- Angels infielder Luis Rengifo appears to be on the verge of going to the Dodgers in a trade for outfielder Joc Pederson. It’s not the first time Rengifo’s name has come up in trade talks this offseason, though. Rengifo was part of the discussions between the Angels and Indians when the two teams were weighing a Corey Kluber swap back in December, per Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com. The two clubs couldn’t come to an agreement, and the Indians ended up trading Kluber to the Rangers a few days later.
TODAY: The deal is expected to send righty Ross Stripling to the Halos and also involves other prospects going to the Dodgers, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). It has yet to be finalized, though, and “a lot of moving parts” remain.
Stripling has quietly been an extremely effective MLB hurler over the years, turning in 387 career innings of 3.51 ERA ball with 8.8 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. There have been some health issues at times, but the swingman has been quite good when available. He’s slated to earn $2.1MM this year with two more seasons of team control remaining thereafter.
YESTERDAY, 10:30pm: The Angels will also acquire outfielder Andy Pages, Kiley McDaniel of ESPN reports. The 19-year-old Pages slashed a phenomenal .298/.398/.651 with 19 home runs in 279 plate appearances at the rookie level last season. FanGraphs rated the Dominican Republic native as the Dodgers’ 29th-best prospect last May.
10:14pm: This trade will include more players, pending medical reviews, Passan tweets. The Angels will also get “a big league starter and a prospect,” while the Dodgers will pick up a prospect along with Rengifo, per Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic.
8:54pm: The Angels are set to acquire outfielder Joc Pederson from the Dodgers, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported. The Dodgers will get infielder Luis Rengifo in the deal, per Jeff Passan of ESPN.
This has been a wild night for the Dodgers, who previously struck an absolute blockbuster delivering former Red Sox superstar Mookie Betts and lefty David Price to LA. The Dodgers let go of outfielder Alex Verdugo in the deal and sent righty Kenta Maeda to the Twins in what will go down as one of the most memorable trades in recent baseball history.
This move’s quite an encore for the Dodgers, whose outfield has undergone massive changes in a small amount of time. Pederson and Verdugo were regulars last season, a 106-win campaign for the club, but now the unit’s fronted by two MVP winners in Betts and Cody Bellinger. There’s also the well-compensated A.J. Pollock and depth on hand in Chris Taylor, Enrique Hernandez and Matt Beaty.
To at least some extent, the Dodgers will miss the 27-year-old Pederson, who has been an easily above-average hitter since his first full season in 2015. Pederson’s now coming off a typically productive showing in 2019, when he slashed .249/.339/.538 with 3.0 fWAR and a a career-high 36 home runs in 514 plate appearances. If there’s one major knock on Pederson’s offense, it’s that the left-hander has struggled versus southpaws, who have held him to an awful .188/.263/.310 line during his time in the bigs.
Now a member of the Angels, Pederson will join yet another jam-packed outfield. The group’s headlined by center fielder Mike Trout, of course, with Justin Upton holding down left field. Brian Goodwin had been the projected starting right fielder before Tuesday, but he looked like a placeholder before the forthcoming promotion of elite prospect Jo Adell. Now, it’s unclear exactly how the Angels’ right field situation will shake out in 2020. Regardless, they’ll tack on approximately $8.5MM to their payroll for Pederson, who’s in his last year of arbitration eligibility. Landing him is the latest aggressive pickup in an offseason that previously saw the Angels add Anthony Rendon, Jason Castro, Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015.
In Rengifo, the Angels are giving up a 22-year-old fresh off a promising first season in the majors. The switch-hitter slashed .238/.321/.364 during a 406-plate appearance span in which he mostly lined up at second base. As recently as last February, FanGraphs ranked Rengifo as the Angels’ seventh-best prospect, giving him a chance to turn into a “regular second baseman.” That’ll be a difficult task now for Rengifo, who’s joining a loaded Dodgers team with Taylor, Hernandez, Max Muncy and Gavin Lux as second base possibilities. Rengifo does have two minor league options remaining, however, so it’s not majors or bust for him.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
We’ll use this post to keep track of today’s minor moves around baseball…
- The Angels have signed right-handed pitcher Michael Kohn to a minor league deal, reports Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times. He won’t get an invite to Major League Spring Training, but he’ll return to the organization with which he played the first six years of his professional career. He spent last year in the Diamondbacks’ minor league system, pitching mostly at Double-A. He was a strikeout machine at that level, notching 41 K’s in just 22 2/3 innings of work. He’s played in the Majors in parts of five seasons (most recently in 2015), getting into 132 games and posting a solid 3.52 career ERA. In 115 innings of big league action, he’s struck out 111 batters and walked 79.
Three full seasons have elapsed since Scott Kazmir pitched in a Major League game, but the veteran left-hander is set to launch another comeback attempt at 36 years of age. Kazmir recently tweeted a video of himself throwing in a bullpen session, and the former Rays, Indians, Angels, A’s and Dodgers southpaw confirmed to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he hopes to return to the big leagues in 2020.
Kazmir, who’s open to a minor league contract and a chance to prove himself in Spring Training (as he’d need to be after such a lengthy absence), tells Topkin he’s still in the process of rebuilding his arm strength and fastball velocity. He’s worked out with Driveline this winter and recently topped out at 90.9 mph in a bullpen session. That’s already a far sight higher than the 86 mph at which his heater sat when he first began throwing with an eye toward a big league return. Kazmir’s fastball sat at 91.4 mph in his final season with the Dodgers in 2016, so he’s not quite yet even topping out at his previous fastball average. However, he also has nearly two months before the season would begin.
This, of course, wouldn’t be the first comeback attempt for Kazmir. The former Rays ace saw a sharp decline in 2009-10, pitched just 1 2/3 innings in 2011 and was out of affiliated baseball entirely in 2012 before embarking on a similar journey. That career renaissance proved quite fruitful, as Kazmir parlayed a minor league deal with the Indians into a quality 2013 campaign in which he tossed 158 innings of 4.04 ERA ball with better than a strikeout per inning.
That showing landed him a two-year, $22MM deal with the A’s the following winter, and Kazmir made good on that deal as well, throwing a combined 373 1/3 frames of 3.33 ERA ball with the Athletics and (following a 2015 trade) the Astros. He headed into the 2015-16 offseason as a highly sought-after commodity and landed a three-year, $48MM pact with the Dodgers that proved regrettable for the club when neck and hip injuries wiped out years two and three of that pact.
It’s been a long time since Kazmir was at the top of his game, but he’s nevertheless a three-time All-Star with six career seasons featuring a sub-4.00 ERA and at least 140 innings of work. In total, Kazmir has a 4.01 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 1.01 HR/9 and a 40.2 percent ground-ball rate in 1689 2/3 innings at the MLB level. Given that the free-agent class has been largely picked over at this point in the winter, a returning Kazmir adds a source of genuine intrigue to the dwindling remnants of this year’s class of open-market starters.
Now that Marcell Ozuna has signed, all 10 of the players who were issued a one-year, $17.8MM qualifying offer in November have settled on teams for the 2020 season. Of that group, two (Jose Abreu of the White Sox and Jake Odorizzi of the Twins) accepted their qualifying offers and returned to their clubs — Abreu, in fact, topped off his QO by signing a contract extension that will run through the 2022 season. Stephen Strasburg also isn’t changing uniforms, as the longtime Nationals ace rejected the club’s qualifying offer but eventually re-signed with Washington on a seven-year, $245MM deal.
That leaves us with seven QO players who will be playing on new teams in 2020, and as such, the draft compensation attached to those seven players has also now been allotted. Under the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the same compensation was handed out to all six teams who lost those players, as the entire sextet fell under the same financial criteria. The Mets, Cardinals, Braves, Giants, Nationals, and Astros all aren’t revenue-sharing recipients, nor did they exceed the luxury tax threshold in 2019, so all six teams will receive a compensatory draft pick between Competitive Balance Round B and the third round of the 2020 draft.
Here is how the so-called “Compensation Round” breaks down. The order of the picks is determined by worst record-to-best record from the 2019 season.
68. Giants (for Madison Bumgarner)
69. Giants (for Will Smith)
70. Mets (for Zack Wheeler)
71. Cardinals (for Marcell Ozuna)
72. Nationals (for Anthony Rendon)
73. Braves (for Josh Donaldson)
74. Astros (for Gerrit Cole)
San Francisco now possesses five of the first 87 picks in next June’s draft. With the Giants still in the NL wild card race last summer, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi opted to hang onto Bumgarner and Smith rather than trade either player, a decision that led to some criticism since San Francisco was widely considered to be closer to rebuilding than truly contending. The critics’ judgement grew even harsher after the Giants went 22-32 record in August and September and fell well short of the postseason. Still, given that teams were reluctant to part with top-flight young talent for even controllable players (let alone rentals like Bumgarner and Smith) at the trade deadline, Zaidi clearly felt that the two picks he could recoup from the qualifying offer process were more valuable than anything offered for the two Giants pitchers last July.
It’s worth noting that the 74th overall pick will be Houston’s first selection of the 2020 draft, after the Astros lost both their first- and second-highest selections in both 2020 and 2021 as part of their punishment for the sign-stealing scandal. Since the Red Sox are also under league investigation for their own alleged use of electronics to steal opponents’ signs in 2018, Boston could also potentially lose at least one pick in this year’s draft, so we can’t yet say that the 2020 draft order is finalized. Of course, the order could be further muddled if more trades occur involving picks from the two Competitive Balance Draft rounds, which are the only types of draft picks that can be traded. We’ve already seen the Rays and Cardinals swap their picks in Rounds A and B as part of the multi-player trade that sent Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to Tampa Bay earlier this month.
Let’s now look at the six teams who signed the seven QO-rejecting free agents, and see what those clubs had to give up in order to make the signings.
Yankees, for signing Gerrit Cole: Since New York exceeded the luxury tax threshold in 2019, they gave up their second- and fifth-round picks in the 2020 draft (a.k.a. their second- and fifth-highest selections). The Yankees also gave up $1MM in funds from their international signing bonus pool.
Diamondbacks, for signing Madison Bumgarner: As a team that didn’t exceed the luxury tax threshold and was a revenue-sharing recipient, the D’Backs had to give up their third-highest draft choice to sign Bumgarner. This ended up being Arizona’s second-round selection — the team’s first two picks are their first-rounder (18th overall) and their pick in Competitive Balance Round A (33rd overall).
Twins, for signing Josh Donaldson: Minnesota also received revenue-sharing and didn’t exceed the luxury tax threshold, so signing Donaldson put the Twins in position to give up their third-highest draft selection. However, the Twins are actually giving up their fourth-highest pick in the 2020 draft, which is their third-round selection. The Twins’ actual third selection is their pick in Competitive Balance Round B, but those picks aren’t eligible to be forfeited as compensation for QO free agent signings.
Angels, for signing Anthony Rendon: Since the Halos didn’t receive revenue-sharing funds and also didn’t pay any luxury tax money, they had to give up their second-highest draft pick (their second-rounder) and $500K in international bonus funds to sign Rendon.
Phillies, for signing Zack Wheeler: The Phillies surrendered their second-highest selection (their second-round pick) and $500K of their international bonus pool, since they were another team that didn’t exceed the luxury tax line and didn’t receive revenue-sharing money.
Braves, for signing Will Smith and Marcell Ozuna: The dual signings put Atlanta in line for a dual penalty. The Braves didn’t exceed the luxury tax threshold and also didn’t receive revenue-sharing money, so they gave up their second-highest draft pick (their second-rounder) and $500K of international bonus money for Smith. In landing Ozuna, the Braves then had to also forfeit their third-round pick (their third-highest selection) and another $500K from their international bonus pool.
Losing two draft picks and $1MM in international pool money isn’t nothing, though these particular sanctions had less impact on the Braves than on other teams, which undoubtedly influenced their decisions. First of all, the compensatory pick Atlanta received for Donaldson is higher in the draft order than their third-round pick, so the net loss is only a second-round pick. Secondly, the Braves’ movement in the international market is still limited by the punishment handed out by Major League Baseball in November 2017 for Atlanta’s past international signing violations. Part of that punishment included the Braves’ pool for the 2020-21 international market being reduced by 50 percent — being so handcuffed in the international market anyway, the Braves probably felt $1MM in pool money was no great loss.
As we covered earlier this week, almost all of the prominent free agents in this year’s class have already exited the board. Because of that, we’ll see more and more minor league signings and fewer and fewer major league deals in the weeks leading up to the start of the regular season. This has been an aggressive offseason in terms of spending, though. To this point, which teams have handed out the most guaranteed money via the open market? We’ll examine both leagues, but let’s begin with the AL (reminder: This exercise excludes trades, club options, extensions, waiver claims and Rule 5 selections)…
Rays: $12MM on one player (Yoshitomo Tsutsugo; top 50 signings: zero)
Athletics: $7.5MM on one player (Jake Diekman; top 50 signings: zero)
Indians: $6.25MM on one player (Cesar Hernandez; top 50 signings: zero)
Orioles: $3MM on one player (Jose Iglesias; top 50 signings: zero)
The Angels have inked a pair of former MLB righties to minor-league deals, according to the latest round-up of deals from Baseball America’s Chris Hilburn-Trenkle. Jacob Barnes and Jake Thompson will both be in camp trying to impress the Halos.
Barnes was once seen as a part of the long-term pitching picture in Milwaukee, Barnes is now looking for a bounceback opportunity after a rough 2019 season. Through his first three MLB campaigns, Barnes carried a 3.54 ERA with 153 strikeouts and 62 walks in 147 1/3 innings, all while producing grounders on about half the balls put in play against him.
That’s a pretty appealing overall statistical profile. But Barnes couldn’t keep things going in 2019. He was tagged for 27 earned runs and seven home runs in just 32 2/3 innings, split between the Brewers and Royals. He lost about two ticks of fastball velocity (though still averaged 94 mph) and saw his swinging-strike rate dive from the 13-15% range to 9.3%.
Thompson, who’s still just shy of his 26th birthday, will also be trying to get back on track. The former second-round draft pick washed out with the Phillies and didn’t perform as hoped in 2019 with the KBO’s Lotte Giants, working to a 4.74 ERA in 62 2/3 innings.
The Giants have claimed right-hander Luis Madero off waivers from the Angels, per an announcement from the Angels. In order to create a roster spot for Madero, the Giants announced that fellow righty Jake Jewell has been designated for assignment. Madero himself was designated for assignment last week when the Angels acquired right-hander Matt Andriese in a trade with the Diamondbacks.
The 22-year-old Madero logged a combined 105 2/3 innings between Class-A Advanced and Double-A in 2019 but struggled with a 5.03 ERA. He did notch more solid rate stats, including 8.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 47 percent grounder rate. Scouting reports on Madero peg his curveball as his best pitch and credit him with a low-90s heater as well. Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs tabbed him as a potential fifth starter heading into the 2019 season, although that was before the the 6’3″, 185-pound righty endured a rough season.
Jewell, meanwhile, was only just claimed off waivers — also from the Angels organization — at the time the Giants parted ways with Zack Cozart. The 26-year-old has been hit hard in a small sample of 28 big league innings but enjoyed a solid season in the minors in 2018. His 2019 effort was a rough one across the board (6.84 ERA in the Majors, 5.26 in Triple-A), but scouting reports on Jewell have long credited him as a potential two-pitch reliever thanks to his fastball/slider combo. He’ll need to throw more strikes and command the ball within the zone more effectively, however, as both walks and home runs have been an issue for him.
Jewell’s time with the Giants organization could come to a close quickly, although this sort of move has been typical on for president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. Both during his time with the Dodgers and so far with the Giants, Zaidi has been willing to frequently turn over the fringes of his 40-man roster, regularly claiming players and quickly designating them for assignment and then seeking to pass them through waivers to keep them without dedicating a 40-man roster spot. That tactic can lead to a dizzying number of minor transactions but also has been an effective way of stockpiling depth.
Angels’ GM Billy Eppler has been working with the Commissioner’s office on finding a solution to handling injured list stints for Shohei Ohtani, whom Eppler catalogues nicely as a player with a “dual distinction.”
With Ohtani in mind, the Commissioner’s office has passed a new rule that would allow Ohtani to pitch on a rehab assignment and return to the club as soon as the next day to perform as a hitter, said Eppler on the MLB Network Radio’s Power Alley (audio link). Essentially, the Angels can now treat Ohtani separately as a pitcher and hitter, sending him on a rehab assignment while keeping him on the roster.
Of course, that’s the hitch in the plan as well, that Ohtani would remain on the ML roster while pitching elsewhere, leaving the Angels roster down a man for a day. Eppler also reminds us that when he was healthy as a two-way star, the Angels preferred to give Ohtani a full day of rest the day before and after pitching assignments that took him past 65 pitches or so.
Still, the Angels now have the option to send Ohtani to the Pacific Coast League or the California league nearby without totally removing him from the roster. Whether that amount of travel behooves team or player in this case will be up to the Angels to decide.
Former MLB hurler Dylan Axelrod is joining the Angels organization in the position of pitching coordinator, he announced today. Axelrod had worked as a pitching instructor and now becomes the latest such figure to step into a notable role with an MLB organization.
Axelrod ended with only a 5.27 ERA in his MLB career. But he threw over 200 innings over five campaigns — no mean achievement for a 30th round draft pick. Just getting to the point of being drafted was an achievement, given that Axelrod had to throw at a community college before even gaining a chance with a D-I outfit.
It probably won’t be surprising to hear that, in addition to his time with Peak Performance Project, Axelrod has some background with Driveline Baseball, the institution that has helped many pitchers discover or rediscover a formula to add velocity and harness spin rate and other tools to get on the MLB map. Driveline has spun employees out to affiliate teams in player development roles similar to Axelrod’s. Among others, Driveline founder Kyle Boddy signed on with the Reds and Rob Hill recently joined the Dodgers.