Results tagged ‘ Howie Kendrick ’

The midway point …

Rangers Angels Spring BaseballWe’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.

Alden

Trout arrives, focused on a title …

troutMike 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.”

Alden

The Angels without Josh …

Josh HamiltonThe 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.

Alden

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).

Alden

No extension for Howie this time around …

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.”

Alden

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.

Alden

Extension with Huston Street possible …

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

Angels waiting on Baldoquin’s visa to finish deal

The Angels’ $8 million agreement with Cuban middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin, terms of which were reported on Tuesday, is still hinging on a visa.

Once Baldoquin secures a visitor visa from the Dominican Republic, he can fly to the United States, take his physical, sign on the dotted line and officially join the Angels’ organization. There’s no telling when that will happen – it could be early next week, it could be late in the offseason – but it’s expected to get done eventually.

Baldoquin, who turns 21 in May, would likely be invited to Major League Spring Training and could start the season in Double-A. The 20-year-old right-handed hitter is deemed by some evaluators to already be capable of handling shortstop at the Major League level, but still needs to prove he can produce consistently at the plate.

The addition of Baldoquin would represent the Angels’ first major signing of a Cuban prospect since Kendrys Morales in 2005, and it ends up being about a $14 million commitment due to international spending rules.

The Angels began the international signing period – on July 2 – with a pool of $2,383,700, which has since gone down to roughly $2 million. Because they are expected to exceed the pool by 15 percent or more with the Baldoquin signing, they’ll have to pay a 100-percent tax on the overage and won’t be allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 over the next two signing periods.

The Angels don’t see the latter as an issue, since they rarely make that type of commitment in the international market and will have the lowest spending pool next year. They’re OK with paying a heavy tax because it doesn’t count towards the luxury tax and because they see Baldoquin as a polished player who could’ve secured a more lucrative, multi-year contract had he been a typical Cuban free agent.

Because he is under 23 and has not played in a Cuban professional league for at least five seasons, Baldoquin is instead subject to the international signing guidelines. That lowers his value and makes him the equivalent of an amateur Draft pick, which means the Angels can stash Baldoquin in the Minor Leagues and he can’t be a free agent until he attains the typical six years of Major League service time.

Baldoquin is expected to be ready to take over at shortstop once Erick Aybar’s contract expires after the 2016 season and could take over for second baseman Howie Kendrick once his contract expires after 2015. The Angels will continue to explore trading Kendrick this season, and Baldoquin’s bat may also profile at third base.

The Angels will face tight restrictions over the next couple of international signing periods, but that doesn’t mean they’ll splurge for what’s left of this one. (Remember, they still face a 100-percent tax on every dollar they spend this year.) They’ll keep tabs on another Cuban infielder, 19-year-old Yoan Moncada, but aren’t expected to go after him hard.

Baldoquin played three seasons for Las Tunas in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, the top league on the island, and was also part of the country’s 16-and-under national team. He’s been training in the Dominican Republic since February and has worked out at the Angels’ academy on the island several times.

Alden

Five postseason free agents …

James ShieldsThe Angels figure to have less than $10 million of wiggle room below the luxury-tax threshold, which has pretty much been their spending limit the last few years, and general manager Jerry Dipoto has indicated his preference to avoid the free-agent market, particularly when it comes to starting pitchers (offseason preview here). But that doesn’t mean he’ll rule it out entirely, and it also means there are five players currently in the postseason who may be intriguing to the Angels this winter.

They’re listed below, along with a 1-through-5 score of the Angels’ potential interest (1 meaning they like him but realize they won’t stand a chance; 5 meaning they’ll go after him aggressively) …

SP James Shields (KCR): The Angels would love to get their hands on a guy like Shields, who has averaged 233 innings and a 3.17 ERA over the last four years. But he’s going to be way too expensive. C.J. Wilson‘s five-year, $77.5 million deal has been used as a comp. Even that’s too expensive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone gave him more.
Intrigue meter: 1

RP Andrew Miller (BAL): The Angels have navigated through the last couple seasons without a reliable lefty in their bullpen, and Miller, 29, has reinvented himself as one of the best lefty relievers in the game, posting a 2.02 ERA, a 14.9 strikeout rate and a 0.80 WHIP during the regular season. He’s good enough that someone will probably give him a chance to close, and if that’s the case, the Angels won’t be able to compete for his services.
Intrigue meter: 3

SP Jake Peavy (SFG): The 33-year-old right-hander is an interesting one to watch. He stayed healthy enough to throw 202 2/3 innings with a 3.73 ERA this season, and posted a 2.17 ERA in 78 2/3 innings with the Giants. He’s as fiery a competitor as they come, and he’ll be a lot more affordable than Shields.
Intrigue meter: 4

SP Ryan Vogelsong (SFG): If the Angels are looking for a cheap, back-of-the-rotation option, Vogelsong could be a perfect fit. He signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Giants for 2014, then posted a 4.00 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP and a 2.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Not great, but as a fifth starter, an additional option along with Jered Weaver, Matt Shoemaker, Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Wilson? Not bad, either.
Intrigue meter: 3

3B/2B Kelly Johnson (BAL): The Angels need a utility infielder who can play shortstop, and Johnson can’t. He plays third and second, two positions the Angels have filled. But at some point, they may not be, if Dipoto is looking for avenues to free up payroll space. David Freese, set to make about $6 million in his last year before free agency, could be non-tendered. Same for Gordon Beckham, who plays second, third and short but will cost about $5 million via the arbitration process. Howie Kendrick, making $9.5 million in the final year of his contract, could be trade bait. And that’s when Johnson, who batted .215/.296/.362 in 106 games, could emerge as a cheap depth option.
Intrigue meter: 2

Alden

Hamilton seventh, Cron eighth vs. Vargas …

The Angels trotted out basically the same lineup they fielded down the stretch for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday, with a couple of notable, expected tweaks: Josh Hamilton batting seventh and playing left field, and C.J. Cron batting eighth while serving as the designated hitter.

Hamilton played in only one of the team’s last 23 regular-season games due to ailments in his right shoulder and right side and has hardly seen any live pitching in the meantime, so Angels manager Mike Scioscia is batting him lower in the lineup to put less pressure on him. Scioscia also went with the right-handed bat of Cron against Royals starter Jason Vargas, a lefty who held opposing lefties to a .661 OPS during the regular season.

Howie Kendrick has been red hot since taking over for Hamilton in the cleanup spot on Sept. 5, batting .403 with 18 RBIs over that 21-game stretch. David Freese, batting fifth, finished September with a .315/.367/.562 slash line. Scioscia opted to go with Chris Iannetta’s high on-base percentage (.373) in hopes of turning the lineup over to Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout.

Here’s the full lineup behind starter Jered Weaver (first pitch from Angel Stadium is 6:07 p.m. PT on TBS):

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Josh Hamilton, LF
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C

Alden

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