That still remains to be seen. But on Wednesday afternoon — after the Red Sox acquired Andrew Bailey from the Athletics in exchange for three young players — it became more possible than ever.
With the Red Sox, a team with money to spend, filling a huge need in the back end of its bullpen by acquiring the young Bailey, the market for Madson has reached a new low. It’s now pretty clear that the 31-year-old right-hander won’t get anything close to what the Phillies reportedly offered him before turning their attention to Jonathan Papelbon (a four-year, $44 million contract).
But just how much of a pay cut he takes is the big question.
It’d have to be a pretty sizeable one for the Angels to be a fit, now that the team has committed more than $330 million to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. But it’s interesting to note that Wilson turned down a larger contract from the Marlins in order to sign with the Angels and return to Orange County, Calif. — where Madson was also born.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said during the Winter Meetings that his mission was to “complement [closer] Jordan Walden, not replace Jordan Walden.” In tune with that, he signed veteran right-hander LaTroy Hawkins to potentially help lefty Scott Downs in a setup role. But getting Madson would be a far bigger step towards improving a bullpen that was tied for first in the American League in blown saves last season.
So far, it appears the Rays and Reds are the two main teams that still need a closer. But the Reds and Francisco Cordero reportedly want a reunion, and the Rays don’t have the financial wherewithal to allocate a lot of money to the ninth inning.
Time for Scott Boras to get creative with Madson.
Despite a lack of financial flexibility, the Angels continue to seek ways to address their bullpen situation.
Depending on his price, one option may be veteran closer Francisco Cordero. His agent, Bean Stringfellow, told WEEI.com on Tuesday that the Angels are one of four teams in play for the right-hander, along with the Reds — his former team, which reportedly wants him back — the Red Sox and a fourth, unidentified club.
Cordero is perhaps the best — and most expensive — free-agent reliever remaining after Ryan Madson, making the Angels the least likely fit among the above-mentioned clubs. Stringfellow told WEEI.com Cordero is looking for a multi-year deal and is only interested in going into a situation where he’s the clear-cut closer (which, in Anaheim, would mean the young Jordan Walden is supplanted).
The Angels have also reached out to the representative of former reliever Darren Oliver, a source familiar with his thinking told MLB.com. Oliver’s preference is to return to Texas, but is “not ruling out other contending teams,” the source said, adding that in order to accommodate the Angels, Oliver would be willing to defer most of his salary. Oliver put up a 2.29 ERA in 61 appearances last year, but is 41 and would give the Angels three lefties in the bullpen — along with Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi.
Another interesting candidate is Joel Zumaya, the former Tigers flame-thrower who missed all of 2011 after undergoing exploratory surgery on his right (throwing) elbow. Zumaya performed in front of what was believed to be about 50 scouts in Houston last Wednesday, and some of them were members of the Angels, general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed. Someone in attendance told FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal he threw his fastball from 93-96 mph and had a decent curveball and OK command.
Some other, cheaper, right-handed options in the free-agent bin: Luis Ayala, Juan Cruz, Scott Linebrink, Dan Wheeler and Jamey Wright. Most of them, however, may not sign deals until more materializes later in the offseason. Sources told MLB.com the Angels have yet to reach out to Ayala or Wheeler in particular.
The Angels previously added LaTroy Hawkins — on a one-year, $3 million contract — in hopes of improving a bullpen that was tied for the American League lead in blown saves last season. Dipoto previously said he’s looking for someone to “complement Jordan Walden; not replace Jordan Walden.”
That’s the question. One of the biggest questions the Angels will face heading into the 2012 season. There sure seem to be a lot of candidates for that cleanup spot behind Albert Pujols, and, well, that’s the problem. Because there isn’t really one candidate who sticks out as that legit middle-of-the-order threat that will ensure Pujols gets pitches to hit.
In St. Louis, Pujols, of course, had Matt Holliday, who averaged a .319 clip with 28 homers and 104 RBIs the last six years. Even with Holliday batting behind him the last two seasons, Pujols drew 164 walks (11th most in the Majors) and was intentionally walked 53 times (third-most in the Majors in that span). Imagine how many times he’ll walk as a member of the Angels if he doesn’t have a productive cleanup hitter behind him.
Mike Scioscia will try to ensure that’s not the case.
So he’ll have to pick the right man out of these candidates …
Mark Trumbo: This would seem to be the most logical fit. Trumbo basically came out of nowhere last season to put up solid power numbers, with 29 homers and 87 RBIs. But the batting average (.254) and OPS (.768) weren’t particularly good — though that OPS did rise to .861 when hitting with runners in scoring position. Is Trumbo, turning 26 in January, ready to be the man protecting baseball’s best hitter in his second year in the Majors? We’ll see. First, the Angels have to find him a position.
Kendrys Morales: In an ideal world, Morales would return to his 2009 form and — as basically the only one who can bring power from the left side of the plate — would be the man batting behind Pujols. But, right now, that’s a pipe dream. Morales hasn’t been on the field since he broke his left ankle on May 29, 2010, and will have to prove he can run at full speed in Spring Training — never mind be able to produce at an All-Star level throughout the season. The Angels, at least, kept their options open with Morales and tendered him a contract prior to the deadline.
Torii Hunter: Hunter hit fourth more than any other Angels player in 2011, batting .267 with 17 homers and 60 RBIs in 96 games at the cleanup spot (a solid sample size of 367 at-bats). But Hunter, of course, isn’t the player he used to be. His .765 OPS this past season was his lowest since 2003, and he’ll be entering his age-37 — and perhaps final — season. One positive: Hunter is a career .280 hitter with runners in scoring position.
Vernon Wells: Well, his contract — one that will pay him $21 million for each of the next three seasons — certainly suggests that he should be the Angels’ cleanup hitter. His 2011 numbers, however, certainly do not. Wells managed to hit 25 homers and drive in 66 runs, but his slash line of .218/.248/.412 was flat-out horrific. Wells previously said he got away from himself, saying: ”I was trying to hit the ball 500 feet, when you don’t have to do that. I never thought of myself as a home run hitter, but I got caught up in home runs.” If he can revert to even the player of 2010 — one who batted .273 with 31 homers and 88 RBIs — maybe there’s a very slight chance of him batting fourth.
Bobby Abreu: The bigger question, of course, is whether he’ll even be an Angel in 2012. Abreu may be the odd-man out with Pujols in the mix, though his $9 million salary may be tough to move without eating up some money. Abreu has barely ever hit fourth, even when he was at his prime, so there’s little reason to believe he’d be deemed even a part-time cleanup hitter with the 2012 Halos. Two positives: He hits left-handed, and he still works the count as good as anybody. Two bigger negatives: He turns 38 in March, and he hit eight home runs with a .717 OPS last season.
Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos has an interesting perspective on the first-base logjam the Angels now have. He’s good friends with Mark Trumbo, has been spending some time with Kendrys Morales in Arizona and, like so many of us, was absolutely stunned when he found out his club had signed Albert Pujols.
Bourjos was originally going to play Winter Ball, but opted against it after nursing hip and groin ailments towards the end of the season. Now, Bourjos is in Arizona, working out at Fit-Life and (along with Morales) rehabbing at Physiotherapy Associates. Bourjos now says his hip feels “the best it’s felt in a long time.” Next week, he plans on running — he originally tried about a month ago, but his hip flared up and he shut it down — and re-starting baseball activities, essentially putting him on normal schedule.
I’ll have more on Bourjos (pictured left by The Associated Press) later this week, but for now, here’s what he said about the Angels’ first basemen …
On how Morales looks: “He looks real good. He’s in real good shape, and he looks like he’s moving around real good. I think he’s been hitting a little bit in the cage. I see him every other day, and he says his ankle is feeling really good.”
On whether he’s confident he’ll run at full speed this spring: “I think so. Right now, obviously, you never know what’s going to happen. I think he’s still in the treadmill and everything. But he says it feels a lot better than it did last year at the same point, so I think he’s hoping that everything goes well. And I hope so, too, because he’s going to be a big part of the team.”
On his reaction to Pujols: “Yeah, I was shocked about Pujols. I was thinking that we’d probably get C.J. [Wilson], just because he might fit more with the budget, just because of everything Arte [Moreno] had said about the budget and keeping it at $140 [million]. So I said, ‘All right, C.J. will fit good there.’ And I just kind of dismissed us getting Pujols just because of how much money it was and the track record of us missing out on the big free agents, whether it was [Carl] Crawford or [Mark] Teixeira or just guys like that. The night before [on Wednesday] … I went to bed, and I woke up with my phone ringing and I look. My buddies are texting me that we signed Pujols and I was like, ‘Holy cow!’ I was shocked. But at the same time, I was really excited and happy. I couldnt’ go back to bed. It was like 8 in the morning.”
On if Pujols instantly makes them a title contender: “Yeah, I think so. I think the last couple of years since Kendrys went down, we were missing that big bat in the middle of the lineup. He’ll fit in there with any team. But it’s going to be great with all those guys helping in the middle of the order, and I think he’s going to help out the whole lineup in general. It just makes our whole team better.”
On whether Trumbo can play third base on an everyday basis: “I think so. I’ve seen him since he was 18 — because he signed in ’04, I signed in ’05 — and he’s come so far with his bat. And defensively, too. He works his butt off. I think if he puts his mind to it, he can do it. He’s a hard worker, he’s a bulldog, he’s going to get after it, and I honestly think that he can go out there and do it. I know that he’s going to start at some point after the holidays, start working. He works his tail off, so I don’t see any reason why he can’t make that adjustment. He has a tremendous arm, too, so that’s going to help him out over there.”
Not surprising, of course. But the numbers are still quite impressive.
According to the club’s PR department, the Angels’ Team Store has sold over 2,000 units of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson merchandise since Thursday morning. And this past weekend — when they introduced Pujols and Wilson at a Saturday press conference — the store passed its total revenues for all of December 2010.
In the first two days after the Angels agreed to terms with Pujols and Wilson, the club had already sold well over 1,000 seats and 500 online ticket packages.
New Angels first baseman Albert Pujols was asked while meeting with reporters on Saturday what he would say to Cardinals fans, who rooted for him in his first 11 years, are heartbroken with his decision to leave town and may have a hard time accepting why a player would decide to play somewhere else.
Here was Pujols’ response: “You know what, it was hard for me, too. It’s been hard for almost a year. Obviously, you don’t want to blame anything because I’m a guy that I don’t look for blame, how my first two months of the season were. But, you know, it was hard, and it was emotional, and obviously you’re going to have some people and friends and family that are agreeing with you, and fans, and you’re going to have other people that don’t like it. And you know what, at the end, you know what, that you can’t control. But what I want the fans to know is, I love them, I respect how they treated my family, I respect the support that they have given me for 11 years, and I thank them for helping me be the man that I am today, because if it wouldn’t be for that city, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Pujols’ 10-year, $254 million deal includes an extra 10 years for after he’s done playing, which will have him serve as a consultant to owner Arte Moreno.
DALLAS — This wasn’t just an extraordinary day in the history of the Angels’ franchise. This was the day the Angels shaped the entire baseball landscape, not to mention the outlook of the American League West. By signing the greatest player of this era, Albert Pujols, and plucking an ace from the division-rival Rangers, C.J. Wilson, the Angels have set them up to be a World Series contender for years to come and have probably altered the strategy for several other AL clubs in the process.
What happens to Mark Trumbo? Does Albert Callaspo get traded? How do they create space for Pujols? Which number does Wilson wear (Jered Weaver has No. 36)? Those, and many other questions, are still to be answered.
But before that, here’s one more look at the big day, with a collection of what people around baseball were saying about the Angels’ Winter Meetings coup …
Angels owner Arte Moreno on Pujols (statement): “This is a monumental day for Angel fans and I could not be more excited. … Albert’s career performance clearly speaks for itself. He has proven to be the best player of his generation.”
Wilson: ”It’s a big swing in the balance of power in the [American League] West. I thought I was going to make a little bit of a difference, but [Pujols is] obviously going to make a huge one. Nobody saw that coming.”
Angels left fielder Vernon Wells (celebrating his 33rd birthday on Thursday): “You’re adding two of the biggest pieces in the market, two guys still young and in their prime who can dominate. This gives us a legitimate chance to get to the playoffs and farther. … I’m a fan right now. This is exciting for the game and the Angels. I can imagine how our fans are feeling. What a birthday gift this is.”
Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos: ”It’s unbelievable. Kind of surreal. I was getting up, still in bed, when I started getting the texts. I was shocked.”
Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick: ”I know one thing, our locker room’s going to look like New York’s.”
Cubs general manager Theo Epstein on Pujols leaving National League Central: “I’ll just say, if he left, it’d probably be a good thing for us in terms of developing young pitching. You get a young pitcher up there and he’s working on his third pitch and working on his fastball command and you tell him to get ahead strike one and all of a sudden, instead of a Triple-A hitter he’s got Albert Pujols there and it leaves the yard 420 to right-center field and it’s not good for his confidence.”
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik on Pujols: ”That’s a very special talent that they acquired and just makes it more difficult for everybody in the division.”
Reds GM Walt Jocketty on Pujols leaving NL Central: ”I think it’s a positive. When they lose a guy of that stature, it’s pretty amazing.”
Indians GM Chris Antonetti on Pujols joining the AL: “I would’ve preferred he stayed in the National League.”
Athletics assistant GM David Forst: ”I can’t handicap what this means for the Angels, but certainly when you end up with all the best players in the game in your division, that’s not what you want.”
Reds manager Dusty Baker: ”They talk a lot about the Yankees, and now the Angels, looking at what they’ve done over the last six, seven years, are kind of like the Yankees of the West.”
Royals manager Ned Yost on Pujols: “A player of that caliber is going to make any lineup better. The Angels have always been a quality team, they’ve always been a tough team. With their pitching and now with their added offense in the middle of the lineup that they have, it’s going to be a very, very formidable team in that division and in the American League.”
DALLAS — C.J. Wilson must’ve laughed pretty hard when looking at his smartphone tonight. While Wilson was making a surprise appearance at the Hilton Anatole on Wednesday — site of the Winter Meetings, and the place where he was believed to be meeting with the Angels and Marlins to choose a future home — Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins) and Angels outfielder Torii Hunter (@toriihunter48) went back and forth on Twitter to try and convince Wilson (@str8edgeracer) to sign with their team.
Here’s the timeline …
Morrison: @str8edgeracer I want to sing u a song. I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it and I know, i know, I know I want u I want u
Hunter: @str8edgeracer come on home to the OC. U would luv it and fans will luv u too. Alot of fun.
Morrison: Hows the CA state income tax Torii? RT @toriihunter48 @str8edgeracer come on home 2 the OC. U would luv it & fans will luv u 2. Alot of fun.
Hunter: @str8edgeracer u can also work on ur tan in Cali. I do it all the time dawg. LOL
Morrison: Its 72 every day in our new domed stadium! RT @ballystar40: @toriihunter48 @str8edgeracer But what abt the perfect weather all yr round Lomo
Wilson: Jeez keep your pants on RT @LoMoMarlins: Its 72 every day in our new domed stadium!
Morrison: Fun Fact: All-Star Jared Weaver wears jersey #36 in Anaheim. Which sucks for any free agent who also wears 36, if he were to sign there…
Morrison: Correction: JERED Weaver. Another fun fact, Randy Choate (our #36) owes me favor 4 earthquake proofing his home. Wait, we dont have those…
DALLAS — Mike Scioscia addressed the media during Day 2 of the Winter Meetings, and one thing was made particularly clear: Addressing the starting rotation is his chief desire, ahead of adding a bullpen arm or even adding a bat. I’ll have more on Angels.com soon. But for now, here are some of the highlights …
On the shakeup at catcher, with Jeff Mathis gone and Chris Iannetta on board: Well, we need more offense from the catching position, and we talked about it last year. We just couldn’t absorb some of the things on the offensive side as we saw, and Jeff, although there’s no doubt he’s a premium defensive catcher and brought a lot behind the plate, and that was important to us, we need to be more well‑rounded as a team. And I think Chris Iannetta is going to be a great fit for us if he is going to bring a lot of what Jeff brought behind the plate with the ability to bring offense and bring durability. We plan on catching 100-plus games, and that’s going to be important to us.
On the disconnect between Scioscia’s value of Mathis and the public perception of Mathis: There’s a lot of expectations for us to win, and when some players aren’t performing, obviously fans and media are going to make it a point ‑‑ make it a talking point. There’s no doubt that Jeff helped us defensively win games, and if he was going to hit ‑‑ I think a catcher, if you’re going to bring some offense and be able to do some things and you’re going to hit .230, .240, that’s a lot different than struggling and maybe hitting .170, .180, .190. There’s no doubt that on the defensive side, he helped us win games, and that’s very tangible. You could see that. You could see that in how the pitchers performed. We could see that in a lot of different areas. But if you look at the makeup of our team, we certainly aren’t deep enough on the offensive side to be afforded that luxury anymore of not having some contribution from a guy that has the ability to go out there and maybe get four or 500 at‑bats if he’s catching 100 games, and we need to get better in that aspect.
On how the move impacts Hank Conger’s future: Hank’s future is going to be based on Hank’s performance. I don’t think anything has changed from where he was.
On the excitement over possibly adding C.J. Wilson: Well, we need to get deeper in our rotation. I know you look at [Jered Weaver] and [Dan] Haren and Ervin Santana, and it sounds like you’re getting greedy. But you need five guys going out there during the season to give you a chance to win, and right now, we might have an incredible playoff rotation, but you need a full rotation to give you that opportunity to get into the playoffs. So we need to add pitching depth in the rotation. That’s something I know that is weighing very heavily on a lot of things that Jerry [DiPoto] is considering, and I think you’ll see us move towards that direction, whether it’s C.J. Wilson or whether it’s some other things that he has to do, when he gets creative with some trades.
On whether he’d prefer to add a bat or a starter: We need to get stronger pitching. I think if you look at a lot of things ‑‑ you’re just talking about in the rotation, but we need depth in our bullpen, and we need depth in our rotation, and I think those are things that are priorities as Jerry is moving through this process this winter. We had a lot of leads last year. Even though our offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders, we had countless games that maybe because of some depth in our bullpen that fell through the cracks that would have made a difference in our ability to contend particularly those last couple weeks in our division.
On the risk of giving Wilson a long-term deal, even though he’s only been a starter for two seasons: I think everyone is going to be different. I do think that if you look at C.J. Wilson from a scouting standpoint, look at his stuff, I mean, his stuff is good. Where it’s going to be in three or four years, I don’t know. He’s not quite as crisp as he was maybe three or four years ago. But like that rate of attrition of what a pitcher’s stuff would decline to, it’s impossible to ‑‑ there’s no crystal ball that’s going to give you info. But I think what he does have going for him is, first, being left‑handed. Soft lefties historically still have an opportunity to be successful for whatever reason in terms of the pitch ability of a righty when he starts to lose his stuff. So I think there are some positives he has going for him that would point to him being productive, even if there is maybe a drop‑off of some stuff, and the fact that this isn’t a guy that’s sitting on 1,300, 1,400 innings coming into a free agent year as opposed to a guy that really for two years has really just been primarily a starter. Not that the bullpen doesn’t tax your arm, but I think he’s still fresh. The length of a contract is going to be what he’s looking for and what any team is comfortable in giving. That’s what we’ll find out.
On Kendrys Morales bouncing back from a second surgery: Well, definitely the second surgery he had really raised the confidence level from the doctors that that’s what was inhibiting him in his first rehab. Right now, how that ankle is going to be, where it’s going to be, like I said, there’s a lot of questions, how durable it’s going to be. That remains to be seen. The doctors really have no way of knowing, and we have no way of knowing until you get out there and start to do the things you need to do to play first base at the Major League level and swing the bat and run the bases at the Major League level. It’s tough to gauge what the confidence level is right now as far as starting the season, but I know that second surgery, the confidence level is very high from the doctors, and we feel we’re moving him in a direction of being ready to play Major League Baseball again.
On whether Trumbo can play third base if healthy: Well, it’s something that we wanted to move forward and see if it was going to be a possibility, but right now it’s tough to do until he gets his stress fracture healed and is able to go out there and we can functionally see how he’s going to move at third base and what it looks like. When he first signed, he tried third base and struggled, but that was more in relationship to him just trying to get acclimated with playing infield. And when he went over to first base he was struggling. Now he’s become a very proficient first baseman, and hopefully that comfort level, catching a ground ball and the activities you need to play there will translate over to third base to where he’ll maybe be a little bit better than he was when he first tried it seven or eight years ago.
The question is how long they’re willing to wait out the likes of C.J. Wilson and Ryan Madson. As The Los Angeles Times pointed out on Monday — day 1 of the Winter Meetings — new general manager Jerry DiPoto plans to meet with Wilson’s agent here in Dallas. Frankly, why wouldn’t he? The real question is whether it’s possible — or even practical — for the Angels to fork over most of their remaining payroll on one arm, to address the best aspect of the team no less.
If they don’t want to go that route, or commit to Madson — remember, the Phillies reportedly offered four years at $44 million — there are a few low-cost options to be had.
Starting pitcher-wise, Mark Buehrle is the logical fit. Problem: A lot of teams want him, and he’s said to be looking for a no-trade clause as part of at least a three-year deal. Some other lefties to keep in mind: Jeff Francis (4.82 ERA in 31 starts for the Royals last year), Erik Bedard (3.62 ERA in 24 starts for the Red Sox and Mariners) and Paul Maholm (3.66 ERA in 26 starts for the Pirates).
As for the right-handed bullpen arms, there are plenty from which to choose. The most intriguing may be Octavio Dotel, because of how well he pitched down the stretch for the World Series-champion Cardinals and because of his experience as both a setup man and closer. Dotel (38) shifted from a Type A free agent to a Type B under the new CBA, so he won’t cost the team that signs him a Draft pick.
Some others: LaTroy Hawkins, Francisco Cordero, Takahashi Saito, Frank Francisco, Mike MacDougal, Scott Linebrink and Luis Ayala, among a host of others.