Pitchers and catchers report for their physicals on Thursday, and with that a new season officially begins. Physicals take place away from the Tempe Diablo Stadium complex, so “report day” isn’t quite as eventful for the Angels as it is for other teams. But some players will trickle in, and Mike Scisocia will speak with the media later in the afternoon, shortly after meeting with his coaching staff.
Before all the madness begins, I thought I’d do my best to help you get caught up. Below is a list of previews, features and blog post from the offseason that you might have missed and are still timely with the start of Spring Training upon us.
You can see an updated 40-man roster here, a depth chart of where those 40 players fit in here, a list of non-roster invitees here, the Top 20 Prospects here and injury updates here. No changes were made to the coaching staff, but Tim Bogar was added to the front office and a variety of changes were made to the Minor League development staffs, with Keith Johnson reassigned and Dave Anderson, Johnny Narron and Pepperdine University product Chad Tracy among those hired.
Spring Training preview series
A look at players on the rebound
Examining the new faces
Prospects to watch
Angels are better for the future, but are they better in the present?
Projecting the lineup, rotation, ‘pen
Three big questions
Around The Horn
Pre-Spring Training Inbox
Story and video on Garrett Richards‘ recovery
On Matt Shoemaker‘s against-all-odds journey to the Rookie of the Year race
Chance to strengthen right leg has Albert Pujols excited
Jered Weaver has bulked up, wants to pitch deeper
Coaches believe Mike Trout can cut down on his strikeouts
Can Josh Hamilton bounce back?
Tyler Skaggs ‘bittersweet’ about start of Spring Training
Depth charts are at the heart of Angels’ strategy
An inside look at the pursuit of Roberto Baldoquin
How Andrew Heaney became the guy the Angels couldn’t pass up
Finally some representation in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects
The Angels finally have some payroll flexibility
A look at how the Angels would look without Josh
Will Jerry Dipoto dabble in next winter’s premier class of FA starters?
Examining a tougher AL West
Talent on the Triple-A affiliate is on the rise
When will the Angels get their first Hall of Famer?
Video highlights of Trout’s best moments from the 2014 season
The Angels avoided arbitration with Matt Joyce earlier on Monday, and now, barring a surprising, last-minute addition, it looks like their Opening Day payroll is pretty much set.
Let’s take a look at what we’ve got for 2015, with information provided by Cot’s Contracts …
Josh Hamilton: $25.4M
Albert Pujols: $24M
C.J. Wilson: $18.5M
Jered Weaver: $18.2M
Erick Aybar: $8.75M
Huston Street: $7M
David Freese: $6.425M
Mike Trout: $6,083,333
Chris Iannetta: $5.525M
Joe Smith: $5.25M
Garrett Richards: $3.2M
Hector Santiago: $2.29M
Fernando Salas: $1.37M
Cesar Ramos: $1.312M
Vinnie Pestano: $1.15M
Collin Cowgill: $995,000
Drew Butera: $987,500
That’s $141,187,833 for 18 players (and $86,100,000 for four). When adding the Major League minimum ($500,000) to seven more in order to make a full roster, that gives the Angels a 2015 Opening Day payroll of about $144,687,833 (not exact because a lot of players get slightly more than the minimum). That’s third-highest in club history, but about $10 million less than last year.
Here’s a look at previous Opening Day payrolls dating back to 2000 …
As I’ve explained before, though, the Competitive Balance Tax payroll (the average annual value of all 40-man roster contracts, plus benefits and bonuses) is what typically matters most to the Angels, who want to stay below the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million.
Since signing Pujols and Wilson in December 2011, the Angels have been painstakingly close to that line, a reality that has at times impacted their ability to make necessary, late-season additions.
Heading into this season, they have some flexibility, and a source said they plan to use it if necessary.
As it stands, the Angels’ CBT payroll sits at roughly $174 million (you can’t get the exact figure until the end of the season). That’s a $15 million difference, some of which the Angels can use to upgrade the rotation, or second base, or anything else that may come up in the first half.
July could be a very interesting month this year.
The Angels avoided arbitration with outfielder Matt Joyce on Monday, settling on a $4.75 million contract for the 2015 season, a source told MLB.com. The club has not confirmed.
With Joyce settled, the Angels finished with all their arbitration-eligible players, avoiding an arbitration hearing for the fourth consecutive year.
Previously, the Angels agreed with David Freese ($6.425 million), Garrett Richards ($3.2 million), Hector Santiago ($2.29 million), Fernando Salas ($1.37 million), Cesar Ramos ($1.312 million), Vinnie Pestano ($1.15 million), Collin Cowgill ($995,000) and Drew Butera ($987,500).
Joyce, heading into his final year before free agency, originally filed for $5.2 million and the Angels countered with $4.2 million.
Acquired from the Rays for reliever Kevin Jepsen on Dec. 16, Joyce has posted a .252/.341/.428 slash line while averaging 136 games the last four years. On the Angels, the 30-year-old left-handed hitter will mostly be used as a designated hitter but will also play the outfield corners.
With Josh Hamilton undergoing surgery to repair his right AC joint last week, a procedure that typically takes six to eight weeks to recover from, Joyce is expected to see extended time in left field.
The Angels announced Tuesday that Josh Hamilton will undergo surgery in the AC joint of his right shoulder, a procedure that comes with an estimated recovery time of six to eight weeks.
Eight weeks from Wednesday, which is when the surgery will take place in Texas, is April 1, still five days before Opening Day. But Jerry Dipoto called a return by Opening Day “a little aggressive.” In all likelihood, Hamilton will start the season on the disabled list and the Angels will hope to have him back at some point before the end of April.
Until then, a lineup that is already without Howie Kendrick – the man who filled in for Hamilton at the cleanup spot down the stretch last season — will try to carry on without him. Dipoto said the Angels will not be looking for outside help to fill his absence.
So, here’s my guess on how the Angels will stack up against righties in the meantime …
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, LF
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
A 2B to be named later
Chris Iannetta, C
And against lefties …
Kole Calhoun, RF
Collin Cowgill, LF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
A 2B to be named later
Chris Iannetta, C
Some additional things to keep in mind about Hamilton’s latest setback …
- The Angels were looking at moving Trout to the No. 3 spot full time this year, with Joyce looking like an ideal candidate to bat second. But with the left-handed-hitting Hamilton out, the Angels may opt not to bat two left-handed-hitters, Calhoun and Joyce, back-to-back. They may prefer to spread them out and bat Joyce in the middle of the order, which would keep Trout in the No. 2 spot temporarily.
- Though it wasn’t the main reason he was hired, the Angels were hoping that Hamilton could benefit from being around his old accountability partner, Johnny Narron, during Spring Training. But by the time Hamilton gets into baseball activities, Narron may be working with the Minor Leaguers, getting ready to be the hitting coach for the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees.
- What kind of impact can surgery have on Hamilton? One glaring positive and one glaring negative stick out. The torque of Hamilton’s left-handed swing led to arthritis in his shoulder in the first place, and a surgery like this — minimal as it may seem — could sap his power, in much of the same way right thumb surgery seemed to early in the season. On the positive side, Hamilton’s ailments in his right rib cage and upper back throughout September stemmed from aggravating his AC joint while fielding a liner off the wall on Sept. 4. Getting the shoulder taken care of may fix all of that.
That’s the Angels’ hope, at least.
The Angels announced Tuesday that Josh Hamilton will undergo surgery to repair the AC joint in his right shoulder, a procedure that is expected to keep him out for six to eight weeks and makes him doubtful for Opening Day.
Hamilton’s AC joint was considered the main culprit of a slew of ailments that plagued his right side throughout September, a month in which he played in just one of the Angels’ last 23 regular-season games before going 0-for-13 in the American League Division Series.
The 33-year-old outfielder was told to take some extra time to rest this offseason, hoping that could counteract the need for surgery, but shoulder pain flared up again once his batting-practice sessions intensified.
“It didn’t bother him throughout the offseason,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said “He went into his offseason training and never had an issue until last week, when he started swinging full throttle again.”
The surgery – to performed Wednesday at Texas Metroplex Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, by Dr. Keith Meister – is expected to last about 15 minutes and will consist of shaving Hamilton’s AC joint in order to relieve tension.
Hamilton has been suffering from arthritis in his shoulder for a while, a result of the torque of his left-handed swing.
Dipoto called a return by Opening Day “probably a little aggressive,” but didn’t rule it out entirely. The likely scenario is that Hamilton starts the season on the disabled list, then returns at some point in April. Hamilton can begin baseball activities as soon as Feb. 24, but there’s no telling exactly when that will take place.
There’s also no telling how a surgically repaired right shoulder will impact a left-handed power hitter.
Hamilton batted .250 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 151 games in his first season with the Angels in 2013, then played in just 89 games in 2014, batting .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in a season that saw him undergo surgery to his right thumb.
The 2015 season is the third of a five-year, $125 million contract.
“Nobody wants to perform more than Josh,” Dipoto said. “We want him to perform, we want him to be good. He knows that, we know that. I can’t sit here and express my frustration that he’s hurt. My primary focus is to get him in a position where he’s no longer hurt, then we’ll work through the baseball performance. I know he had a frustrating season, and some, if not all, can be attributed to this issue.”
The Angels avoided arbitration with starting pitcher Garrett Richards on Saturday, agreeing to terms on a $3.2 million contract for the 2015 season.
With Richards done, the Angels’ only remaining arbitration-eligible player – from a list that was eight deep earlier in January – is outfielder Matt Joyce, who’s heading into his final season before free agency.
Richards looked like the Angels’ trickiest arbitration case, because he was in his first of four arbitration years after qualifying as a Super Two, was coming off a breakthrough year in the rotation and ended the 2014 season recovering from knee surgery.
Upon suffering a torn patellar tendon in his left knee while covering first base at Fenway Park on Aug. 20, Richards was 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 26 starts. The 26-year-old right-hander had 4.33 ERA in 216 innings while shuffling between the rotation and bullpen the previous two years, then emerged as an American League Cy Young Award candidate in his first full season in the rotation.
But the Angels were wary of setting a financial precedent with three arbitration years still left, and both sides exchanged figures on Jan. 17. The Angels submitted $2.4 million and Richards’ side, led by agent Fred Wray of Relativity Sports, countered with $3.8 million. Both sides ultimately agreed to a figure $100,000 above the midway point, 11 days before Richards’ scheduled arbitration hearing.
Richards has spent the offseason working out in Arizona. He’s been playing catch since early December, began running in early January and is expected to run at full intensity this coming week, at which point he can begin throwing off a mound.
Richards is currently on track to be ready by Opening Day, but the Angels will take it slow with him in Spring Training.
The Angels previously avoided arbitration with David Freese ($6.425 million), Hector Santiago ($2.29 million), Fernando Salas ($1.37 million), Cesar Ramos ($1.312 million), Collin Cowgill ($995,000) and Drew Butera ($987,500). Vinnie Pestano also avoided arbitration in November for $1.15 million.
Joyce’s camp submitted a figure of $5.2 million and the Angels countered with $4.2 million.
The Angels haven’t gone to arbitration since Jered Weaver in 2011.
Barring a drastic, last-minute change in strategy, the Angels will not pursue James Shields, just like they didn’t pursue Max Scherzer and they didn’t pursue Jon Lester. They bowed out of the free-agent market for starting pitchers this winter — the free-agent market in general, actually — because they already have a top-heavy payroll and they didn’t deem another splurge practical.
What about next winter?
The next free-agent crop of starters is a doozy. David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Hisashi Iwakuma, Mat Latos and Doug Fister are all slated to headline one of the deepest groups we’ve ever seen. Will the Angels be a player in that market, with David Freese, Chris Iannetta, Matt Joyce and Huston Street all in line to come off the books? (They’d like to extend Street.)
Maybe — but probably not.
“I wouldn’t say no, and at this point I wouldn’t say yes,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said when asked about going after the top starters in next year’s market. “One of the things we like a lot about the way the team is currently built is the level of depth we have among starting pitchers. While we do have the potential departure of some free agents, we’re looking at a projected payroll number next year that’s similar to the one we’re operating at now.”
It’s true. Despite the potential departures, Mike Trout‘s salary will go from $6.08 million to $16.08 million; Josh Hamilton‘s will go from $25.4 million to $32.4 million; incremental jumps will come for Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver; and natural arbitration hikes will follow.
The Angels’ projected Opening Day payroll is $145 million for 2015, third-highest in team history but $9 million smaller than last year (which means there’s room for in-season upgrades). For 2016, their Competitive Balance Tax payroll (which takes the average annual value of all 40-man-roster contracts, plus benefits and bonuses, and is used by Major League Baseball to determine which teams exceed the $189 million tax threshold) is already almost $120 million for just seven players
More importantly, the Angels will have every current starter back — Weaver, Wilson, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney — plus Tyler Skaggs, who should be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.
But Weaver and Wilson will be heading into the final year before free agency. And look at what the Nationals just did. They didn’t need starting pitching, but they signed Scherzer because he was available now and because Zimmermann and Fister will be free agents at season’s end. Now they can comfortably trade Zimmermann or Fister (or perhaps Stephen Strasburg), or hold onto all of them and have the ultimate rotation, 2011 Phillies style.
Can the Angels do something similar?
I wouldn’t rule it out, but I also wouldn’t count on it.
“While I won’t say we have expectation that most or any of [the Angels’ starters] are going to be the quality of David Price, understanding that we need to continue to grow the foundation, at some point you have to provide those guys with the innings to grow,” Dipoto said. “Next year, we’re looking at the same group of starting pitchers; we won’t lose control of anyone. We like our group and like their upside.”
Angels fans who want to get an up-close look at Roberto Baldoquin this spring will probably have to walk over to the Minor League side of the Tempe Diablo Stadium complex.
The Angels have opted against inviting the 20-year-old Cuban middle infielder to Major League Spring Training, mostly because they’ll have a lot of infielders competing for jobs but also because they want to give Baldoquin a chance to develop on his own time, without added pressure.
Since signing Baldoquin to an $8 million signing bonus – a commitment that added up to about $15 million because of the overage tax – the Angels have added Josh Rutledge, Johnny Giavotella and Taylor Featherston, all of whom will compete for the starting second base and utility infield job, along with Grant Green. Baldoquin will likely start the season at Class A Inland Empire, exclusively playing shortstop, and hasn’t really played in organized games since he left Cuba nearly a year ago.
“There’s only so much space to go around, or time that you can provide,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said Tuesday. “Roberto being 20 years old, being over a year removed from competitive baseball outside of whatever he’s doing at our facility in the Dominican Republic, we felt like this was probably in his best interest and in the best interest of developing him.”
Baldoquin agreed to terms in early November, signed his first professional contract a few days before Christmas and has spent the month working out at the Angels’ academy in the Dominican, where Dipoto said he’s getting “glowing reviews for his leadership and work ethic.”
Baldoquin will spend the mornings working out on the Major League side during Spring Training and could take part in some Cactus League games as an extra player, but will mostly spend the spring working with fellow Minor Leaguers.
The Angels aren’t expecting him in the big leagues until the start of 2017, the first year shortstop Erick Aybar won’t be in the books.
“In Roberto’s case, the smartest thing we can do is slow the wheels down a little bit,” Dipoto said. “No rush. We need to make sure we’re exercising good judgment.”
Below are some additional Angels-related notes, with 23 days left until pitchers and catchers report for their physicals …
- The Angels plan to start negotiating an extension with closer Huston Street during Spring Training and have already broached the subject with Street himself, a source said. The Angels exercised their $7 million club option on Street early in the offseason and would like to lock the 31-year-old right-hander up before he hits free agency next winter. They’d also be open to negotiating an extension with catcher Chris Iannetta, also a pending free agent, and Garrett Richards, who’s in the first of four arbitration years. But those talks probably wouldn’t begin until after Opening Day.
- Before starting extension talks with Richards, they need to agree on his 2015 salary. Richards’ arbitration hearing is set for Feb. 11 and both sides have only made slow progress thus far. Richards is one of three arbitration-eligible players remaining for the Angels, along with pending free agents David Freese and Matt Joyce.
- Richards, who has spent his offseason training in Arizona, is running on 75 percent of his body weight and is expected to progress to 100 percent next week. He should be throwing off a mound around the time workouts begin.
- Dipoto wouldn’t comment on extension talks or arbitration negotiations, but did express confidence that he’d avoid an arbitration hearing with all three players. “Right now,” he said, “there’s no expectation that we won’t avoid a hearing, but no fear of going to a hearing if that’s what it comes to. Right now, the conversations have been seamless. Normal rhetoric, and I feel we’re in a good position with all three.”
- The Angels recently signed veteran right-handers Frank Herrmann and Zach Stewart to Minor League contracts. Herrmann, a 30-year-old reliever who posted a 4.26 ERA in 95 appearances with the Indians from 2010-12, will be invited to Spring Training. Stewart, a 28-year-old swing man who had a 6.82 ERA in 103 innings from 2011-12, will not. The Angels would still like to acquire a Triple-A shortstop on a Minor League deal, and that may be the final move they make this winter.
Highly-sought-after Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada worked out for the Dodgers on Monday morning, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported on Twitter, adding that the Dodgers “remain a significant threat because of deep pockets.”
This is just the latest in a slew of showcases held for Moncado, who previously worked out for the Brewers, Rangers, Giants, Yankees, Red Sox and Padres in Florida, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez wrote. The Rays, Cubs and Phillies are also showing strong interest for the 19-year-old, according to Sanchez.
Moncada could garner a signing bonus of up to $40 million, which would become nearly an $80 million commitment due to the dollar-for-dollar overage tax on teams exceeding their spending pools. Before signing, though, Moncada must be cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
– Alden Gonzalez
At one point last season, Jered Weaver stepped on the scale, saw “199” and committed himself to getting bigger.
On Sunday night, 25 days before reporting for Spring Training, the Angels’ ace weighed in at a career-high 224.
“I’ve never been higher than 218,” Weaver said. “I don’t know if my metabolism is slowing down from getting older or what, but I feel good.”
For Weaver, heading into his age-32 season, it’s all about having the strength to pitch deeper in games.
While going 18-9 with a 3.59 ERA last year, the 6-foot-7 right-hander averaged about 6 1/3 innings per start, which basically coincides with his career rate. But he has his sights set on something similar to his 2011 mark, when he averaged 7.13 innings while finishing second in American League Cy Young Award voting.
“Numbers-wise it was all right,” Weaver said of 2014, “but from a personal standpoint, me being me and ultra competitive, I want to get deeper in games. The bullpen helped me a lot last year. I just want to gain some strength. I went to different lifting last year. It’s been paying off. I’m going to stick with it.”
Weaver was one of several current and former Angels – along with Josh Hamilton, Adam Kennedy and Troy Percival – attending a charitable bowling event at Bowlmor Lanes to benefit The Eddie Guardado Foundation, which helps children with autism.
While trying to ease the tension of a balky biceps tendon the last handful of years, Weaver pretty much chose resistance training over free weights. In mid-April, though, he scrapped that program, incorporated more heavy lifting and immediately noticed the results.
This offseason was simply the continuation of that, with more snacks in between.
“It’s easier to maintain it now,” said Weaver, who threw his first bullpen session on Sunday. “Once you get on the field and put the cleats on, start running around, that will be the true test, especially when it heats up in Arizona. I’m going to try to maintain it and see what happens.”
Weaver doesn’t know if it’ll help with his fastball velocity – “I don’t care about velocity,” he said, as usually – but is curious to see how much stronger it makes him throughout the season.
“I just want to be stronger for the whole nine innings,” he said. “If velocity comes along, so be it. I think I’ve shown I can pitch from 83 to 93 [mph].”
Weaver tries not to pay much attention to offseason moves, but he couldn’t ignore the Howie Kendrick trade of Dec. 11, a move that sent the veteran second baseman to the Dodgers for young starter Andrew Heaney. Weaver and Kendrick had been together since their Class A days, and Weaver admitted it was “a little tough to swallow.”
“Offensively it will be tough to make up those numbers, but the organization is going to try to fill in the pieces,” Weaver said. “We’re going to have a pretty good squad.”