Results tagged ‘ Hank Conger ’

Angels take C Taylor Ward with 1st-round pick …

The Orioles had just announced the 25th overall pick and the MLB Network cameras immediately cut to a large gathering of Angels executives and scouts who were suddenly on the clock. Jubilation quickly filled the room. Arms were thrust in the air, high-fives were dispersed and a smattering of applause could be heard because one of the Angels’ prime targets, Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward, had fallen into their laps.

“As the day unwound, we were getting indications that he might go a few picks in front of us to a few teams,” Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said on a conference call. “When Baltimore took their pick, obviously we had ours, and that’s what you saw. What we were trying to do was coming to light.”

The Angels wanted Ward, so they took him 26th overall, higher than any catcher they’ve selected in nine years and higher than any Draft experts expected. ranked Ward 99th overall and fifth among catchers heading into the Draft, but the Angels were a lot higher on him than that.

“It doesn’t bother me where other people have him,” Wilson said of Ward, a junior who previously attended Shadow Hills High School in Indio, Calif. “They have no idea what our dynamics are, and everybody sees people differently. Without being inside and knowing what we’re trying to do, it’s easy to say things like that. But we’re more than happy, actually elated, to have Taylor.”

Later in the day, the Angels took speedy, athletic high-school outfielder Jahmai Jones with their second-round pick, 70th overall. The Draft continues with Rounds 3-10 on Tuesday, with the preview show starting at 9:30 a.m. PT and exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 10 a.m.

Ward is the seventh catcher the Angels have taken in the first round, joining Hank Conger (25th overall in 2006), Jeff Mathis (33rd, ’01), John Orton (25th, 1987), Erik Pappas (sixth, ’84), Danny Godwin (first, ’75) and Mike Nunn (ninth, ’67).

The slot value for the Angels’ first-round pick is $2,034,500, and Ward said he’s “very motivated to get going” with the Angels.

“I am surprised,” Ward said of getting picked so high. “There were indications that it was going to be right in that area. Teams were in need of a catcher and the Angels were a team for me. I’m glad that they took me.”

Wilson projects Ward to be ready by 2018 and believes he can be “a .250, .255 hitter, maybe 12- to 15-homer type.”

Defense is his biggest strength, offense is his greatest question.

“He’s got good size to him, he’s durable, he’s a got a well-above-average arm,” Wilson said. “He can really, really throw. When it’s all said and done, he’s going to be a premium defender; he’s going to be able to shut down the running game. He controls the staff, and he’s got some strength in his swing and controls the strike zone.”

Ward, 21, batted .304/.413/.486 with seven homers and 42 RBIs while throwing out 56.6 percent of would-be basestealers (13 of 23) and starting all 59 games this past season. For his three-year career at Fresno State, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-handed hitter batted .288 with 16 homers and 98 RBIs in 162 games, while throwing out 60 percent of would-be basestealers.

Ward was born in Dayton, Ohio, and resides in Oviedo, Fla. He led his high school team to a 20-5 record as a senior, was named the De Anza League’s Most Valuable Player as a junior and became the first athlete in Shadow Hills history to receive a Division-I scholarship.

The Rays initially drafted Ward in the 31st round in 2012.

Projected ahead of Ward by this year were Tyler Stephenson of Kennesaw Mountain High School (ranked 18th), Chris Betts of Wilson High School (25th), Lucas Herbert of San Clemente High School (69th) and Austin Rei from the University of Washington (87th). Stephenson was taken 11th overall by the Reds, but Betts, Herbert and Rei were still on the board when the Angels drafted.’s Draft experts describe Ward as “primarily a catch-and-throw guy” with “tremendous arm strength,” though his other defensive skills are still lagging behind. Ward “has the tools to be a quality all-around receiver,”’s Draft experts say, but the question is whether he’ll hit enough.

The Angels seemingly believe so.


The Angels’ uncertain, costly future …

dipotoThe Draft starts today, and after going heavy-handed on pitching the last two years, the Angels are expected to target position players this time around. They — like any other team — want to set themselves up so that every time there’s a need on the Major League club, there’s a player in their farm system ready to take over. It’s too risky, not to mention expensive, to rely on the free-agent market to fill holes. Look no further than that brutal offseason heading into 2013, which saw the Angels sign Josh Hamilton, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett. Ouch.

The Cardinals are the gold standard when it comes to organizational depth, as evidenced by a Major League-leading plus-70 run-differential without Adam Wanwright or Matt Adams.

The Angels? Well, they’re working on it.

Their farm system was in need of a major replenishment right around the time Jerry Dipoto took over as general manager after the 2011 season, but major free-agent signings stripped the Angels of early-round picks and new CBA regulations limited how much teams can spend on amateur talent. It’s been a slow process. But over time, the Angels have at least done a good job of building some respectable starting-pitching depth. Some notables …

Triple-A: Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano
Double-A: Nate Smith, Kyle McGowin
Class A Advanced: Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis, Victor Alcantara
Class A: Jeremy Rhoades, Jake Jewell
Lower levels: Joe Gatto, Hunter Green

That brings us to the upcoming offseason, and why that starting-pitching depth could be so important. The Angels — losers of five straight games — could have up to five holes in their lineup once this season ends: catcher, second base, third base, left field, designated hitter. In the majority of those spots — perhaps all of them, if you’re being really cynical — the Angels don’t have players in their organization ready to come up and take over. And their big financial flexibility won’t come after the 2016 season, when C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver and Erick Aybar, among others, come off the books.

Dipoto, with a contract that carries a lingering club option for 2016, knows he’ll eventually have to part ways with some of the precious starting-pitching depth he’s worked so hard to compile. He may have to trade some of it within these next two months, with his club in desperate need of some offense. And he’s almost certain to do so over the winter, given all their upcoming needs.

Here’s a snapshot …


Current option: Chris Iannetta, in the final season of a three-year, $15.55 million extension
In-house replacement(s): Carlos Perez, Jett Bandy
Free-agent options: Iannetta, Alex Avila, John Jaso, Dioner Navarro, Jeff Mathis (!), Matt Wieters
Probable outcome: The rest of this season could play a big part in deciding how the Angels handle this position. They need to find out if Perez, basically a throw-in in the deal that sent Hank Conger to the Astros for Tropeano, is capable of being a semi-regular. Bandy has made some pretty big strides in the last year and is solid defensively, and that free-agent list is pretty compelling. But I’d guess that if the Angels splurge on a free agent, it’s an outfielder, not a catcher.


Current option: David Freese, making $6.425 million in his final arbitration year
In-house replacement(s): Kyle Kubitza
Free-agent options: Freese, Aramis Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Casey McGehee, Alberto Callaspo (!)
Probable outcome: The hope – the initial plan – is that Kubitza is ready to be the everyday third baseman in 2016. The likely scenario is that Kubitza is paired with a right-handed-hitting veteran who doesn’t mind sharing the job and can help Kubitza make the transition to the big leagues. I think it’s unlikely that they make a run at resigning Freese, especially since he’ll probably make good money given the lack of talent in the free-agent pool at third base.


Current option: Johnny Giavotella, controllable through 2019
In-house replacement(s): Giavotella, Josh Rutledge, Grant Green, Taylor Featherston, Alex Yarbrough
Free-agent options: Howie Kendrick (!), Ben Zobrist, Daniel Murphy
Probable outcome: Giavotella has been a revelation of sorts and is out of options. None of the other in-house options are all that appealing, as Spring Training might have shown, but the free-agent market isn’t deep here, either. The Angels don’t really do reunions, but Kendrick was huge for their lineup these last few years and he loves playing in Southern California. This is a position where they may ultimately have to get creative again.


Current option: Matt Joyce, making $4.75 million in his final arbitration year
In-house replacement(s): Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill, Efren Navarro, Alfredo Marte
Free-agent options: Joyce, Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward, Torii Hunter (!), David Murphy, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Shane Victorino
Probable outcome: As you can see, this is a major, major problem. Outfield is by far the Angels’ biggest organizationally need and they’ll most certainly have to get somebody from the outside. That may happen before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, though. Dipoto has been looking for a left-handed-hitting left fielder for quite a while, and for obvious reasons, he’d like to get someone who’s controllable beyond this season. Upton would be a very appealing option, though.


Current option: C.J. Cron, controllable through 2020
In-house replacement(s): Cron, Marc Krauss
Free-agent options: Chris Davis, Mike Napoli (!), Delmon Young
Probable outcome: This situation is strikingly similar to left field. For the last two years, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been scrounging for that ninth bat, going from Raul Ibanez to Cron to Navarro to Krauss to Green to Cron again. Most teams have this problem, though. Perhaps the Angels remain patient with Cron, but I see them getting two bats before August.


The tougher AL West …

canotroutThe American League West was tough last year — by a very reliable measure, it was the toughest by a wide margin — and it should be even more difficult for the Angels to capture a division title in 2015.

In a nutshell, three of their competitors should be better and one of them could be just as good.

The Mariners added Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith to a club with an outstanding rotation and a bullpen that had the fourth-lowest WHIP in baseball last year. The Astros have added Colby Rasmus, Evan Gattis, Hank Conger, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek to an emerging young core. The Rangers added Carlos Corporan and Yovani Gallardo to a star-studded roster that will be healthier. (I mean, they can’t get any more injured, right?) The A’s have shuffled the deck, and while they parted ways with Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris in prospect-laden deals, they also added Billy Butler, Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard, and now — amazingly — figure to be just as much of a threat in 2015.

The Angels’ offseason could best be described by some imagery general manager Jerry Dipoto recently used, while talking about the industry in general: “The beautiful thing about baseball is that it’s kind of like the ocean. It looks the same, but it changes every millisecond.”

On the outside, the Angels’ Major League roster essentially looks the same, minus Howie Kendrick and Kevin Jepsen but with Matt Joyce and Cesar Ramos. Their biggest change came in their farm system, as Dipoto continued to build layers of depth to make the Angels more sustainable moving forward. In other words, they’re definitely better for the future, but they may not be better — and may even be worse — for 2015.

The AL West ranked second in combined win-loss records last year …

AL East: +12
AL West: +10
NL Central: +8
AL Central: +4
NL East: -2
NL West: -32

But was easily No. 1 in run-differential …

AL West: +140
AL East: +29
NL East: +21
AL Central: -62
NL Central: -63
NL West: -65

That was with the Rangers ranking dead last at minus-136 and the Astros 27th at minus-94. It’s a pretty safe bet that both Texas teams will be better than that; probably way better than that.

It’s impossible to predict what will happen in 2015, of course, but we can sure try. I used Steamer’s Wins Above Replacement projections for each AL West team’s starting lineup, top four starters and best three relievers. Below is the projected fWAR for each team’s 16 most important players (for the Angels I included Garrett Richards; for the Rangers I included Jurickson Profar; for the A’s I included A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker) …

Mariners: 33.4
Angels: 32.6
A’s: 29.2
Rangers: 27.7
Astros: 23.4

Steamer can’t account for any freak injuries that may occur, or in-season additions that can be made, or all sorts of other randomness that occurs throughout every baseball season. But I think it’s a pretty good general overview of where teams stand.

It’ll be interesting.

If you’re curious, here’s what Steamer projected for each Angels player, ordered by highest fWAR: Trout (8.7), Aybar (3.1), Calhoun (3.1), Pujols (3), Iannetta (2.7), Richards (2.3), Freese (1.8), Hamilton (1.7), Wilson (1.4), Shoemaker (1.3), Joyce (1.2), Rutledge (1.1), Weaver (0.8), Smith (0.3), Morin (0.1), Street (0).


Where the Angels are and where they might be …

Howie KendrickThere’s a lot to take in from the Winter Meetings, and though the Angels’ moves weren’t among the most eventful in the just-completed four-day stint in San Diego, they were active nonetheless. Jerry Dipoto acquired a left-handed bat, a backup catcher and a couple of utility infielders, and most notably, he traded the Angels’ longtime second baseman for one of baseball’s best pitching prospects.

Some of you have asked for my take, but I think it’s best to reserve judgment, because more than two months remain until Spring Training and there’s a good chance — though Dipoto has stressed how much he likes his roster as it stands — that the Angels aren’t done.

What will they do next? I don’t know. And Dipoto may not be so sure, either. I don’t think he was actively shopping Howie Kendrick; using Hank Conger to acquire Nick Tropeano in early November negated the need to part ways with a position player to acquire cost-controlled starting pitching. I think he was planning on going into Spring Training with his roster mostly intact (plus a utility infielder or two), then came the opportunity to use Kendrick to acquire Andrew Heaney and he simply couldn’t walk away from it.

Now he has plenty of starting-pitching depth (Jered Weaver, Garrett Richards, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Heaney, Tropeano, Jose Alvarez, Alex Sanabia, Drew Rucinski project to make up the Major League and Triple-A rotations, with Tyler Skaggs back in 2016) and is roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold. It’s a flexibility Dipoto didn’t foresee having, and now he’s open to where that takes him the rest of the winter.

Maybe he uses that payroll flexibility, or even that pitching depth, to get a middle-of-the-order bat.

Maybe he does nothing.

We don’t know what will happen. All we have to go on is what did happen. Below is a list of 40-man-roster players added and given up by the Angels thus far, listed with their projected cost and the cumulative amount of years they’re controllable for.

Players lost

Howie Kendrick
Hank Conger
Jairo Diaz
Mark Sappington

Projected cost: $11.6M
Years of control: 16

Players gained

Andrew Heaney
Nick Tropeano
Josh Rutledge
Cesar Ramos
Jeremy McBryde
Marc Krauss
Drew Butera
Carlos Perez
Taylor Featherston
Daniel Robertson

Projected cost: $6.2M
Years of control: 49

Marlins Phillies BaseballYou can make two definitive statements from these moves, takeaways that really came to light with the attention-grabbing moves made late Wednesday night

1. The Angels are better long-term, and really, that’s the whole point here. When you’re a team with so much money tied to aging players like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Weaver and Wilson, and want to stay below the luxury-tax threshold, it’s crucial to accrue players on the other side of the roster. The Angels had that, with Mike Trout (granted, now also expensive), Kole Calhoun, Mike Morin, Richards, Shoemaker and Santiago producing in the early stages of their prime last year. And now they have a lot of Major League-ready pitching depth, for the rotation and the bullpen.

2. The Angels are worse short-term, though Dipoto may argue that. Shrewd as it was to flip one year of control with Kendrick for six years of control with Heaney, there’s no discounting how difficult it will be for the Angels to make up for Kendrick’s contributions offensively and defensively. Heaney, the 18th-best prospect in baseball, has a bright future, but he hasn’t proven anything yet, and it remains to be seen if either he or Tropeano will be any better than Santiago in 2015 (the three will compete for the last spot of the rotation).

This is the Dipoto quote that summed up Wednesday’s trade best …

The goal is to figure out how to get younger, better, more cost-effective, put yourself in a situation where you can sustain winning. It’s not to get a bunch of guys that everybody has heard of all the time and run them out there and let it flame out. We’re trying to find a way to turn a veteran roster into a veteran roster that can compete now with the elements that are young and can continue to sustain moving forward. The heaviest criticism of the Angels over the last 10 years are that we’re getting older, or that we’re in a short window to win. I think we’re more sustainable than that.

But it’s all about winning the World Series. And while it’s volatile to continually spend in the free-agent market and disregard the importance of controllable, optionable assets, winning the World Series is all that matters to Arte Moreno.

What makes Dipoto so great is that he’s a visionary, is always a few steps ahead and perpetually keeps a keen eye towards the future.

But can he have the best of both worlds?

Can he have a team that’s set up to remain competitive for a long stretch of time without at least somewhat mortgaging immediate championship hopes, particularly with an Angels team that’s coming off a 98-win season and may currently look just a tad worse on the Major League side?

That’s what I’m wondering.


Bandy, Reynolds (and not Cowart) added to 40-man …

The Angels added catcher Jett Bandy and right-hander Dan Reynolds to the 40-man roster on Thursday, protecting both from exposure in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. To make room on the roster, which is currently full, the club designated catcher Jackson Williams and lefty Michael Roth for assignment.

That means third baseman Kaleb Cowart, the former No. 1 pick who has seen his stock plummet after back-to-back rough seasons in Double-A, has been left unprotected and can be plucked from the organization in the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 11.

Cowart – taken out of high school with the 18th overall selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft – was considered one of the top prospects in baseball after scorching through both of the Angels’ Class A levels in 2012. Then he batted .221/.279/.301 in Double-A in 2013 and .223/.295/.324 in 2014, scrapping switch-hitting along the way and raising questions about whether he should transition to a pitcher.

The Angels still think highly of Cowart, who’s only 22 years old and has the tools to be a Major League third baseman – but they’re rolling the dice that another team won’t take a chance on him.

“I think the one thing we have to keep cognizant of is that he’s only 22 years old,” Angels assistant general manager Scott Servais, who’s in charge of scouting and player development, said of Cowart earlier this week.

“It’s not to the point where we were hoping it would be. Obviously a couple years ago he was really on a fast track and that slowed down. As much as anything, Kaleb has been frustrated by it. He’s used to being a good, productive player, and it just hasn’t been there for him.”

Bandy, 24, batted .250/.348/.413 in 93 games for Double-A Arkansas this past season, but threw out 40 percent of would-be base stealers and is expected to compete for a job as the backup catcher now that Hank Conger is with the Astros.

Reynolds, 23, went from a failed starter to a successful relief pitcher in 2014, posting a 2.90 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and a strikeout rate of 9.1 in 42 appearances for Class A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A.

Roth, who has made 22 Major League appearances since being drafted in the ninth round in 2012, has been DFA’d for the second time this year. The first time was in late April, when he slipped through waivers and eventually finished up a solid season in Double-A, posting a 2.62 ERA in 22 starts. But Roth has a 7.79 ERA in 32 1/3 innings in the Majors.

Williams, 28, was selected off waivers from the Rockies on Oct. 22 after appearing in seven Major League games and batting .256/.353/.368 in 72 Triple-A games this past season.

If a player was 18 or younger during the First-Year Player Draft that resulted in him signing his first professional contract and five seasons have passed, or 19 or older the day of the Draft and four seasons have passed, he can be selected in the Rule 5 Draft if not on his team’s 40-man roster.

Teams had until 9 p.m. PT on Thursday to add Rule 5 Draft-eligible players to the roster. Other notable Angels prospects left unprotected include outfielders Matt Long and Drew Heid, right-handers Austin Wood and Daniel Hurtado, and shortstop Erick Salcedo.


Three Angels Rule 5 candidates …

cowart2Thursday is what the transaction calendar calls the day to “file reserve lists for all Major and Minor League levels.”

Translation: It’s the deadline to protect players from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft.

If a player was 18 or younger during the First-Year Player Draft that resulted in him signing his first professional contract and five seasons have passed, or 19 or older the day of the Draft and four seasons have passed, he can be selected in the Rule 5 Draft — Dec. 11 this year — if not on his team’s 40-man roster.

The Rule 5 Draft is typically uneventful. Teams won’t let a player they have high hopes for be left unprotected and it’s really hard for a player to stick with his new club if he is selected (the player must be returned to his original team if at any point he’s not on the 40-man roster the following season). The Angels haven’t carried a Rule 5 pick on their Major League roster since reliever Derrick Turnbow in 2000, and only four of the nine Rule 5 selections from last year even played in the Majors. (The Angels picked lefty reliever Brian Moran, who spent the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery and was returned to the Mariners in October.)

But there have been some gems to come out of the Rule 5 Draft  — namely, Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana, Dan Uggla — and Thursday’s roster decisions are a strong indication for how an organization feels about certain prospects. The Angels’ 40-man roster is currently full, so they’ll have to do some maneuvering to protect some Rule 5-eligible players.

Below are three to keep an eye on …

3B Kaleb Cowart: He was once the jewel of their system, but he’s struggled mightily in Double-A and could be converted to a pitcher if he doesn’t turn it around. Cowart (pictured) hit .221/.279/.301 in 2013, then .221/.279/.301 in 2014, going from switch-hitting to only hitting from the left side midsummer, and struggled once again in the Arizona Fall League. Still, he’s only 22. And he has a lot of talent. I can see a team taking a chance on him if eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

C Jett Bandy: Bandy hit only .250/.348/.413 in Double-A, but had an above-average caught-stealing percentage (40 percent) and Jerry Dipoto mentioned him as a potential Major League backup after trading Hank Conger. The Angels already have three catchers on their 40-man roster — Chris Iannetta, Carlos Perez and Jackson Williams — so they may have to just hope the 6-foot-4 Bandy doesn’t get picked up.

RH Dan Reynolds: The 23-year-old moved from the rotation to the bullpen in 2014 and might have turned his career around. Reynolds carried a 5.39 ERA in 26 starts for Class A Inland Empire in 2013, then posted a 2.90 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and a 9.1 strikeout rate in 42 appearances for Class A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. But the Angels have a lot of right-handed-relief depth, so they can afford to keep Reynolds off the 40-man.


Cool stuff from Mike Trout …

Mike Trout won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award on Thursday, collecting all 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association to become the youngest unanimous MVP in Major League history. In tune with that, I’ve compiled all the cool stuff Trout did this season in video form below. Enjoy.

March 31: Trout’s first at-bat of the season, after securing a six-year, $144.5 million extension, is a home run against King Felix

April 4: Solo homer at Minute-Maid Park gets out in a mesmerizing 111.6 mph …

… Two innings later, he throws out a runner at home for his first outfield assist since September 2012

April 15: Trout does everything possible to win, hitting a ninth-inning, game-tying homer (shown here), then reaching on an infield single and stealing second in extra innings in an eventual loss to the division-rival A’s …

April 29: (Sort of?) robs a home run …

May 15: Diving catch in the first …

… first career walk-off in the ninth …

June 7: Game-tying grand slam off a dejected Chris Sale

June 11: Robs Yoenis Cespedes of a home run (maybe) …

June 17: Trout hits two home runs in Cleveland, the last of which came on a low and inside pitch that shocked Hank Conger, who concluded Trout has “the fastest hands west of the Mississippi”

June 27: Hits one 489 feet to dead center into the fountain at Kauffman Stadium, good for the longest home run in the Majors since 2012 …

July 3: Stumbling, shoestring catch, then finishes on his feet …

July 4: Another walk-off homer, this one on a Tony Sipp slider that almost hit the dirt (note: don’t pitch him low) …

Sept. 12: A triple on a standard liner in the gap …

Sept. 13: Another two-homer game …

Sept. 21: “I got hops,” Trout said, channeling the playground scene from “He Got Game” …

Sept. 27: Leaping, twisting, no-look catch to rob Kendrys Morales

Oct. 5: Solo shot off James Shields, the lone highlight of a short-lived postseason debut


Takeaways from a couple of November trades …

Nick TropeanoThe 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.

Hank CongerTrade reactions …

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.”


Angels swap Sappington for LH Ramos

The Angels sent pitching prospect Mark Sappington to the Rays in exchange for veteran reliever Cesar Ramos on Wednesday, a deal announced moments after the club finalized a three-player trade with the Astros.

Ramos – a teammate of Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas at Long Beach State University – could potentially fill the Angels’ need for a lefty specialist, but he hasn’t been used in that role throughout his career.

The 30-year-old southpaw has posted a 3.90 ERA in 186 appearances spanning six seasons in the Majors, the first two of which came with the Astros. Ramos made 43 appearances (seven starts) for the Rays this past season, posting a 3.70 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and a 1.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 82 2/3 innings.

Ramos was projected by to make $1.3 million in his second of three arbitration years.

Sappington, a fifth-round Draft pick by the Angels in 2012, posted a 7.05 ERA in 17 starts to begin the 2014 season, then found success upon being moved to the bullpen. The 23-year-old power right-hander had a 3.38 ERA in 25 relief appearances in Double-A and high A down the stretch, posting a 1.09 WHIP and striking out 13.8 batters per nine innings.

“The Angels have been the most amazing organization and I appreciate the opportunity,” Sappington said after making an appearance in the Arizona Fall League.

“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.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the Angels sent backup catcher Hank Conger to the Astros for young starter Nick Tropeano and Minor League catcher Carlos Perez.

Alden (thanks to Will Boor for tracking down Sappington)

Angels send Conger to Astros for Tropeano, Perez

The Angels traded backup catcher Hank Conger to the Astros in exchange for young right-hander Nick Tropeano and Minor League catcher Carlos Perez, clearing up some payroll space and, most importantly, acquiring some much-desired cost-controlled starting pitching.

Tropeano, 24, posted a 3.03 ERA, a 3.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 0.99 WHIP in 124 2/3 innings while serving mostly as a starter in the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate. Originally a fifth-round Draft pick by the Astros in 2011, Tropeano made four starts for the Astros this past season – 11 earned runs in 21 2/3 innings – and owns a 3.26 ERA in his four-year Minor League career.

Tropeano is listed at 6-foot-4 and will be under club control for six full seasons. The Angels went into the offseason targeting cost-controlled starting pitching that was ready to contribute in the Majors, and though Tropeano doesn’t necessarily boast a power arm, he can be an option for the back end of their rotation.

Conger, a product of Huntington Beach, was taken by the Angels with the 25th overall selection of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft and established himself as a backup and occasional platoon option with Chris Iannetta these last two seasons, posting a .235/.301/.364 slash line in 172 games from 2013-14.

Conger was set to make a little more than $1 million in his first year of arbitration.

Perez, a 24-year-old who has yet to make his Major League debut, was acquired from the Blue Jays in the 10-player deal that sent J.A. Happ to Toronto in July 2012. Perez was originally signed out of Venezuela, has good defensive tools and is a career .277/.359/.393 hitter in the Minor Leagues.



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