- Angels outfielder Dexter Fowler departed their game Friday with a left knee contusion, per the team. Fowler left on a cart after stepping awkwardly on second base, though manager Joe Maddon indicated afterward that he dodged a serious injury. Fowler has been the Angels’ primary choice in right field this year, and if he does need to sit out for an extended period of time, they have Jared Walsh, Juan Lagares and Jose Rojas on hand as potential subs on their MLB roster.
- The Tigers scratched righty Julio Teheran from his start Friday because of tightness in his triceps. The team replaced Teheran with lefty Derek Holland, who surrendered three earned runs in 2 2/3 frames in a loss to Cleveland. It’s unclear whether Teheran will miss any more time. The Tigers signed Teheran to a non-guaranteed deal in the wake of a terrible 2020 with the Angels, and after earning a roster spot with Detroit during the spring, he debuted with a five-inning, one-run performance in a win over Cleveland last Saturday.
Angels right-hander Shohei Ohtani won’t make his previously scheduled start this Sunday because of a blister, per Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic. It’s an issue that has troubled Ohtani since the end of March, but the two-way standout was able to make his first start against the year on April 4, and he has been a regular in the Angels’ lineup at designated hitter. Manager Joe Maddon said Friday (via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register) that Ohtani can throw with a Band-Aid on, but he’ll need to do so without it before returning to the Angels’ rotation. Ohtani tossed 4 2/3 innings of three-run (one earned) ball with seven strikeouts, five walks and two hits allowed in his season debut on the mound. His production on offense has been tremendous, as Ohtani entered Friday with a line of .280/.333/.600 (154 wRC+) with two home runs and a pair of stolen bases in 27 plate appearances. He smashed a three-run double in his second at-bat against Toronto on Friday and then followed with a solo shot in his next AB.
- Angels right-handed reliever Luke Bard will undergo season-ending hip surgery, Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic was among those to report. He’ll need six to eight months to recover from the procedure. Bard was already set to miss a significant amount of time this season, as the Angels sent him to the 60-day injured list shortly before the campaign began. Although the 30-year-old’s high spin rate has made him a potential breakout candidate since he debuted with the Angels in 2018, he has only managed a 5.05 ERA through 66 innings – including 5 1/3 frames in 2020.
The Pirates have acquired right-hander Kyle Keller from the Angels in exchange for cash considerations, both teams announced. To create roster space, the Pirates noted that right-hander Edgar Santana has been designated for assignment.
Keller hit the DFA wire himself earlier this week, and the 27-year-old now finds himself traded for the second time in 15 months, after joining the Angels in a swap with the Marlins in January 2020. Keller has appeared in each of the last two seasons, with a 4.15 ERA over 13 MLB innings with Miami and Los Angeles, striking out 12 batters but also walking ten.
Working almost exclusively as a reliever throughout his pro career, Keller has a 3.53 ERA and 31.8% strikeout rate over 249 2/3 career innings in Miami’s farm system. Control wasn’t nearly as much of a problem in the minors (8.9% walk rate) was it was at the big league level for Keller, and the Pirates are hoping he can provide some bullpen depth for a pitching staff that has lost both some starting and relief candidates to injury in the early going.
Santana is no stranger to injuries, having undergone Tommy John surgery in September 2018. The rehab process cost Santana all of the 2019 season, and he then missed all of 2020 due to an 80-game PED suspension. As per the terms of the suspension, Santana still had to sit out the first 20 games of this season before being eligible to return to the field.
Before his career was put on pause, Santana delivered solid results in his first two MLB seasons. The right-hander posted a 3.31 ERA/3.77 SIERA over 84 1/3 innings out of Pittsburgh’s bullpen in 2017-18, with an impressive 6.8% walk rate but a below-average 21% strikeout rate.
APRIL 3: Buttrey has released a statement via Instagram explaining his reasons for stepping away from the game, posted to Twitter here by the Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya. Buttrey made his decision for his own personal happiness, saying that “My whole life I’ve played the game for everyone else. I just wanted to prove everyone wrong….As time went on, baseball became more of a business and less of a game. I couldn’t help but notice that my love and passion for this game had started to diminish.”
Initially driven by the challenge of overcoming his doubters and making a good living for himself, Buttrey grew increasingly dissatisfied, saying “Unfortunately, money and proving people wrong are short-term motivators, especially when you never actually loved the game you dedicated the last 24 years of your life to. I dreaded every aspect of the process to become the best, but who the hell throws away 24 years of work? I want to finally be known as just Ty, not Ty, the baseball player. I completely lost the drive to continue doing something that I didn’t love because in my mind, I already accomplished it. It was never my dream to make it to the Hall of Fame, win a World Series, or become an All-Star. In my head, I accomplished what I wanted, to prove people wrong and accomplish something extremely hard.”
“I couldn’t be any more excited to finally become just Ty. I love my family, my close teammates, friends and especially Halo Nation. I’m tired of not being there for my loved ones, and I’m tired of pretending and lying to the best fan base in the world. Life is super simple. Find your true passion, find people you love and don’t give a damn what any person outside those lines thinks. People love to have control over others.”
“It’s time for Sam [Buttrey’s wife] and I to start living the life we really want. I am beyond excited to finally be a normal, hardworking dude, that loves his family and friends. Life is short so just do what you love and don’t ever look back! I’m going to miss the fans more than I’m going to miss the game. I want to thank everyone who has supported my wife and I throughout my entire career and the Angels organization for believing in me and giving me the opportunity.”
APRIL 2: In surprising news, Angels right-handed reliever Ty Buttrey has chosen not to report to the team, manager Joe Maddon told Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register and other media members. Buttrey is walking away from the game, at least for now, and the Angels have placed him on the restricted list.
Buttrey joined the Angels in a 2018 trade with the Red Sox for second baseman Ian Kinsler, the year the hurler debuted in the majors. He has since pitched to a 4.30 ERA/3.70 SIERA, averaged 96.1 mph on his fastball, and logged a 24.8 percent strikeout rate against a 7.5 percent walk rate in 115 innings. However, Buttrey posted career-low numbers in 2020, when he notched personal lows in ERA (5.81) and strikeout percentage (16.1) over 26 1/3 frames. The 28-year-old hadn’t been due to become eligible for arbitration until after this season.
Despite last year’s downturn in performance, Buttrey looked like a good bet to occupy a spot in the Angels’ remade bullpen when the spring started. The Angels optioned Buttrey earlier in the week, though, leaving him out of their season-opening picture.
“He’s going to be a big part of how we conclude this year,” Maddon said when the Angels demoted Buttrey (via Daniel Guerrero of MLB.com), but it’s now possible he won’t pitch at all this season or ever again.
The Angels made a key move on Opening Day, announcing a five-year, $26MM extension with second baseman David Fletcher. The contract will begin this season and run through the 2025 campaign. Fletcher, a client of the Ballengee Group, will earn $2MM in 2021, $4MM in 2022, $6MM in 2023 and 2024, and $6.5MM in the final guaranteed season of the deal. There is also a club option worth $8MM ($1.5MM buyout) for 2026 and an $8.5MM option ($1.5MM buyout) for 2027, Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic tweets.
Fletcher wouldn’t have been eligible for arbitration until after this season, and he hadn’t been scheduled to reach free agency until the end of the 2024 campaign, but extending him will give the Angels the ability to lock in his annual salaries for the foreseeable future and delay a trip to the open market. It’s easy to see why the Angels are making this move, as the 26-year-old Fletcher has emerged as an important building block for the franchise since it spent a sixth-round draft pick on him in 2015.
Fletcher made his major league debut three years after the Angels picked him, and he has since proven that he’s a defensively versatile player who can at least offer league-average offense. He has lined up all over the infield and played some outfield, though the majority of his experience has come at second, short and third. With Anthony Rendon owning third for the long haul and Jose Iglesias set to play shortstop for the Angels this year, Fletcher will be their primary second baseman in 2021. He has fared quite well there with 13 Defensive Runs Saved and a 7.4 Ultimate Zone Rating in 100 games.
Fletcher has offered almost no power at the plate with an .098 isolated power mark and 10 home runs in 1,190 trips, but his career 10.3 percent strikeout mark is outstanding, as is his lifetime .292 average. Last year represented a personal-best offensive campaign for Fletcher, who batted .319/.376/.425 (123 wRC+) in 230 PA.
With this agreement in place, Fletcher joins Rendon and center fielder Mike Trout as cornerstone Angels position players who are locked up through at least the next half-decade.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network first reported an agreement was close. Jeff Passan of ESPN and Ardaya reported the numbers, and Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweeted the two sides had a deal in place. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
MARCH 31: The Angels announced they’ve selected the contracts of Rojas and outfielder Juan Lagares. To create 40-man roster space, right-hander Kyle Keller was designated for assignment, while Barreto was placed on the 60-day injured list.
MARCH 27: The Angels have informed José Rojas that he’ll make the Opening Day roster, manager Joe Maddon announced to reporters (including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register). The club will need to formally select him to the 40-man but has an available roster spot to do so. The 28-year-old is now in line to make his major league debut.
Rojas has made a rather remarkable ascent over the past few weeks. A former 36th-round draft pick, the left-handed hitting infielder only once made Baseball America’s ranking of Los Angeles’ top 30 prospects (coming in at 28th entering 2019). The Anaheim native earned himself a Spring Training invitation this year with strong career numbers at both Double-A (.277/.339/.486) and Triple-A (.284/.347/.539).
He has absolutely torn the cover off the ball this spring. Over 41 plate appearances, Rojas has mashed at a .333/.488/.667 clip. Spring Training statistics aren’t always reliable indicators of a player’s true talent, but Rojas apparently impressed Angels’ brass on an everyday basis. Franklin Barreto’s season-opening injured list stint partially opened the door for Rojas to claim a utility job, but he also simply outplayed Luis Rengifo. Rojas will now back up the Angels’ infield group of Anthony Rendon, José Iglesias, David Fletcher and Jared Walsh/Albert Pujols.
The Blue Jays have acquired catcher Juan Graterol from the Angels for cash considerations, according to an announcement from Los Angeles. Graterol will report to the Blue Jays’ alternate site, Scott Mitchell of TSN tweets.
The 32-year-old Graterol has appeared in the majors with three teams – the Angels, Twins and Reds – dating back to 2016. He has batted .218/.227/.266 without a home run in 129 plate appearances along the way, though he has thrown out an above-average 32 percent of would-be base stealers as a defender.
Graterol hasn’t reached the majors since 2019, and Toronto is likely hoping it won’t have to turn to him this year. But he’ll give the team some veteran depth behind the younger quartet of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, Reese McGuire and Riley Adams – who are all on the Jays’ 40-man roster. McGuire’s spot in that group doesn’t look secure, though, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweeted Wednesday that the club could designate him for assignment.
The Angels continue adding to their bullpen: The team announced Monday that it has agreed to deals with right-hander Steve Cishek and left-hander Tony Watson. Both Cishek and Watson will get one-year, $1MM contracts, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. The Halos placed injured RHP Luke Bard on the 60-day IL to help make room for these pickups.
Cishek and Watson are among four notable bullpen additions since Sunday for the Angels. They previously brought back old friend Noe Ramirez and then acquired James Hoyt in trade with the Marlins. It’s clearly a late-spring attempt by first-year general manager Perry Minasian to add as much depth as possible to a bullpen which has other newcomers in Raisel Iglesias, Alex Claudio, Junior Guerra and Aaron Slegers.
Cishek and Watson certainly boast the best track records of the quartet of relievers the Angels have brought in over the past couple days. The 34-year-old Cishek had a rough go with the White Sox in 2020, and he didn’t make the Astros’ roster this spring, but he proved himself as a durable option who could keep runs off the board before then. Since his career began in 2010, the former closer has logged a 2.78 ERA, registered an above-average strikeout rate of 25.2 percent and recorded a 48.9 percent groundball rate in 576 innings.
Watson, 35, failed to crack the Phillies’ roster in spring training, but he has also established himself as an effective big league reliever. He owns a 2.80 ERA with a decent strikeout-walk percentage (15.4) across 591 frames. Watson spent last year as a member of the Giants and continued to hold hitters at bay (2.50 ERA), all while limiting hard contact (84.8 mph exit velocity against) and walks (4.1 percent), and inducing grounders at a 50 percent clip in 18 frames.
The Angels have acquired right-handed reliever James Hoyt from the Marlins for cash considerations, the two teams announced.
The Angels will be the fifth major league organization for the 34-year-old Hoyt, who spent last season in Miami after it acquired him from Cleveland. Hoyt ended up performing quite well over 14 2/3 innings in the Marlins’ bullpen with a 1.23 ERA and a 32.3 percent strikeout rate. On the other hand, Hoyt’s 3.71 SIERA and 12.9 percent walk rate were much less impressive, and he also saw his average fastball velocity fall from the 93-94 mph range to slightly below 89.
Overall, Hoyt has pitched to a 3.71 ERA/3.05 SIERA in 94 2/3 big league frames with strikeout and walk percentages of 31.1 and 8.5, respectively. That type of production would be useful out of any team’s bullpen, and with another minor league option left, he’ll at least give the Angels more depth.