Results tagged ‘ Howie Kendrick ’
The 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.
It sounds crazy, but this is the first time in seven years that Seattle — cool city, great ballpark, retractable roof — has hosted an Opening Day. On this day 38 years ago, Frank Tanana pitched a shutout in Seattle in a 7-0 win for the Angels. The Angels have won nine of their last 11 Opening Days, but lost last year. In fact, the Mariners swept the Angels at Angel Stadium to open the 2014 season, outscoring them by 18 runs in the process.
Jered Weaver (seven) is tied for the third-most Opening Day starts since 2006, along with James Shields, Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay. The only two ahead of him are CC Sabathia (nine) and his Monday opponent, Felix Hernandez (eight). With Johnny Giavotella, 2015 marks the first time the Angels have had an Opening Day second baseman not named Howie Kendrick since Maicer Izturis in 2006.
The Mariners have been the Angels’ most frequent Opening Day opponent. They’re 6-4 against them to start the season, but were 7-12 against them last year. Weaver is 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA on Opening Day, 14-10 with a 3.37 ERA against the Mariners and 7-8 with a 4.49 ERA at Safeco Field.
Here are the lineups …
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, LF
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
SP: RH Weaver (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Austin Jackson, CF
Seth Smith, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Logan Morrison, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Dustin Ackley, LF
Brad Miller, SS
SP: RH Hernandez (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
- It’ll be interesting to see how the Angels use Taylor Featherston. They like his skills defensively, but he’s never played above Double-A. I think we’re going to see him play some second base late, with the Angels pinch-hitting Giavotella against a tough right-handed reliever. “I think what he lacks in experience, his athleticism and talent will make up for,” Mike Scioscia said. “We’re not going to be afraid to use him.”
- Scioscia is leaning towards Drew Rucinski to start on April 14, the first day the Angels need a fifth starter. Jose Alvarez is not stretched out enough, and Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano are not on schedule for that day.
- Garrett Richards is here to take part in the Opening Day ceremonies. He’ll then pitch in a camp game on Thursday and start a rehab assignment April 14, though he could make only one start and then be available the next time through the order.
- The seventh inning “is going to be a matchup” with the bullpen, Scioscia said. I expect Mike Morin to get most of the time there, but we could see Fernando Salas being used against lefties. He was pretty effective against them last year.
- Will Cron be an everyday player, or will he sit against tough righties (today being an exception)? “I think C.J. will get a lion’s share of at-bats at first base and DH,” Scioscia said. “We gotta get bench guys in games, too, to make sure they’re sharp, keep starters fresh, but the plan is to get C.J. in there a lot. No doubt this spring he swung the bat better than last year. We want to give him a chance to contribute.”
Opening Day is finally here, and Safeco Field seems like a fitting place to start. It’s home to the team many have picked to win the American League West. And it kicks off with a matchup between Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver, the two guys who have made the most consecutive Opening Day starts in the Majors (Hernandez at seven, Weaver at six).
But Opening Day is only a ceremonial thing. “One of 162,” as many say. The season is long and arduous. And by the end of it, what happens on Opening Day or even in the first series will be nothing but a distant memory (like last year, when the Mariners embarrassed the Angels with a lopsided sweep in Southern California at the start of April).
If the Angels want to win another division title, they’ll have to answer several questions over the course of these next six months. And below are the seven most prominent …
1. What becomes of Josh Hamilton?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the Angels aren’t necessarily in a welcoming mood with Hamilton, who’s still recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t be suspended for a self-reported drug relapse. The tone of their statements after news broke — and what they’ve said privately leading up to it — made you wonder if they even want him around. He’s a very likable guy, but he hasn’t lived up to his massive contract and his latest relapse struck a nerve with the Angels’ brass (make of that what you will). He won’t be going away, though. He’s owed $83 million over the next three years, so the Angels have to see what they get out of him. How does he fit into the roster? What type of production does he provide in his age-34 season? And how does he mesh with a team that may be better off without him? It’ll be the most fascinating storyline this season.
2. How good is Garrett Richards?
Richards has yet to allow a run in three Minor League outings and could return to the rotation by April 19 if all goes well, which means he basically misses only two starts. How good will he be upon returning, though? As good as he was leading up to the season-ending left knee injury he suffered Aug. 20? If so, this Angels rotation — with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago set to open the season — is more dangerous than people think. If not, they’re very vulnerable. A lot rides on Richards’ 26-year-old right arm (not to mention that left knee).
3. What will the Angels get out of second base?
They aren’t fooling themselves into thinking they’ll replicate the production of Howie Kendrick. If C.J. Cron takes the next step in his maturation process (see: patience), David Freese stretches his last four months into a full season and Albert Pujols continues to look as good as he did this spring, they won’t need it. But replacement level production would be nice. Johnny Giavotella will get the first crack, but we may see many guys play second base this year.
4. Who gets the lefties out?
The Angels haven’t had a true lefty specialist since the 2012 version of Scott Downs, and Downs wasn’t really used as a lefty specialist. Last year, the Angels’ go-to reliever to get lefty hitters out was the right-handed Fernando Salas, who has a nice changeup that darts away from left-handed hitters. Ideally, they’d have that traditional left-on-lefty guy. Mike Scioscia has mentioned Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez as possibilities, but they’re multi-inning relievers who don’t have the big stuff that plays in that role. The next hope would be Santiago, but that would hinge on Andrew Heaney or Nick Tropeano developing well enough to warrant Santiago’s current rotation spot.
5. How do they upgrade the roster?
Even without saving any money on Hamilton’s contract, the Angels enter the season with $10 to $15 million of wiggle room. That’s what Arte Moreno said early in camp. It’s more payroll flexibility than they’ve had in a while, and they plan to use it. Question is, how? Do they get a second baseman, even though there aren’t many of them out there? (Chase Utley looks like a long shot, because of how intimidating his contract is and because of his no-trade clause). Do they get an outfield/DH bat? Do they get a starting pitcher (a lot of big names are entering their walk years)? Or do they add more bullpen pieces, like they did last year? June/July should be very eventful.
6. What kind of year does Mike Trout have?
You could reasonably expect a great one, considering he stays healthy. But how does he follow up a season that saw him win the AL MVP unanimously? We saw Trout transition into more of a power game last year, hitting more home runs and stealing fewer bases. But he’s only 23 years old, scary as that seems, and he’s still figuring out who he’s going to be in this game. My guess is he cuts down those strikeouts — I don’t know anyone who truly believes Trout is a 180-strikeout-a-year player — but doesn’t increase his stolen-base total by much. The Angels seem content with how often they sent Trout last year. Teams watch him closely and, far more relevant in this matter, steals cause a lot of wear and tear on the body.
7. Are the Angels better than the Mariners?
That’s probably what it’s going to come down to. The Mariners are a popular pick to win the division, because their rotation could be something fierce, their bullpen was one of the best in the game last season and their lineup got a big missing piece they needed in power hitter Nelson Cruz. But the Angels return the core group of a team that led the Majors in wins and finished second in run-differential last year. They’re starting a season with what should be a reliable bullpen for the first time since Jerry Dipoto came on board in October 2011 and they carry the confidence of succeeding with this group.
It should be interesting.
And to get you ready, here’s a look at our Opening Day content, in case you missed anything …
- Anticipated Angels-Mariners clash kicks off Opening Day
- Weaver, the forgotten ace, starts another Opening Day
- The simple question nobody can answer: What does Trout mean to the Angels?
- Kendrick is gone, Hamilton is a mystery — is the offense still elite?
- Scioscia, baseball’s longest-tenured manager, talks about his latest team
- Hamilton won’t be punished, and now the Angels have to see how he fits in
MORE LINKS! An updated depth chart is here, injury updates are here, pitching probables are here and a look at the top 30 prospects is here. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And you can subscribe to my weekly Angels podcast with Richard Justice here.
MLB.com compiled dozens of predictions on who will win each division, how the postseason will play out and where all the major individual awards will go. Below were my picks, if you’re interested …
NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: Angels
NL Wild Cards: Marlins, Pirates
AL Wild Cards: Mariners, Indians
NL champion: Nationals
AL champion: Angels
World Series champion: Nationals
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant
AL MVP: Josh Donaldson
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL Rookie of the Year: Steven Souza
Feliz Opening Day!
We’ve reached the midway point of the Angels’ Cactus League schedule. Whether that came fast or slow is merely a matter of your own perspective. But we’re here. 14 down, 14 to go, with an off day (sort of) conveniently placed in the middle and the three-game, exhibition Freeway Series following the Angels’ stint in Arizona.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far …
Second base really is wide open: And I’m not really sure if that’s good. Thing is, none of the three candidates for the everyday role have really stuck out. Grant Green (7-for-23) hasn’t looked comfortable defensively, Josh Rutledge (7-for-31, eight strikeouts) hasn’t hit and Johnny Giavotella (5-for-20) hasn’t done anything to wow you on either end. One guy who has looked good to me is Taylor Featherston, who’s being groomed for the utility-infield job. I like his defense, I like his speed, and his bat may be starting to come around. But I view second base the same way I did at the start of camp: We’ll either see a lot of different guys play the position this year, or we’ll see the Angels go after someone (Chase Utley?).
The rotation order is not: It’s pretty clear that, barring injury, the Angels’ rotation will line up in this order to start the season: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Andrew Heaney. Yes, the fifth spot was deemed an open competition between Santiago, Heaney and Nick Tropeano, but here’s the thing: (1) Garrett Richards is pretty much guaranteed to start the season on the disabled list, because the Angels are being extra, extra cautious with his rehab, as expected; (2) with Richards on the DL, it’s senseless to have both Tropeano and Heaney in your rotation and Santiago in the ‘pen, as opposed to having Heaney or Tropeano in Triple-A, because it messes with your starting-pitching depth; (3) Heaney and Tropeano have been pitching on the same day, but Heaney started the first one, pitched the home half of a split squad in the second and will start against the Dodgers on Thursday, with Tropeano relegated to pitching in a “B” game. It’s Heaney’s spot to lose, and he’s done nothing to lose it thus far.
A big decision with Santiago awaits: Richards will be ready some time around the middle of April, if his rehab continues to go well. At that point, the Angels will have a big decision to make with Santiago, who has posted a 3.58 ERA in 106 games (51 starts) in the Majors the last three years. Do they keep him in the rotation and send Heaney (or Tropeano) to Triple-A? Do they move him to the bullpen, even though he seems somewhat redundant with Cesar Ramos (another lefty who pitches multiple innings and doesn’t profile as a left-on-left specialist)? Do they use him as trade bait? I can see any of those three scenarios taking place, but I’d be somewhat shocked if they sent him to Triple-A, like they did in May of last season.
The Angels will have two lineups: Assuming Rutledge gets the first crack at the second-base job (that’s what it’s looked like all along), this looks like the lineup against righties: Calhoun/Trout/Pujols/Joyce/Freese/Aybar/Cron/Iannetta/Rutledge. This looks like the one against lefties, on most days: Calhoun/Trout/Pujols/Freese/Aybar/Cron/Joyce/Iannetta/Rutledge. Mike Scioscia still needs to figure out how often he’ll use the right-handed-hitting Collin Cowgill to sit Matt Joyce against lefties, and whether he’ll have a left-handed bat to sit C.J. Cron against tough righties. And that brings me to my next point …
Efren Navarro looks like a good fit: I didn’t have Navarro in my projected Opening Day roster at the start of Cactus League games, mainly because I felt they’d keep Giavotella (out of options) to maintain as many options as possible for the second-base job. But Navarro looks like an ideal fit for the last bench spot. He’s a patient left-handed hitter who can sit Cron against tough righties, he plays great defense at first base and he’s more than adequate in the corner-outfield spots. Getting 10 hits in his first 26 at-bats hasn’t hurt, either.
Cory Rasmus won’t be a starting pitcher: Well, he won’t be in the traditional sense. Scioscia said recently that Rasmus won’t be stretched out to the 100-, 110-pitch range, but will still be stretched out somewhat in case the Angels need some length. This only validates what I anticipated all along: Rasmus will crack the Opening Day bullpen as a long reliever, basically being used in the same role he pitched in down the stretch last year. It’s a nice role for him.
Mike Trout is really good: He has 12 hits in his first 22 at-bats, and three of them have gone over fences. He also has the same amount of strikeouts as he has stolen bases (3). What else do you want?
Albert Pujols looks good: Several members of the Angels feel Pujols is poised for an even better year now that he’s even healthier in his lower half, and he’s looked good so far, going 8-for-25 and hitting the ball hard to right-center field. The latter is key for him.
David Freese is going to be really important: I think he’s the Angels’ most important everyday player, because they’ll be counting on him to provide additional pop in the middle with Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton not there and because he’ll probably be playing all nine innings now that the Angels don’t have a natural defensive sub. Of the four second base/utility infield candidates, Featherston has looked the best at third, but he hasn’t played above Double-A, so I doubt the Angels will be putting him in games with a one-run lead in the ninth.
Richards still throws hard: Besides occasionally having a hard time burying the breaking ball, Richards’ stuff has looked about as explosive as it usually does this spring, which is a very good sign.
Cron looks good: Sometimes he’ll strikeout chasing the fastball up near his head. You’re going to get that with Cron, who chased the same percentage of pitches outside the strike zone as Hamilton last season. But Cron has also driven the ball well this spring, hitting long home runs to left and some well-struck doubles to right-center. If Freese is the No. 1 most important member of the lineup, Cron is 1B. He’s the wild card.
It’s Lindstrom’s job to lose: if Rasmus is in the Opening Day bullpen, then only one spot is open (the others go to Huston Street, Joe Smith, Mike Morin, Fernando Salas and Ramos). Matt Lindstrom looks like an ideal candidate for that final spot, because he still throws pretty hard (few others in the ‘pen do), has a good track record and is an XX(B) free agent, which means he has the right to opt out of his contract (or make an additional $100,000 as a retention bonus) if not on the Opening Day roster. But he has to earn it. And aside from giving up two runs on three hits on March 12 — while pitching in the inning when Will Ferrell played center field — Lindstrom has looked good. If Lindstrom doesn’t make it, I expect Vinnie Pestano to be in the ‘pen. Pestano has options, though.
Mike Trout arrived to Arizona late Sunday night. On Monday, he shot an all-day commercial for Nike. On Tuesday, he shot an all-day commercial with Clayton Kershaw for Subway. On Wednesday, about 30 media members congregated at the warning track in right field to hear the reigning American League Most Valuable Player speak publicly for the first time in 2015.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Trout is a bona fide superstar.
“It’s crazy,” Trout said, “but it comes along with it. I’m having fun with it. I’m not taking it for granted, putting on a uniform. I’m always coming to the ballpark having fun. It’s a little different, going out in restaurants and stuff like that, getting noticed a little bit more. But I’m having fun with it.”
Trout posted a .287/.377/.561 slash line with 36 homers and an AL-leading 111 RBIs and 115 runs scored while becoming the youngest unanimous \MVP in baseball history. But his stolen-base total dipped to 16 and his strikeouts rose to an AL-leading 184, the most ever by an MVP.
“It’s plain and simple, I was chasing the high pitch,” Trout said of his punchouts. “Everybody knows that. There’s things you can work on, but the majority of the time, they’re balls, and I was just chasing them. I don’t really go into video. I don’t like over analyzing my swing. I just like going out there and doing stuff that helps me work on things in the cage and in BP, and during the games, just go out and hit.”
Trout, who stole 82 bases from 2012-13, said it’s “definitely” a goal to swipe more bags in 2015.
“That’s another thing,” he said. “Just trying to run more. I haven’t talked to [manager Mike Scioscia] or Dino [Ebel, the bench coach,] but they’re probably on board with it, trying to get me to second as much as I can. … They were doing a good job of holding me on. It’s going to be a challenge.”
There’s a chance Trout could move into the No. 3 spot this season — something that may only be possible if Josh Hamilton is healthy and productive — but the 23-year-old said he doesn’t care where he hits. Trout called being swept by the Royals in the AL Division Series a “terrible feeling” and admitted to putting a little added pressure on himself in October, which saw him go 1-for-12 with a home run.
Trout called Howie Kendrick “a big loss,” but likes how the team looks.
“We’re looking to win,” Trout said. “We have the core group, besides Howie, and Josh is banged up a little bit. But other than that, we’re going to try to win some ballgames and get after it.”
Trout did a lot of hunting and a lot of fishing over the offseason — the funnest thing was snatching a few barracudas in the Bahamas — and said “this is probably the best I’ve ever felt, coming into Spring Training.” He came in weighing 239, two pounds more than he finished the season at.
He’s attained almost everything possible at a very young age, but he’s still motivated.
“Putting on a uniform every day and competing since I was a kid, that motivates me,” Trout said. “And just trying to win a championship. If that don’t motivate you, you’re in the wrong sport. You want that ring. Having fun. That’s the biggest thing. Just having fun.”
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 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) …
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).
The last time Howie Kendrick was heading into his walk year, in the offseason heading into 2012, he and the Angels were able to negotiate a four-year, $33.5 million extension.
This time around, the Angels weren’t all that interested.
Kendrick’s agent, Larry Reynolds, reached out to Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto about another deal that would delay the veteran second baseman’s free agency, “But I think with what they were trying to do right now, it just wasn’t one of their priorities,” Kendrick said.
The Angels wanted to acquire cost-controlled starting pitching and free up some payroll flexibility, which they ultimately did by sending Kendrick (and the $9.5 million he’s owed in 2015) to the Dodgers for young starter Andrew Heaney.
Kendrick, speaking from Dodger Stadium on Friday, had no hard feelings.
“It wasn’t disappointing to me, because I understand,” Kendrick said. “I understand the game. There’s no room to be heartbroken or anything like that. I’m excited to play the game, and that’s what it comes down to. Going into the last year, the contract, if they were open to doing it, they will approach you, too. … It didn’t really affect me either way.”
Kendrick met face-to-face with some Dodgers personnel for the first time on Friday, talking about how exciting he is to be on a Dodgers team that’s trying to win it all and resides so close to the organization he grew up with. No extension talks with the Dodgers have taken place, though.
“I don’t know if that will or won’t happen,” Kendrick said. “My focus is playing the game. That stuff, I’m pretty sure, will work itself out, whether it does or does not happen. But like I said, that hasn’t been my main focus or anything.”
There’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.
Projected cost: $11.6M
Years of control: 16
Projected cost: $6.2M
Years of control: 49
You 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.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto picked up closer Huston Street’s $7 million club option for 2015 shortly after the World Series and may explore a contract extension with the 31-year-old right-hander before Opening Day.
Those talks, however, won’t occur until the start of Spring Training.
“In picking up his option for 2015, I told him we can talk about it when we get to Spring Training,” Dipoto told MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert from the General Managers Meetings in Phoenix on Tuesday. “We’ve made a habit out of whatever we’re doing for the coming season we’ll take care of after the New Year once we get to Spring Training and everybody is face-to-face rather than trying to piece things together over an offseason. And if something works out, great. If nothing works out, I’m sure he’s going to do just fine in the free market in 2016.”
Street, who features a plus changeup, has posted a 1.97 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and a 3.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio while converting 97 of his 103 save chances over the last three years. Another season like 2014 — 1.37 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 41 saves and an invitation to the All-Star Game — and Street could fetch major dollars on the free-agent market, which is why the Angels would love to lock him up before then.
After the 2015 season, the Angels will free up some money under the luxury-tax threshold with second baseman Howie Kendrick, catcher Chris Iannetta, third baseman David Freese and infielder Gordon Beckham headed for free agency. The Angels aren’t expected to engage in extension talks with any of those four players before the 2015 season. Kendrick and Freese are getting shopped this winter, and Beckham could be non-tendered in early December.
— Alden Gonzalez