Stella for reps at the position this season. And Pujols probably won’t get much time at DH because of the presence of Shohei Ohtani.
Marlins first baseman Jesus Aguilar, Angels outfielder Brian Goodwin and Astros utility player Aledmys Diaz have all won arbitration hearings against their respective teams, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports (via Twitter). Aguilar will now earn $2.575MM in his first season with Miami, rather than the $2.325MM at which the club filed. Goodwin will be paid $2.2MM instead of the Angels’ $1.85MM submission. Diaz, meanwhile, will take home a $2.6MM salary instead of the flat $2MM filed by the Astros. Aguilar and Goodwin are repped by the MVP Sports Group, while Diaz is a client of Excel Sports.
Miami claimed the 29-year-old Aguilar off waivers from their fellow Floridians up in St. Petersburg, as the Rays weren’t keen on paying the slugger’s arb salary after picking him up in a July deal with the Brewers. Aguilar was an All-Star in 2018 when he broke out with a .274/.352/.539 slash and 35 home runs, but his offensive output scaled way back in ’19. He was hitting just .225/.320/.374 at the time the Brewers swapped him for righty Jake Faria, and while he improved a bit with Tampa Bay, his overall production this past season was nowhere near his 2017-18 levels.
That said, the Marlins clearly feels there’s significant rebound potential with Aguilar. He’s currently lined up to be the organization’s primary first baseman, and a return to form would make him a steal of a waiver claim. Aguilar is controlled through the 2022 season via arbitration, so he could be a multi-year piece in Miami if he rights the ship.
Speaking of savvy waiver claims, Goodwin was claimed by the Angels at the end of Spring Training last year after the Royals put him on release waivers. Despite being cut by a rebuilding club, Goodwin intrigued the Angels as a potential stopgap with Justin Upton sidelined. What they got instead was a very solid .262/.326/.470 slash that was accompanied by 17 home runs, 29 doubles and three triples. Goodwin was a near-regular in Anaheim last year, appearing in 136 games and taking a career-high 458 plate appearances. His output was strong enough that the Angels now view him as an important piece of the outfield puzzle. Like Aguilar, he’s controlled through 2022.
Diaz hit .271/.356/.467 in 247 plate appearances with the Astros in 2019. The versatile 29-year-old played primarily 140 innings at third base, 151 innings at second base and 161 innings at first base while also logging brief action at shortstop and in left field. Houston was Diaz’s third team in three seasons, but he’ll return to give new manager Dusty Baker some versatility off the bench and serve as a backup option for any of the team’s four regular infielders. He, too, is controlled through the 2022 season. Also of note — Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle observes that this, somewhat remarkably, is the sixth consecutive arbitration loss for the Astros organization (Twitter link).
Up until this point — as can be seen in MLBTR’s 2020 Arbitration Tracker — players had gone just 1-for-7 against teams in 2020 trials. Dodgers righty Pedro Baez was the lone player to topple his club in arbitration, while Jose Berrios, Shane Greene, Josh Hader, Joc Pederson, Eduardo Rodriguez and Tony Wolters had all come up short. The players have now evened things out a bit, as they’re suddenly 4-6 in this February’s arb proceedings. The hearings of Archie Bradley, J.T. Realmuto and Hector Neris are still pending results.
Ramirez has gone through some ups and downs with the Halos already. The typically hard-throwing righty finally found a stable job as a reliever back in 2016, turned in a lot of solid starts in 2017, and then went down to Tommy John surgery in April of 2018.
Though he was tendered a contract and worked back to health in 2019, Ramirez has yet to recover his heater. He sat at 91 mph after working in the mid-to-upper nineties for much of his career.
Ramirez was ultimately outrighted by the Angels after five subpar MLB outings. He also struggled during his time at Triple-A. But Ramirez has perhaps shown a bit of a spark in Mexican winter ball, where he carries a 3.48 ERA with 29 strikeouts and eight walks over 41 1/3 innings.
The trade that would have sent Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling to the Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo and outfield prospect Andy Pages appears to be dead. A report last week indicated Angels owner Arte Moreno was the one who put the kibosh on it. Moreno confirmed Monday that he did shoot down the LA-LA trade, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, though he wasn’t willing to say why.
“It wasn’t all impatience. There were other things,” Moreno said of the causes for the failed swap, which fell through as the Dodgers waited to acquire Mookie Betts and David Price from the Red Sox (that ended up happening). Now, according to Moreno, the Angels have “moved on.”
Had the Angels gotten Stripling, he’d have looked like one of their most talented starters on paper. The club entered the offseason needing rotation help, and it has added a couple durable veterans in Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy. It looks as if the the Angels continue to need front-end aid, though, especially with Shohei Ohtani set to stay off the mound for at least the first month and a half of the season.
The Halos did make a legitimate attempt to sign the No. 1 free agent available, right-handed ace Gerrit Cole, as they offered him $300MM over eight years back in December. But the Southern California native instead accepted the Yankees’ record-setting offer of nine years and $324MM. Moreno discussed the Angels’ Cole pursuit, indicating they simply couldn’t match the Yankees’ aggressiveness. “Walking in there and you knew, no matter what I bid, we’re going to get outbid,” he said. “We had a pretty big number out there.”
With the season getting closer, it may now be too late for the Angels to land an impact starter. However, if all goes well into the summer and the Angels are contending, Moreno’s hopeful they’ll find one via trade. The team has “the financial flexibility” for such an addition, according to Moreno, who noted it’s seeking someone “who can substantially help us, not a No. 4 or No. 5.”
General manager Billy Eppler may be tasked with finding that type of starter in a few months, but his future’s uncertain beyond 2020. The Angels exercised his option for this season late last year, though they haven’t made the playoffs since hiring Eppler before 2016, so he could be on shaky ground. It doesn’t seem they’re going to rush into an extension for him just yet. Rather, “As a group, we need to win,” said Moreno, who added, “I probably should fire myself” for the franchise’s recent performance.
The Angels have signed left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter to a minor league contract and invited him to Major League camp this spring, tweets Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic. He’s represented by The L. Warner Companies.
Buchter, who turned 33 earlier this week, is making the rounds in California, as he’s also spent time with the Athletics and Padres organizations in the past few seasons. The late-blooming southpaw didn’t even make his big league debut until he was 27 and didn’t pitch a full campaign in the Majors until his age-28 season. However, Buchter has now racked up 214 innings in the big leagues and never posted a single-season ERA higher than last year’s 2.98 mark. He boasts a career 2.86 ERA with a 4.01 FIP, 9.9 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9.
It may be surprising to some that a pitcher with those run-prevention number was non-tendered and subsequently relegated to a non-roster invite after camp had opened. But Buchter’s effectiveness has waned a bit in recent years. His control in 2019 was the worst of his career, and while he was effective against both left- and right-handed hitters earlier in his big league tenure, right-handers clobbered Buchter at a .274/.420/.484 clip last year. Given the implementation of the new three-batter minimum, some clubs were surely skeptical of his ability to retire right-handed opponents.
That said, Buchter is an eminently reasonable flier for the Halos to take. The base salary he’ll receive upon making the big league roster won’t be particularly substantial, and if he performs well the Angels will have the opportunity to control him through the 2021 season via arbitration. Buchter even has a pair of minor league option years remaining, which would give the Angels all the more flexibility should he land a spot on the team.
Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling were all but officially headed from the Dodgers to the Angels in a trade that branched off from the original Dodgers/Red Sox/Twins three-team swap that would have sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles. While that initial three-team trade broke down and was revived as two separate deals, however, the Dodgers and Angels broke off the planned swap that would have sent Pederson, Stripling, and prospect Andy Pages to Anaheim for a package that included infield prospect Luis Rengifo.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman kept Pederson and Stripling up to date as talks progressed, though since no trade developed, both players are still in Dodger blue. The end result is a situation Pederson admitted was “a little awkward” as Spring Training begins, though he told media (including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register) that he is “excited to be here, ready to win a World Series.” Stripling concurred, saying that while the opportunity to be a full-time starting pitcher for the Angels was intriguing, he is happy to remain with what he described as “a first-class organization all the way through.” As to almost being traded, Stripling “didn’t choose to take it personally,” noting “I understand the business side of it…we had a chance to get Mookie Betts and David Price. If that means getting rid of Ross Stripling, then that’s part of it.”
- Angels reliever Ty Buttrey suffered an intercostal strain and will be out for one or two weeks, manager Joe Maddon told reporters (including Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com). The club still anticipates he’ll be a full-go by Opening Day. The 26-year-old posted a 3.98 ERA with a strong combination of strikeouts (27.2%) and walks (7.4%) in 2019. The former Red Sox prospect figures to be a key bullpen piece for Maddon in the latter’s first year at the helm in Anaheim.
The Angels announced that righty Parker Markel has been outrighted after clearing waivers. He was designated recently to make way for the addition of another hurler.
This’ll give the Halos another arm in camp without any real commitment. Markel hasn’t actually appeared with the club; he was added in an early-offseason trade with the Pirates for cash considerations.
Markel, 29, scuffled badly last year when he first got a shot in the majors. But he earned his way up with an interesting arsenal — a 50/50 mix of a mid-nineties fastball and slider. Markel turned in a 1.74 ERA in his 41 1/3 Triple-A frames, logging an eye-popping 16.3 K/9 to go with 5.7 BB/9.
It was revealed earlier this week that the Angels will go without the pitching of two-way star Shohei Ohtani until at least the middle of May. It’s not wholly unsurprising that Ohtani won’t be ready at the start of 2020. After all, he’s on the mend from a rather serious surgical procedure – the dreaded Tommy John – that he underwent in October 2018. Considering his value to the franchise, there’s no need for the Angels to rush Ohtani back if they’re not fully confident in his health.
All that said, it’s disappointing that Ohtani has pitched so few innings since the Angels brought him over from Japan prior to 2018. The latest news is especially damaging when considering that the team hasn’t added a front-line starter since last season, even though expectations were that it would pick up at least one over the winter. The Angels, stuck in a five-year playoff drought, did get Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran, but they’re more back-end innings-eaters than standouts. On the other hand, Ohtani has the ability to produce No. 1- or 2-type numbers for the club this year, but it’s obvious it’ll be over an abbreviated amount of innings.
The lack of frames Ohtani has racked up since he joined the Angels is no doubt a letdown – not that it’s his fault. He came to the majors as one of the most ballyhooed international free agents ever – someone often called the Japanese Babe Ruth – and has not faltered when healthy. Ohtani tossed 51 2/3 innings of 3.31 ERA/3.57 FIP ball with 10.97 K/9 and 3.83 BB/9 as a major league rookie, averaging just under 97 mph on his fastball along the way. It was a dazzling display overall, and Ohtani truly showed what he’s capable of when he threw seven scoreless, one-hit innings of 12-strikeout ball against the Athletics in his second career start.
Ohtani remained really good through his initial season, though injuries were an issue, thus limiting him to two major league pitching appearances from the start of June through the end of the year. We haven’t been treated to Ohtani the pitcher since Sept. 2, 2018, and we’ll have to wait at least a few more months to get another look at that aspect of his game.
Fortunately for the Angels and baseball in general, Ohtani’s no one-trick pony. He’s also quite an offensive player, having slashed .286/.351/.532 (136 wRC+) with 40 home runs and 22 stolen bases in 792 plate appearances since he emigrated from his homeland.
At the very least, the 25-year-old Ohtani is in line to help the Angels as a designated hitter throughout the entirety of the upcoming campaign. But how much of an impact do you think he’ll make as a hurler when he officially returns from surgery? Vote in the polls below…
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