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.”
The 2016 schedule was unveiled Tuesday, with the Angels and the rest of the American League West facing off against the National League Central in Interleague Play.
Opening Day is April 4 and the regular-season finales are scheduled for Oct. 2. Major League Baseball has yet to announce which two teams will open for ESPN during Opening Night on Sunday, April 3. The First-Year Player Draft will take place June 9 and the All-Star Game, from Petco Park in San Diego, is being held July 12.
Below is a categorical look at the Angels’ slate.
Out of the gate: The Angels open a day later, on Tuesday, April 5, at home against Joe Maddon and the Cubs. They’ll start with a two-game set, then host the Rangers for a four-game weekend series – April 7-10 – and hit the road for a 10-game, 11-day road trip.
Against the Dodgers: They’ll play four games, not six, against their crosstown rivals this season. And they’ll all come in the middle of May. The Angels will play at Dodger Stadium May 16-17, and the Dodgers come to Angel Stadium May 18-19.
More Interleague: The Angels will travel to face the Brewers (May 2-4), Pirates (June 3-5) and Cubs (Aug. 9-10), while hosting the Cardinals (May 10-12) and Reds (Aug. 29-31). The Angels once again will not be going to St. Louis, which means Albert Pujols won’t return to Busch Stadium until 2019 at the earliest – unless the Cardinals and Angels meet in the World Series.
Logistics: The Angels have three three-city trips. They go Oakland-Minnesota-Chicago April 11-21, Boston-Tampa-Baltimore July 1-10 (right before the All-Star break) and Seattle-Chicago-Cleveland Aug. 5-14. Two of their 16 off days will come in the middle of a road trip – players hate those – and they’ll have one trip, in September, that pairs Arlington with Houston.
Down the stretch: In September, the Angels will play 25 of 29 games within their division. The season will end with a six-game homestand, against the A’s and Astros from Sept. 26 to Oct. 2. It’ll mark the first time since 2011 that the Angels have finished their season at home.
Sean Newcomb impressed at the Futures Game, Albert Pujols put on a show at the Derby, Mike Trout proved once again that he’s the best all-around player in the game and Hector Santiago soaked up every minute of it. Below are links to our All-Star Game coverage from Cincinnati, in case you missed anything …
Trout & Frazier on a jet, Santiago’s mementos, Yadi on Albert, tuning out noise
Castrovince, on Trout’s growing legend after his second straight All-Star Game MVP
A look at the leadoff home run that propelled the AL and gave Trout another trophy
Cut4, with a look at Trout’s All-Star Game cycle
Trout’s bat is headed for the Hall of Fame
Cut4, on Pujols booing his former Cardinals teammates
A look at Pujols’ eventful return to the Home Run Derby
How Santiago “snuck in the middle” with Trout and Pujols
Sean Newcomb, unnoticed out of high school, excelled at the Futures Game
Jerry Dipoto is considering stepping down as the Angels’ general manager, industry sources told MLB.com on Tuesday, one day after a FoxSports.com report detailed friction between the front office and coaching staff.
“It’s possible,” said the source, who couldn’t speak on the matter publicly.
The Angels declined comment on the matter. Dipoto did not respond to several requests seeking comment.
Sources said Dipoto packed up his office and left early Tuesday. Angels owner Arte Moreno then made an appearance in the Angels’ clubhouse after his team captured its fourth straight victory with a 2-1 win over the Yankees. But team officials said no announcement was pending Tuesday night.
Dipoto, 47, joined the Angels for his first GM job after the 2011 season and helped guide the team to a Major League-best 98 wins in 2014. Early this year, Moreno picked up the club option on Dipoto’s contract for 2016.
Dipoto, a longtime Major League reliever, joined the Angels after front-office stints with the Red Sox, Rockies and D-backs, where he briefly served as the interim general manager. In three-plus years with the Angels, Dipoto agreed to extensions with core players Mike Trout, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar; traded for the likes of Huston Street, Chris Iannetta, David Freese, Hector Santiago, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney; acquired C.J. Wilson and Joe Smith in free agency; and helped oversee the lucrative, owner-driven signings of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
Along the way, Dipoto acquired a bevy of pitching depth for an Angels farm system sorely lacking in talent. But he also bumped heads with Mike Scioscia throughout his first two years, disagreeing on the implementation of scouting information and advanced analytics and drawing the ire of the long-time manager over the dismissal of hitting coach Mickey Hatcher.
In 2013 — after the offseason additions of Hamilton, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson all backfired — the Angels finished 18 games out of first place. And for most of 2015 — from the early part of Spring Training until the end of April — the Angels’ brass was engaged in an awkward, contentious situation with Hamilton, who suffered a drug relapse in February and stayed away from the team until being traded back to the Rangers.
On Monday, a FoxSports.com report stated that “emotions simmered” amid a series of meetings revolving around the front office’s belief that the coaching staff was doing an inadequate job of relaying scouting information to players. In those meetings, occurring this past weekend, at least one coach “responded heatedly” to Dipoto and Pujols issued “a pointed rebuttal” to the fourth-year GM.
The prevailing sentiment in the Angels’ clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after a FoxSports.com report detailed friction between the front office and coaching staff, wasn’t so much anger at what took place.
It was disappointment in the fact that it was made public.
“Whoever leaked that story, it’s really embarrassing,” Angels first baseman Albert Pujols said. “We’re supposed to be a family here.”
The report stated that “emotions simmered” amid a series of meetings revolving around the front office’s belief that the coaching staff was doing an inadequate job of relaying scouting information to players. In those meetings, occurring this past weekend, at least one coach “responded heatedly” to general manager Jerry Dipoto and Pujols issued “a pointed rebuttal” to the fourth-year GM.
A source said the report’s portrayal of the meetings was “verbatim,” though what it all means moving forward is still very much open for interpretation.
“I’m not going to comment on what happened or didn’t happen,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “but I can only tell you it will not be a distraction to these guys.”
Angels setup man Joe Smith believes it was no different from what goes on throughout the course of any season with any team.
“You have a bunch of men filled with testosterone in one little room, and we’re with each other every day and we’re all trying to do something,” Smith said. “Stuff happens, and I think it’s better when it’s kept in-house. Because it does happen; it happens every year in every clubhouse. You keep your mouth shut, you keep it in here, and you move on, with everybody performing in the right direction.”
But the report could also be yet another sign that Dipoto and Scioscia, baseball’s longest-tenured manager, aren’t on the same page. And it’s even more prevalent when considering that Scioscia can opt out of his 10-year contract at the end of this season, rather than staying through 2018.
Dipoto, who had his 2016 club option picked up earlier this season, didn’t respond to several requests seeking comment. The two bumped heads through Dipoto’s first two years, 2012-13, but Scioscia said he and Dipoto are “a good team,” adding that “the only real issue” was when they let hitting coach Mickey Hatcher go in May 2012.
We’ve moved past that,” Scioscia added. “We’ve moved way past that.”
Dipoto, according to the report, believes the coaches rely too heavily on “feel” and the coaches “seemingly do not trust the information they are given,” making them “not willing or able to translate it for the players.”
None of the roles in the Angels’ coaching staff or in-game scouting department will change, Scioscia said. A source added that the players will simply be receiving scouting information directly to their iPads from the front office, rather than have a coach filter through it first. The players can then choose to do what they want with it.
“The only difference is getting the scouting reports to players and then bringing it back to coaches,” Scioscia said. “It’s just a slight adjustment.”
The FoxSports.com report said Pujols “challenged” Dipoto on Sunday, by “saying that the coaches are working as hard to prepare the players as they did last season, but that the roster is not as strong as it was a year ago.”
Asked about having words with Dipoto, Pujols said: “That’s none of your business. Whatever happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse.”
The report comes at a time when the Angels are still trying to find their footing. They won a Major League-best 98 games last year, but they’ve had a .500 record on 18 separate occasions this season. And despite winning four of their previous five games, they entered Tuesday four games back of the first-place Astros in the American League West.
On the mound, the Angels sport the fifth-lowest ERA in the AL. On defense, a department where the Angels began incorporating a lot more defensive shifting at the start of 2014, they rank third in efficiency, according to Baseball Prospectus. Their offense, however, has scored the fourth-fewest runs per game in the AL.
“It’s been a tough year so far,” Pujols said, “but we’re only four games out with still  games before [the All-Star] break.”
Angels starter C.J. Wilson considered the heated discussions “a positive thing.”
“That’s the way I took it,” he said. “Like, ‘Hey, we’re going to work harder as a team overall, have more communication overall.’ I didn’t see anything wrong with it. The whole goal is not about ego; it’s all about winning.”