The Angels announced Tuesday that they have hired Bud Black as a special assistant to new general manager Billy Eppler, as was initially reported by MLB.com last week.
Black was the Angels’ pitching coach from 2000-06, then left to serve as manager of the Padres, a post he was dismissed from this past June.
The Angels previously announced former third-base coach and bench coach Ron Roenicke as the third-base coach for the 2016 season, moving Gary DiSarcina to first base among several other coaching moves.
Black was reportedly one of three finalists for the Dodgers’ managerial vacancy recently, a job that ultimately went to his ex-bench coach, Dave Roberts. Earlier, Black seemed to be in line to be the Nats manager until he and ownership disagreed on the terms of his contract, prompting the hiring of Dusty Baker.
Other front-office positions announced by the Angels include: Mike Gallego as director of baseball development, Justin Hollander as director of player personnel, Mike LaCassa as director of Minor League operations, Steve Martone and Jonathan Strangio as assistant GM, and Bobby Scales as special assistant to the GM.
Gallego, whose hiring was also reported last week, was previously the A’s third-base coach. Scales was most recently the Angels’ director of player development.
The Angels signed free-agent catcher Geovany Soto to a one-year, $2.8 million deal on Tuesday, giving them a veteran complement to the young Carlos Perez behind the plate.
Soto batted .219/.301/.406 in 210 plate appearances for the White Sox last season and is a career .246/.331/.434 hitter in 11 seasons in the big leagues, with the first eight years spent with the Cubs.
The 32-year-old right-handed hitter has thrown out 27 percent of would-be base stealers since 2006 – basically the Major League average during that time – and ranked 60th in the Majors in terms of getting additional strikes with his pitch framing last year, right behind Perez, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Soto’s deal puts the Angels roughly $20 million below the luxury-tax threshold.
Ron Roenicke has returned to the Angels as their new third-base coach, the club announced on Wednesday.
Roenicke was the Angels’ third-base coach from 2000-05, then was promoted to be their bench coach in 2006, taking over for Joe Maddon. He was named the Brewers’ manager in November 2010 and was dismissed in May 2015.
A source also told MLB.com on Wednesday that Bud Black, the Angels’ pitching coach from 2000-06, was also going to eventually join the organization in a front-office role, probably as a special assistant.
Angels general manager Billy Eppler, however, responded in a text message by saying: “We have not hired Bud Black. We are still in the process of assembling our coaching staff, scouting staff, player-development staff and front-office staff.”
The addition of Black, reportedly eliminated from consideration for the Dodgers’ managerial vacancy, could come later this offseason.
Roenicke spent the last two months of the 2015 season as the Dodgers’ third-base coach, then reportedly interviewed for the role. To bring in Roenicke, Gary DiSarcina was moved from third-base coach to first-base coach.
Roenicke’s hiring is only the latest in a series of moves for the Major League coaching staff and throughout the Minor League system.
Bullpen coach Steve Soliz will transition to the catching and information coach, a role that will largely have him helping to put together scouting reports heading into each series. The role was filled by Keith Johnson down the stretch last season, but Johnson will return as the Triple-A Salt Lake manager.
The Angels previously hired Charles Nagy to replace Mike Butcher as pitching coach and promoted Dave Hansen to replace Don Baylor as hitting coach, with Paul Sorrento promoted as Hansen’s assistant. Dino Ebel is expected to stay on as bench coach.
Alfredo Griffin, part of manager Mike Scioscia‘s staff since he arrived in 2000, has moved from first-base coach to infield coach.
A plethora of moves have been made throughout the farm system, though the Angels will wait until they’re all complete before announcing them. Sources said Denny Hocking has moved from manager of Class A Advanced Inland Empire to roving infield instructor. Chad Tracy, a Pepperdine University product who managed at Class A Burlington last year, will replace Hocking in managing the Inland Empire 66ers.
Former field coordinator Mike Micucci joined the Mariners, and former Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, to fill the same role. The Angels also hired Mike Gallego — a long-time third-base coach, most recently with the A’s — as their director of baseball development.
Steve Martone, who spent the last two years as the Yankees’ manager of professional scouting, is joining the Angels as an assistant general manager to new GM Billy Eppler, a source confirmed to MLB.com on Tuesday.
Martone, 35, was an assistant of baseball operations until getting promoted in March 2014. Martone took the spot previously held by Will Kuntz, who departed to become a director of player relations for Major League Soccer, and was most recently responsible for identifying outside players to acquire.
Martone is the second former Yankees executive hired by Eppler, who recently brought in Eric Chavez as his special assistant.
The Angels’ two prior assistant GMs departed for better jobs early in the offseason. Matt Klentak, who dealt mostly with Major League transactions, is the Phillies’ GM. Scott Servais, who ran scouting and player development, is the Mariners’ manager.
Martone will handle baseball-operations initiatives with the Angels, but Eppler isn’t expected to have a set right-hand man. Director of pro scouting Hal Morris and director of baseball operations Justin Hollander will also have a voice on who to acquire via free agency or trade, with other hires expected.
Coaching changes: Gary DiSarcina is expected will transition from third-base coach to first-base coach in 2016, a source said.
Alfredo Griffin, who has spent the last 17 years as the Angels’ first-base and infield coach, will remain on the Major League staff, but his role has yet to be determined. Dino Ebel is currently Mike Scioscia’s bench coach and isn’t expected to return as third-base coach, a role he excelled at until getting promoted before the 2014 season.
Under DiSarcina, the Angels were tied for the sixth-most outs at home in 2015 (22) and the third-most outs in 2014 (21). The Angels previously named Charles Nagy their new pitching coach and promoted Dave Hansen to be their hitting coach.
New lefty: The Angels signed lefty reliever Lucas Luetge to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to Spring Training. Luetge, 28, posted a 4.40 ERA in 98 appearances for Seattle from 2012-13 but spent most of the last two seasons with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate.
Luetge, who throws in the low 90s while mixing in a cutter and curveball, has held opposing left-handed hitters to a .567 OPS in his Major League career and struck out 10.1 batters per nine innings in Triple-A in 2014. Last year, though, he posted a 5.33 ERA in 29 appearances for the Tacoma Rainiers.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported Thursday that the Angels are among the teams in pursuit of Simmons, a 26-year-old who is controllable for five more seasons and is arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game. Erick Aybar, 32 in January, is heading into his final year before free agency and 21-year-old Roberto Baldoquin, given an $8 million signing bonus last December, is seemingly a long way from being Major League ready.
The question, as usual, is whether the Angels can come up with the prospect package to get it done.
Simmons is one of few remaining players that can bring the Braves a significant return for their farm system. First baseman Freddie Freeman and starting pitcher Julio Teheran are the others, but the Braves haven’t given any indication that they want to trade Freeman and would be selling low on Teheran.
The Braves desperately need bats, something the Angels sorely lack in their Minor League system. But general manager John Coppolella reiterated Thursday that he’s always seeking arms, and the Angels have compiled some intriguing pitching prospects over the last couple of years.
Their top prospect, by a wide margin, is burly left-hander Sean Newcomb, who ranks 19th overall, according to MLB.com’s rankings, and could start next season in Triple-A. The Angels have been unwilling to include Newcomb in prior deals, and it remains to be seen whether he’d be an option to acquire Simmons.
Chris Ellis (ranked second in the Angels’ system), Victor Alcantara (third), Joe Gatto (fourth) and Nate Smith (fifth) could possibly be made available in the deal. Perhaps so can young relievers like Trevor Gott, Mike Morin or Cam Bedrosian.
If the Braves seek volume, as opposed to star power, the Angels may have a shot.
Any deal for Simmons is expected to include Aybar, an important part of the Angels’ fabric for the better part of a decade. The Braves want to clear money for the 2017 season and Aybar, making $8.5 million next year, will be off the books by then. At that point, Braves top prospect Ohzaino Albies may be ready to take over at shortstop.
Simmons, who was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, has batted a subpar .252/.301/.357 since the start of the 2013 season. During that time, though, he also has a Major League-best 94 Defensive Runs Saved.
The Braves, coming off a 95-loss season, are open to anything.
“We need to be open to considering anything that makes us better,” Coppolella told MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. “For us, we aren’t looking to trade any of our players. But I think when you look at some of the teams that were in the playoffs and World Series, you will see the benefits they gained from making tough trades a few years ago.”
I wrote earlier today about first-year GM Billy Eppler keeping his options open and why he’ll probably rely heavily on a loaded free-agent class.
The Angels enter the offseason with up to six needs for their Major League club: catcher, second base, third base, utility infield, left field and a back-end reliever, ideally a lefty. They could also opt to sign a front-line starter, but that’s more of a luxury than an actual need. They have starting pitching depth. But signing an attractive free-agent starter (David Price, Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, etc.) could free Eppler up to trade from that starting-pitching depth and fill other needs.
Below is a look at some of the more attractive free-agent and (potential) trade options at each of the Angels’ positions of need. You’ll probably notice right away that I didn’t include Matt Wieters among catchers. I just don’t expect them to bid so high for him.
(* indicates they were given a qualifying offer)
Free agents: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Brayan Pena, Dioner Navarro, Alex Avila, Geovany Soto
Trades: Stephen Vogt (OAK), Jonathan Lucroy (MIL), Wilson Ramos (WAS), Gary Sanchez (NYY)
Free agents: Howie Kendrick*, Daniel Murphy*, Ben Zobrist, Chase Utley
Trades: Neil Walker (PIT), Brandon Phillips (CIN), Aaron Hill (ARI), Hanser Alberto (TEX)
Free agents: David Freese, Juan Uribe, Mark Reynolds,Casey McGehee
Trades: Trevor Plouffe (MIN), Yunel Escobar (WAS), Todd Frazier (CIN), Martin Prado (MIA)
Free agents: Sean Rodriguez, Mike Aviles, Asdrubal Cabrera, Cliff Pennington, Kelly Johnson, Stephen Drew
Trades: Jed Lowrie (HOU)
Free agents: Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton*, Jason Heyward*, Alex Gordon*, Gerardo Parra, Colby Rasmus*, Nori Aoki
Trades: Preston Tucker (HOU), Brett Gardner (NYY), Josh Reddick (OAK), Jay Bruce (CIN), Yasiel Puig (LAD), Carl Crawford (LAD), Andre Ethier (LAD), David Peralta (ARI)
Free agents: Tony Sipp, Antonio Bastardo, Matt Thornton, Oliver Perez, Neal Cotts, Rich Hill
Trades: Mike Dunn (MIA)
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols recently underwent surgery on his troublesome right toe and may not be ready by Opening Day.
The surgery, to repair a planter plate in Pujols’ right foot, took place last week in Charlotte, N.C., and was performed by Dr. Robert Anderson. In announcing the procedure on Monday, Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols would resume baseball activities in four-and-a-half months.
That would put Pujols back around late March, a timeline that probably has him set up to start the 2016 season on the disabled list.
In a statement, Eppler said the surgery “went very well” and that Pujols will continue rehabbing in the Kansas City area throughout the winter. The 35-year-old is heading into the fifth season of a 10-year, $240 million contract and spent the last 28 games of 2015 at designated hitter due to excruciating pain in that right foot.
Nagy replaces Mike Butcher, who was dismissed after nine seasons as the Angels’ pitching coach nearly three weeks earlier. Butcher is now the D-backs’ pitching coach, a post Nagy held for three years until getting dismissed at the end of the 2013 season.
Nagy, 48, pitched in the big leagues from 1990 to 2003, spending 13 of those 14 years in Cleveland. He made the All-Star team three times, won 129 games and was an important piece to the dominant Indians teams of the 1990’s, pitching in the playoffs for five straight years and appearing in two World Series (both losses).
Nagy was a pitching coach for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah, from 2006-07 and with the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, in 2010. He was hired as the Major League pitching coach in Arizona for the following season, but was removed from then-manager Kirk Gibson’s staff on Oct. 8, 2013.
Nagy – a native of Bridgeport, Conn. – spent the 2015 season as a special assistant to player development with the Indians.
In recognition of his efforts to raise awareness and funds for Huntington’s Disease, Angels reliever Joe Smith was recently honored with the Guthrie Award at the 15th annual HDSA San Diego “Celebration of Hope” Gala. That night, in front of over 400 people at a house in Point Loma on Oct. 10, Smith gave a heartfelt speech about the disease that is prevalent in his family.
“I hate to use the word money, but that’s what it takes for research, and that’s what it’s going to take to save my mom,” Smith said towards the end. “I’d give every dime I have if they had a cure today.”
More information, and a way to donate, can be found at HelpCureHD.com, a site started by Smith and his wife, CBS sideline reporter Allie LaForce.
Huntington’s disease is a deadly, neurodegenerative disorder that’s inherited within families, causing involuntary movements, physical disability, emotional disturbance and cognitive impairment. Smith’s grandmother suffered from Huntington’s until her death, his mother has been dealing with it for the better part of a decade, and there’s a 50-percent chance he or his sister, Megan Nein, will someday get it, too.
Smith recalled the day his mom, Lee, was told she had HD. It was February 2012. Smith was driving to the Indians’ Spring Training facility in Goodyear, Ariz., when he got a call from his father, Mike, with the news. Then his mom came on the phone.
“I’ll never forget the sound of her voice — it was just empty,” Smith said, breaking down in tears. “I’ve never heard anything like it. That stayed with me for a long time, that sound, when she said. ‘Hi, Joseph.’ Just the way she said it.”
Smith and LaForce launched the website two Octobers ago and have since raised $400,000 through it. Their goal is $2 million for research. Over the years, Smith has learned a lot about HD, which affects more than 30,000 Americans, with another 200,000 or so at risk.
In the meantime, he’s gained a whole new level of admiration for his mother.
“Sorry, Dad, I get my toughness from my mom,” Smith said at one point, drawing a laugh from the audience. “If you talk to her, she’s full of energy, she’s witty, she’s very funny. She stares it right in the face every day.”
Every game in Sunday’s potential regular-season finale will start at 2 p.m. CT, which means every score from from around the Majors will be displayed on Globe Life Park’s left-field fence. That includes the Astros game in Arizona. The Angels need the Astros to lose to force a Monday tiebreaker at Minute Maid Park, and if they jump to a big early lead, Angels players will notice.
Whether they want it to or not, it could affect how they approach their own game.
“It may be hard to keep up the same intensity,” Angels shortstop Erick Aybar said in Spanish on Sunday morning.
“Everybody in this dugout, on this field, coaches included, are going to be human,” Mike Scioscia added. “We know the situation. I don’t believe it’ll be any distraction. We’re going to go out there and try to win this game, so it’s not going to affect any game management. And it’s not going to affect what these guys do. We know what we need to do.”
The Angels will approach the finale of a four-game series — and the potential finale of their season — with a very shorthanded pitching staff.
Garrett Richards will be starting on three days’ rest for the first time in his career, and the Angels’ bullpen has had to account for 27 1/3 innings over the last eight games.
Interim closer Joe Smith will be available for a full inning, Scioscia said, but few others will be. Trevor Gott, a rookie who has already made 73 appearances in the Majors and Minors, may only be available for a batter or two. Lefty Jose Alvarez, who has appeared in five of the last six games, may not be available at all. Fernando Salas, who has appeared in three of the last four, may not be able to go a full inning, either. Closer Huston Street, of course, has a left groin injury and is doubtful to even be available for the American League Division Series, Scioscia said.
Scioscia would ideally go with Nick Tropeano if his team has to play a tiebreaker on Monday, but that may evolve into a bullpen game. Tropeano will have his spikes on and will be available out of the bullpen, if needed on Sunday. Today would’ve been his turn to start, so he’s available to go as long as needed.
“I’ll be ready,” Tropeano said pregame.
“The only thing that’s going to stop us from doing it is not putting guys at risk,” Scioscia said. “But as far as what we do to try to win a ballgame, you’re going to try to use everything you have just because of the nature of where we are.”
If the Angels advance to play the AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser on Tuesday — which, for them, would only be possible from Yankee Stadium — Andrew Heaney will get the ball.
The rookie left-hander will not be available before then.
“I don’t’ think it’s right,” Scioscia said, “for that kid or for us.”