Takeaways from a couple of November trades …
The Angels had a busy Wednesday, acquiring a cost-controlled starter (Nick Tropeano), a veteran lefty reliever (Cesar Ramos) and a Minor League catcher (Carlos Perez) by sending backup catcher Hank Conger to the Astros and pitching prospect Mark Sappington to the Rays. They’re also waiting to finalize an $8-million deal with Cuban middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin.
What does this mean for the 2015 Angels and an offseason that’s still in its embryonic stage?
Here’s a CliffsNotes version …
- The biggest thing that comes to mind is that the Angels got more cost-controlled starting pitching. That’s what this was all about. Heck, that’s what this whole offseason is about, in a way. Tropeano now becomes No. 6 in their rotation depth chart, behind Jered Weaver, Garrett Richards, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago. Behind him are Wade LeBlanc, Drew Rucinski, Jose Alvarez and (if he makes the transition from reliever to starter) Cory Rasmus, all guys who have a chance of contributing this season. I don’t want to make the Angels sound like some high-payroll version of the Rays when it comes to having cost-controlled starters, but Jerry Dipoto has done a pretty good job of it the last couple years despite a barren farm system and luxury-tax concerns.
- The question is whether this trade means that the likes of Howie Kendrick, David Freese and C.J. Cron will not be traded in order to attain more pitching. I wouldn’t rule it out. The offseason is young, and it’d be very easy to part ways with Kendrick — because a lot of teams would be interested, because he plays a position the Angels are deep at and because he’ll be a free agent at season’s end. But the important thing is the Angels no longer have to trade Kendrick — or anybody, really. Dipoto was a little coy on the subject during a conference call on Wednesday, but he did re-iterate this: “The team that you saw at the end of the season is probably something similar to what you’ll see at the start of the next, as far as our everyday players go. There could be a subtle change here and there, but we don’t anticipate anything dramatic at this point.”
- Ramos will be a “utility bullpen guy,” which means he can pitch multiple innings or match up against lefties. But he’ll remain in the bullpen, as currently their only lefty, and Dipoto didn’t sound like a guy who wants to go out and get a lefty specialist on the market. “I don’t think it’s a critical need by any stretch. We like the group of righties we have; we do have a couple of right-handers that are very effective against lefties, as well.” Once you get past Andrew Miller (pricey), it’s slim pickings anyway.
- Perez — solid defensively, not so much with the bat — will be in the mix for the backup job behind Chris Iannetta, along with Jackson Williams, Jett Bandy and whoever else the Angels get this offseason (probably on a Minor League contract). Conger’s absence doesn’t mean Iannetta will take on more of a workload. “We’re pretty comfortable with Chris being in that 110-115 [games] range,” Dipoto said.
- The money basically evens out, with Conger (first of three arbitration years) and Ramos (second of three arbitration years) slated to make a little more than $1 million this offseason.
- Dipoto said he doesn’t need a utility infielder, pointing to a packed infield that currently has Gordon Beckham and Grant Green as backups. But if Kendrick and Freese stay, Beckham could get non-tendered (it’s hard to allocate $5 million for a backup infielder). And Green still has a long way to go defensively at third base, and isn’t necessarily a guy you can count on to play shortstop regularly. Baldoquin, meanwhile, would still need some seasoning in the Minors. I expect the Angels to keep tabs on free-agent utility infielders this winter.
Conger: “I was taken aback at first because it was so early in the offseason, but that was about it. Over the years I’ve heard all kinds of things. You get used to it. But I’m excited. I’m excited to try to get a fresh start. It’s just tough, because I just felt like the Angels organization treated me so well ever since I got drafted in ’06. It was tough, but at the same time, I’m excited. Everybody in the organization, from the front office to the coaches – the patience that they put in, the commitment to myself, I’ll always appreciate that.”
Tropeano: “Obviously it caught me off guard, just being so surprising, my first time, but I’m absolutely excited for the new opportunity, and I’m just privileged and honored that the Angels would trade from me and give me this opportunity to show my talent.”
Sappington: “The Angels have been the most amazing organization and I appreciate the opportunity. … They’re a first class organization. They’ve done so many things and given me so many opportunities. It’s been great, and I’m looking forward to a new opportunity with the Rays. I’m going to miss everybody. I love a lot of people with the Angels and I can’t wait to meet my new teammates. It’s an awesome opportunity and I can’t wait to get going.”
Ramos: “We’re still in shock to be able to be an Angel and also really call it home for us. Came from L.A., and just excited, and just really looking forward to meeting everybody in person – new organization, new teammates, new everything. I also want to thank Tampa for giving me the opportunity to become an everyday Major Leaguer and learning a lot there.”