Results tagged ‘ Jason Vargas ’

Angels fall short (OK, way short) on Tanaka …

MasahiroTanakaThe Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes are over, and after all the speculation and all the anticipation, he wound up with the team that seemed to make the most sense from the onset: The Yankees, who badly need pitching, can spend with the best of them, will hardly have to pay Alex Rodriguez in 2014 and have now abandoned any faint hopes to get under the $189 million luxury tax.

The Angels still hold on to those expectations.

They have roughly $15 million of wiggle room before surpassing that tax threshold, which is enough money to sign a free-agent starting pitcher but ultimately wasn’t enough to even compete for Tanaka. The Yankees got him on a seven-year, $155 million contract, with an opt-out after the fourth year, according to Ken Rosenthal.

The Angels knew Tanaka well and liked him a lot, but for them, any deal in excess of $100 million meant going over the tax. With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton combining to make $196 million over the next four years, and Mike Trout one year away from making major dollars, another mega contract was just too much of a gamble for them. That’s probably why they didn’t bother to meet with him in California two weeks ago, or why they weren’t among the five teams to reportedly submit an offer; the chances were too slim.

So, what now?

In a word (or two), Matt Garza.

The Angels have targeted Garza ever since Jason Vargas signed with the Royals in late November. The two actually share the same agent, Nez Balelo, who also represents third baseman David Freese, who filed an arbitration number $1.9 million higher than what the Angels filed last week. Small world, right? Garza has always seemed a lot more realistic than Tanaka because the contract and the amount of suitors are smaller, but the Angels still aren’t expected to overpay. Agree with it or not, they don’t feel they have to add another starter after acquiring two young, cost-controlled lefties in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago for Mark Trumbo, a duo that joins Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards in the projected rotation.

I don’t expect the Tanaka signing to impact Garza’s price. They’re on two completely different stratospheres. But one potential ripple effect is that the Diamondbacks have liked Garza for a while, and they have money to burn after not being able to sign Tanaka or Shin-Soo Choo. A resolution could come soon (you know, since we’re like three weeks away from Spring Training).

If Garza’s price demands don’t go down, then the Angels will move on to the next tier, to the likes of Bronson Arroyo and Chris Capuano and Paul Maholm. Chances are, they’ll add someone this month. But I think they’ll wait for a fair price (and this is the month for fair prices). They still aren’t expected to give up a Draft pick in order to sign Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.

Nobody wants to hear this, but if they don’t feel comfortable with any of the free-agent-salary demands, they can always keep their remaining funds and wait ’til next year, when Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester will make up a much more talented free-agent crop of starters.

Alden

Angels lose Vargas to Royals …

The Angels’ hopes of resigning free-agent starting pitcher Jason Vargas were squashed on Thursday, when the Royals announced they have signed the veteran left-hander to a four-year contract.

The average annual value of Vargas’ new deal, a reported $32 million, is $8 million. The Angels were willing to give him that much, but they weren’t willing to go four years (it would’ve been hard for them to even give him a third year).

And so, the Angels still have at least two holes to fill in their rotation.

Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards are returning, Tommy Hanson is likely to get non-tendered in December and Joe Blanton — if not released this offseason — will not go into the season as a guaranteed member of the rotation. General manager Jerry Dipoto did not tender the $14.1 million qualifying offer to Vargas because he was almost certain Vargas would accept it, and by accepting it the Angels would already be dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold of $189 million.

Vargas was acquired in a one-for-one deal with the Mariners that sent Kendrys Morales to Seattle last December. In his first year in Southern California, where he grew up and briefly attended Long Beach State University, Vargas went 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 150 innings in a season that saw him miss two months with a blood clot.

The Angels are expected to use the trade market to bolster a rotation that ranked 11th in the American League in ERA last season, but they may also turn to other free agents to fill Vargas’ void. And while they aren’t expected to go after the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco or Ervin Santana, names like Phil Hughes, Dan Haren, Bronson Arroyo, etc., etc., could be enticing.

Alden Gonzalez 

Dipoto: ‘Fair amount’ of interest in his hitters

Masahiro TanakaJerry Dipoto addressed reporters from Day 2 of the General Managers’ Meetings in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, and our very own Ken Gurnick was there. Here’s what he had to say …

On Masahiro Tanaka’s upside

“I don’t know about putting a cap on what he can be. He’s still so young and he’s faced the greatest hitters in the world on big stages. I’m not here to say he’s a No. 1 or No. 2. He’ll let you know. He’s attractive to lot of teams because of his ability. To get a young player with that ability can be attractive to lot of teams. We’ve scouted him, we know who he is. He’s tremendous. One of the best pitchers in the world, I’m sure. But it’s still to be determined if he’s coming over here.”

On the interest level in his hitters

“There’s been a fair amount. We’ve got a talented group. Our offensive players are fairly accomplished, some at a very young age. There have been a lot of inquiries on a lot of them. We’ve not predetermined to move any of them. We are open to solve our needs that are more on the pitching side than the offensive side.”

On Jason Vargas

“Obviously we have interest in bringing him back and the interest is mutual from him. Now we’ll let the process play out in free agency. He’s earned that. We’ll allow him to see what’s out there and we’re interested in him, and it seem that’s his preference, too.”

On Albert Pujols’ progress

“Albert is doing great. He’s taking live BP tomorrow (in the Dominican Republic). He’s swinging aggressively; 60 to 70 swings every other day. No problem with the knee or the foot to the best of our knowledge. His rehab has gone very well. Part of the reason he didn’t play in September was to have the procedure to make sure he had a normal offseason to come into Spring Training  with fewer questions. Last year he was coming into Training [following offseason] knee surgery. This year, he should come in feeling 100 percent. All indications are that’s possible.”

Alden

Price Is Right? …

David Price

In August 2009, the Angels acquired Scott Kazmir from the Rays in a four-player trade.

In July 2012, Peter Bourjos was so close to being dealt to the Rays — presumably for James Shields, but that part is unconfirmed — that they basically had his uniform ready in St. Petersburg.

This offseason, perhaps the two can come together again — this time for ace pitcher David Price.

The two haven’t been linked heavily in trade talks — yet — but it’s a pairing that would seem to make sense for both sides. The Rays are believed throughout the industry to be shopping Price this winter. It’s the kind of thing they’d do. The starting-pitching market is thin, which would maximize Price’s value; the 28-year-old left-hander is projected to make about $13 million in his second year of arbitration; and Tampa Bay has a gluttony of young, cost-controlled starting pitching, which could free the front office up to trade Price for the offense that may finally balance out their roster.

Meet the Angels. They’ll spend all offseason looking for pitching via the trade market and are more than willing to dangle offensive pieces to get it. Price only comes with two years of control, which doesn’t exactly meet the profile of cost-controlled arms that Jerry Dipoto specifically targets. But here’s the thing: The Angels don’t just have to improve the rotation. They have to get a lot better. Their staff ranked 11th in the American League in ERA last year, Jered Weaver basically loses a tick or two off his fastball every season, C.J. Wilson can drive you nuts every five days, Garrett Richards is still developing and Jason Vargas (if resigned) is 64th in ERA over the last four years.

This rotation looks a whole lot better if you slide Price at the top and move everyone down a spot.

Heck, it may rival some of the best in the league.

Will it happen? Maybe; most likely not, given how difficult it is to pull off trades this big. But it’s an interesting one to think about at this point. (Even a little fun, no?) Who would the Angels have to give up to get Price, you ask? One guy the Rays may really want — perhaps even demand — is Richards, and I can see that being the difference between real dialogue taking place or this being nothing more than a pipe dream. Besides Richards, Mark Trumbo – who you’d hate to lose, but would probably be willing to give up if it means getting someone this good — is probably a guy who would go to Tampa Bay, since he’d be a perfect fit in the middle of their lineup and first baseman James Loney is now a free agent. Maybe Bourjos gets thrown in there again, perhaps second baseman Howie Kendrick — born and raised in nearby Jacksonville — gets added to the mix, maybe some prospects, maybe all of them.

Two things are certain …

  1. The Angels would face a whole lot of competition, especially if Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka isn’t posted. And the Rays will seek a significant return since they don’t really have to trade Price this offseason.
  2. The Angels may have to take on money, since a big reason the Rays would do it in the first place is to free up some payroll flexibility. (I estimate that the Angels have something in the neighborhood of $15 million of wiggle room for 2014. Parting ways with Trumbo saves about $6 million for next season, while Kendrick saves about $9 million and Bourjos saves about $1.5 million.)

***

Vargas — without the $14.1 million qualifying offer – officially joined the free-agent pool of starting pitchers at 9:01 p.m. PT on Monday, when teams were given the green light to start negotiating with all eligible free agents. The Angels would be interested in bringing him back. And though their best bet to bolster their starting rotation will come via the trade market, the free-agent list is worth looking at nonetheless.

So, with that in mind, below is a categorical look at the unimpressive-but-perhaps-useful pool. Off the bat, I eliminated Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Hiroki Kuroda, the three starters who were tendered the qualifying offer and figure to be out of the Angels’ price range. Also not mentioned are Far East stars Tanaka and Suk-Min Yoon (Korea), who have yet to be posted.

Have a look. (Warning: It ain’t pretty.)

Bartolo ColonProbably Too Steep

Matt Garza
Ricky Nolasco

The Next Tier

Bronson Arroyo
A.J. Burnett
Tim Hudson

Big Names, Big Reclamations

Roy Halladay
Josh Johnson
Johan Santana
Ryan Vogelsong

Reunion Candidates

Bartolo Colon
Dan Haren
Kazmir
Joe Saunders

Phil HughesSteady, Albeit-Uninspiring Veterans

Erik Bedard
Bruce Chen
Jason Hammel
Paul Maholm
Jake Westbrook

Coming Back From Injury 

Chris Capuano
Jeff Karstens
John Lannan
Colby Lewis
James McDonald
Clayton Richard

Potential Minor League Options

Freddy Garcia
Aaron Harang
Ted Lilly
Shaun Marcum
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Roy Oswalt
Barry ZitoTsuyoshi Wada
Chien-Ming Wang

Some Upside Left?

Scott Baker
Scott Feldman
Phil Hughes
Sean O’Sullivan
Mike Pelfrey
Greg Reynolds
Edinson Volquez

Anything Left? 

Jeff Francis
Jon Garland
Roberto Hernandez
Barry Zito

Alden

The nine stats that plagued the ’13 Angels …

Mike Scioscia, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton

There are pretty numbers, like .323, .432 and .557 — that’s Mike Trout‘s 2013 batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, respectively.

And then there are ugly ones, like the ones below — the nine stats that plagued the Angels in 2013 and, ultimately, may cost Trout another AL MVP Award …

(In case you missed it, here’s a recap of the Angels’ 2013 season and a look at what’s ahead.)

150: That’s the amount of double plays the Angels grounded into. It’s a franchise record, two more than the 1996 team, and third in the Majors. Albert Pujols (in only 99 games) and Mark Trumbo tied for the team lead with 18, while Howie Kendrick (a notorious GIDP’er) and Josh Hamilton each had 16. Speedster (and non-walker) Erick Aybar followed with 14.

26: That’s the number of pitchers the Angels used this season, three shy of the club record set in 1999. In April alone — a month when the bullpen compiled 95 innings, fifth-most in the Majors — they used 18 (!). It’s a sign of the lack of quality pitching depth the Angels had beyond the Opening Day roster, but also of the injuries they faced, like …

18: That’s the amount of starts Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas missed due to fluky injuries. Weaver fell at the Rangers Ballpark mound on April 7, suffered a fractured left elbow and didn’t return until May 29. Vargas was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left arm pit area shortly after his June 17 start, had invasive surgery and didn’t return until Aug. 13. Down the stretch, the Angels started to see what kind of continuity they can get from Weaver and Vargas being productive and in the rotation at the same time. But it was too little, too late.

13: That’s the combined appearances made by the two new relievers, Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson. Burnett made all of them — 11 in April, a couple in late May — before getting shut down with a torn flexor tendon. Madson missed a second straight year after Tommy John surgery and was released on Aug. 5. Together, Burnett and Madson were supposed to make the Angels’ bullpen a strength. Together, they came up with 13.

32: That’s the combined amount of April losses for two star-studded teams in back-to-back years. In 2012, the Angels started 6-14, roared back into relevance shortly after Trout’s callup and faded down the stretch. In 2013, they dropped 17 of 26 in the season’s first month and never even got back to .500. The Angels had a great Spring Training in 2012, a not-so-great one in 2013. Why the bad early starts — in addition to perhaps a flawed club — is hard to put your finger on.

-63: That’s the amount of runs the Angels didn’t save on defense. In other words, it was their DRS score — 27th in the Majors. And it’s pretty inexplicable considering their DRS was plus-58, tied for second in the Majors, just last season. Yeah, Pujols played only 99 games and Alberto Callaspo  was traded in late July, but the personnel was basically the same. And definitely not enough for a 121-run difference (!). Everyday players Trout (-9), Hamilton (-8), Chris Iannetta (-7) Aybar (-7), Kendrick (-3), J.B. Shuck (-1) and Trumbo (-1) had negative scores. The Angels were 19th in UZR, tied for 27th in fielding percentage and 28th in caught-stealing percentage. So, yeah, it’s not just that one sabermetric stat. The Angels were not a very good defensive team this season.

2.6: That’s the combined Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs.com, for Pujols and Hamilton. That’s actually higher than I expected, but obviously nowhere near what the Angels hoped for. In other words, two guys making a combined $33.4 million (or nearly 25 percent of the entire payroll) contributed three wins, if you round up. Pujols didn’t play past July 26, was severely hobbled when he did, and finished with a .258/.330/.437 slash line. Hamilton slumped up until the final five weeks of the season and finished at .250/.307/.432. You can talk about the pitching problems all you want — and I agree, it was the No. 1 issue in 2013 and is the No. 1 concern right now — but perhaps the Angels make a playoff run if they get normal years from Pujols and Hamilton.

66: That’s the amount of outs the Angels made on the bases, more than anyone in baseball — for a second straight year. Last season, they led with 72 outs on the bases. Kendrick (10), Aybar (7), Shuck (7) and Hank Conger (6) had the most.

22: I saved this one for last because I thought it was the most telling. It’s the amount of losses the Angels suffered in games during which they scored at least five runs. That’s the second-most in the Majors in 2013. The only team that lost more of those games was the Astros — the 111-loss Astros. Team Nos. 3-10: Twins, White Sox, Brewers, Orioles, Blue Jays, D-backs, Padres, Rockies. None of them made the playoffs, and the vast majority of them were never close. Nothing says pitching problems like losing a game in which you get five or more runs from your offense — 22 times.

Alden

Mike Trout, the CBT and why the link matters …

Every article or blog post or tweet regarding the Angels’ offseason strategy — whether it’s the pursuit of starting pitcher or the scenario at third base or the situation regarding Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia — tends to be followed by a response very similar to this:

WHO CARES, JUST LOCK UP MIKE TROUT NOW!!!

It’s understandable, given the fact that Mike Trout is the unquestioned best player on the star-laden Angels and, at 22, may already be the best in all of baseball. The Angels, however, have not begun extension talks with Trout, sources confirmed, and were never expected to with arbitration still a full year away.

Why?

It’s all about the Competitive Balance Tax payroll.

Let me try to explain. There are two different types of payroll. There’s the actual team payroll, which is what the active players are making in that season. And then there’s the CBT payroll, which is the payroll Major League Baseball uses to tax teams that go over a certain threshold. For the Angels — and the Yankees, and all of the teams that spend big on their roster — the latter is the most important.

The CBT payroll is calculated as the average annual value of all player contracts on the 40-man roster, plus benefits.

So, for example: Albert Pujols is making $16 million in 2013, which counts towards the Angels’ payroll figure. With regards to the CBT, though, he’s making $24 million — the average annual value of the 10-year, $240 million contract he signed in December 2011.

How does this relate to Trout?

Well, let’s say the Angels sign him to a 10-year, $300 million deal (that’s just a number I’m throwing out, basically because it’s easy to divide — and perhaps because I’m thinking of Robinson Cano). Even if in that contract, Trout is making only $1 million in 2014, the figure for the CBT payroll would be the AAV of that: $30 million.

And by that point, you can forget about adding any pitching to the roster.

The CBT threshold — the number at which first-time offenders are charged a tax of 17.5 percent — is going up from $178 million to $189 million this offseason. That buys the Angels a little extra wiggle room, but they’re still awfully close to that figure. So close, in fact, that it’ll affect whether or not they extend the qualifying offer to Jason Vargas, a figure that’s close to $14 million and would allow the Angels to receive Draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. If Vargas takes it, they’d basically already be over the luxury-tax threshold.

Here’s what’s in the books for the Angels in 2014 (the first number is what the player will make that season and the second is the AAV that counts towards the CBT payroll) …

Albert Pujols: $23M, $24M
Vernon Wells (to the Yankees): $18.6M, $18.6M
Josh Hamilton: $17.4M, $25M
C.J. Wilson: $16.5M, $15.5M
Jered Weaver: $16.2M, $17M
Howie Kendrick: $9.7M, $8.375M
Erick Aybar: $8.75M, $8.75M
Joe Blanton: $7.5M, $7.5M
Chris Iannetta: $4.975M, $5.18M
Sean Burnett: $3.875M, $4M

That adds up to $126.5 million in payroll commitments, and just under $134 million for the CBT. But we’re not done. Not even close. There’s also the pending arbitration cases for eight players: Peter Bourjos, Ernesto Frieri, Juan Gutierrez, Tommy Hanson, Kevin Jepsen, Chris Nelson, Mark Trumbo and Jerome Williams.

A rough — very rough — estimate for what that would amount to: $25M (though Hanson, Williams, Nelson and Gutierrez are all non-tender candidates).

Then there’s the 25 or so other players on the 40-man roster that you have to pay (a little more than $500K each), and then there’s the benefits and bonuses for all of them, which is a rough estimate of $10M. And that puts the Angels pretty close to that $189M figure.

If you add a Trout extension, to a payroll in which Wells will be the second-highest-paid player, then they’ll have to shed payroll.

So, the logical question is: What’s the rush?

Alden

* thanks to Cot’s Contracts for providing all the info

What if they both stayed? …

Jerry Dipoto, Mike SciosciaSometimes the highest degree of accountability isn’t altogether prudent.

The Angels are wrapping up a season in which they were never really in the playoff mix, about to make it four consecutive postseason absences despite back-to-back marquee signings, and the prevailing sentiment – in the media and within the organization – is that either Jerry Dipoto or Mike Scioscia will be dismissed by owner Arte Moreno when it’s all set and done. They haven’t worked well together, the team has disappointed, and you can’t have another season like this, on a team with a payroll this high, and not make organizational changes.

But would that really make the Angels better?

What if the perceivably impossible scenario took place?

What if they both did stay?

Replacing Scioscia means eating the roughly $27 million that’s owed to him over the course of a contract that runs through 2018, not to mention parting ways with one of the most accomplished and respected managers in all of baseball. Parting ways with Dipoto means starting all over again – for the second time in three years – with an entire front-office team, from scouts to execs, all over the country and in Latin America.

This is too important an offseason to be transitioning to a new front office, or assembling a new coaching staff, or structuring new organizational philosophies. This team needs to worry about its on-field roster, one that needs to get back into contention quickly because (A) the Angels can’t reload, (B) Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are only getting older – and more expensive – and (C) the farm system needs to keep cultivating.

The best course for the Angels may be to give Dipoto and Scioscia another chance to foster a productive working relationship and actually use their differing views for the betterment of the organization.

Dipoto loves new-aged statistics, Scioscia is of the old-school mentality. Dipoto doesn’t have the autonomy to decide on Scioscia’s employment, making it difficult to establish any authority, and Scioscia is used to being more heavily involved in baseball-operations decisions. They “get along to get along,” as one person said. The Mickey Hatcher dismissal put a significant strain on their relationship last year and they’ve bumped heads on several quandaries this season, from Ernesto Frieri‘s recent demotion to Garrett Richards‘ role to Grant Green‘s upside.

But their relationship isn’t considered to be so fractured that they can’t work together (though solidifying a hierarchy might be necessary). For what it’s worth, they’ve been said to be just fine lately.

That’s what winning can do.

“Winning changes everything,” one player said of outside speculation regarding Dipoto and Scioscia. “If we were winning, none of this would be going on.”

If Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas didn’t combine for 18 missed starts due to fluky injuries, or if Pujols weren’t limited to 99 games because of plantar fasciitis, or if Hamilton hadn’t struggled so mightily in his first season in Anaheim, the Angels would be much better off and the narrative would be completely different.

And that’s what we have to keep in mind in this situation.

Yes, Dipoto and Scioscia both shoulder plenty of blame for what has taken place in 2013.

Dipoto was unsuccessful at turning limited funds into necessary pitching depth, with Joe Blanton (2-14 with a 6.04 ERA), Tommy Hanson (5.66 ERA in 70 innings), Sean Burnett (limited to 13 games) and Ryan Madson (released after missing a second year post-Tommy John surgery) all flopping in 2013.

Scioscia’s teams have started slow each of the last two seasons – 27-38 in 2013, 18-25 in 2012 – and up until their recent, too-late run, had done little right. They’ve been one of the worst defensive teams in baseball (26th in Defensive Runs Saved), they’re tied with the Rangers for the most outs made on the bases and are 16th in the Majors in run-differential, despite winning 22 of their last 31 games.

But Dipoto is the savvy GM the organization wanted after parting ways with Tony Reagins two Octobers ago; one who would prioritize the farm system and is well-thought-of throughout baseball and isn’t afraid to express his own opinions. And simply put, the Angels aren’t really going to find a better, more respected field manager than Scioscia.

Would replacing one of them move this organization forward in 2014, or would it actually set them back — only to create the illusion of accountability?

That’s the question.

Alden

Is Weaver/Wilson/Richards/Vargas enough? …

Jered WeaverIt’s an impossible question to answer because so many factors surround it, like what bullpen additions are made, or what’s done about third base, or how the bench is upgraded, or who the fifth starter becomes, or even how Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton fare.

But it’s pretty simple in a vacuum: Do you feel good about the Angels’ rotation if Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards and Jason Vargas are the four best members of it?

For the vast majority of you on Twitter, the answer was a pretty resounding yes.

Recent memory no doubt played a big factor in that, because we’re finally starting to see some consistency out of the Angels’ rotation now that Weaver and Vargas are a part of it at the same time. Since Aug. 15, Angels starters have posted the fourth-best ERA in the Majors at 3.35 — and that was before Jerome Williams pitched 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball against the Rays. Vargas (8-6, 3.80 ERA) has a 3.57 ERA in his last four starts despite giving up five runs in four innings to the Rays on Tuesday; Weaver (9-8, 3.33 ERA) has given up four runs in his last 21 innings; Wilson (14-6, 3.35 ERA) is 7-1 with a 2.67 ERA since the 30th of June; and Richards (5-6, 4.06 ERA) has a 3.21 ERA in eight starts since taking Joe Blanton‘s spot in the rotation.

Kind of makes you wonder how things would’ve gone if Vargas (blood clot) and Weaver (broken non-pitching elbow) hadn’t missed a combined 18 or so starts due to fluky injuries. How different is the dynamic of this season? Heck, how different is the narrative regarding Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto?

Regardless of what happens this offseason, the Angels will no doubt have non-tender decisions regarding Williams (slated to make about $3 million) and Tommy Hanson (roughly $4.5 million), and they may ponder whether or not to release Blanton (with $8.5 million remaining on his contract). But it’s one thing to try and acquire a fifth starter and additional depth, and it’s a whole other thing to try to acquire a mid-rotation starter that you truly feel comfortable sliding between Wilson and Vargas. Given the state of the Angels’ farm system, the dearth of starting pitching talent in free agency and the lack of payroll flexibility available for 2014 to begin with, it’s probably the difference between giving up a major offensive piece (Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, what have you) and not having to do so.

Having said all that, my opinion — while borrowing a line from George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven – is they need one more.

Weaver, Wilson, Vargas and Richards can be as good as anyone in the league if right, but …

  1. Weaver loses a bit off his fastball every year.
  2. Wilson flirts with danger a lot.
  3. Vargas’ 3.94 ERA since the start of 2010 ranks 61st.
  4. Richards is 25 and has been inconsistent in the past.
  5. Here are the top five starting-pitcher ERA teams in baseball, respectively: Dodgers, Reds, Pirates, Tigers, Cardinals. What do they all have in common? Yep, they’re probably all going to the playoffs.

The Angels tried this year to counter a patchwork rotation with what they thought would be a deeper bullpen and a crazy-good offense. Perhaps if everyone stays healthy and Hamilton hits like himself, it works out. But it’s a risky proposition; a lot riskier than making starting pitching priority 1, 2 and 3. I think they need to get back to that this winter, and I think they need to do whatever it takes to beef up their rotation, even if it means sacrificing a little offense.

(Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to point out that resigning Vargas is no slam dunk. Both sides are interesting in a return, but the Angels will have competition and don’t have the means — or desire, really — to overpay.)

Jason VargasHere are some of your Twitter responses to whether you’d be satisfied with a front four of Weaver/Wilson/Richards/Vargas. My apologies if I didn’t get yours in …

@LAANGELSINSIDER: I think they would. Those 4 can got 7 solid most games. If the bullpen improves #Angels will be better overall.

@TurbosLady9493: Yes, if Richards can show a bit more consistency and less walks.

@memphiscds: Could live with it if we had young #5 and decent bullpen

@GareGare84: yes. At least they can hold the other team. Give our offense a chance to score.

@AJTheDon_: would’ve liked it alot more if that’s what it would’ve looked like at the start of the year

@Tanner_Shurtz: so much inconsistency for Richards, torn between 5th starter and RP… See what works out in ST

@SportsChicken: If they’re trying to compete for a championship, [heck] no. Otherwise, meh.

@JcHc3in1: I’d like to see them land a #2/#3 besides Vargas, or in addition to Vargas

@CJWoodling: Richards has Weaver-like elements in him. I could see him being as high as number 3 with a little work.

@DickMarshall: think Richards needs to start as #5. Need a solid (little risk- re: anti Hanson/Blanton) #3 or #4.

@OSBIEL: very satisfied. If they fix up the bullpen they should be fine w/ those four.

@anthony_mateos: yes. They give you a chance to win, that’s all you want.

@kwelch31: yes very. Plus a solid pitcher in a howie trade. That would work. Maybe hellikson or phil hughes.

@CDHartnett: he needs to be a 5th starter so he doesn’t have any pressure and can have a FULL season as a starter. No short leash.

@Brush_Ryan: perfectly happy with those 4 provided the add a legit #3 starter.

@pippin38: sign Garza or Kuroda and have Weaver Wilson Varges Garza/Kuroda Richards

@natetrop: In my opinion they need a solid #3 or top of the rotation arm to contend. Can’t have Richards as anything other than #5

@chrispower82: A decent 5th is still needed, but those 4 are a good start (and should’ve been our top 4 to start this year)

@CalderonEder: I’d say go after Kuroda or maybe find a trade partner for Trumbo for another legit starter

@AlexPVegas: If the Angels had the current rotation that they have now all year. We aren’t talking about the future.

Alden

 

Game 117: Angels-Yankees …

The Angels are 6-17 in their last 23 games at Yankee Stadium (including the playoffs) and Hiroki Kuroda has a 1.13 ERA in his last six starts. But Mariano Rivera has blown three consecutive save opportunities for the first time in his Hall of Fame career, and the Yankees have dropped five of their last seven games (though they took two of three from the first-place Tigers over the weekend) …

Angels (53-63)

ANAJ.B. Shuck, DH
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Josh Hamilton, LF
Erick Aybar, SS
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Chris Nelson, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Grant Green, 2B

Pitching: RH Garrett Richards (3-4, 4.20 ERA)

Yankees (59-57)

NYYBrett Gardner, CF
Ichiro Suzuki, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Curtis Granderson, RF
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Chris Stewart, C

Pitching: RH Kuroda (10-7, 2.45 ERA)

  • It’s official: Jason Vargas, who hasn’t pitched since June 17 because of a blood clot, will start tomorrow, opposite CC Sabathia. As for who comes out of the rotation? Mike Scioscia wouldn’t say just yet, but it’ll probably come down to either Tommy Hanson or Jerome Williams (though Richards could make it even more interesting if he gets roughed up tonight). Hanson has an option to the Minor Leagues, Williams has experience pitching in the bullpen and both have struggled.
  • The 22-year-old Trout vouched for severe penalties for those who fail Major League Baseball’s Drug Policy, saying on WFAN in New York on Monday morning that players “should be out of the game if you get caught.” “It takes away from the guys that are working hard every day and doing it all-natural,” Trout added on the radio show. “Some people are just trying to find that extra edge.” … Asked about those comments at Yankee Stadium later on Monday, Trout deferred to the Angels’ union rep, C.J. Wilson.
  • Trumbo is batting sixth today, even with Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick out, with his slash line down to .237/.300/.455 after putting up only nine hits in his last 63 at-bats. “He’s not going to be graded out on his batting average and his on-base percentage as much as what his power production is,” Scioscia said. “Like most hitters who have maybe a little more leverage in their swing, it’s a double-edged sword. When he’s off, he struggles. And it seems like once he finds that timing, he keeps it for a long time.”
  • Peter Bourjos (fractured right wrist) is expected to play his fifth game for Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday night and the Yankees have a lefty (Sabathia) starting tomorrow, which seems like as good a time as any to activate Bourjos — though Scioscia wouldn’t say anything definitively. Trout will play left field on the days Bourjos is in the lineup — I feel like I need to state that for the record every time Bourjos comes back — and it probably won’t cut into Shuck’s playing time, since the DH spot is essentially open.
  • Earlier today, Trout’s high school field was named in his honor.

Alden

Game 116: Angels-Indians …

The Angels face Scott Kazmir today. Remember him? Well, you might not recognize him because he’s, well, good again. He has a 1.93 ERA in his last nine starts and has been more than the Indians could’ve expected after obtaining him on a Minor League deal this offseason. Kazmir went 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA in 2010, had a rough spring the following season, gave up five runs in 1 2/3 innings of his 2011 regular-season debut, was charged with 30 runs in 15 1/3 innings at Triple-A Salt Lake, got released and spent the summer of 2012 struggling through a stint of independent ball.

“It’s tough to see any player go through what Scott went through,” Mike Scioscia said. “You saw first-hand. It was really rough on him, and obviously disappointing for us. For a pitcher to really just re-discover himself and pitch as well as Scott did is really just a function of a lot of hard work and determination. And he’s found it. He’s throwing the ball really well. Not quite the way he did in Tampa, but better.”

Angels (51-62)

LAA2J.B. Shuck, LF
Collin Cowgill, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Chris Nelson, 3B
Josh Hamilton, DH
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
Grant Green, 2B

SP: RH Jered Weaver (6-5, 2.90 ERA)

Indians (62-53)

CLEMichael Bourn, CF
Nick Swisher, RF
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Michael Brantley, LF
Carlos Santana, 1B
Jason Giambi, DH
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
Yan Gomes, C

SP: Kazmir (7-4, 3.89 ERA)

  • In case you missed it earlier, Albert Pujols‘ ex-trainer vehemently denied on-air allegations from Jack Clark that Pujols used steroids under his watch.
  • Jason Vargas felt good in his rehab outing for Triple-A Salt Lake, even though he gave up four runs and surrendered three homers in Round Rock, Texas. The lefty feels like he can start in the big leagues in his next turn, which would come Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, but Scioscia will give it a day or two to see how he responds before making a final determination.
  • Howie Kendrick‘s left knee sprain hasn’t progressed the way the Angels would’ve hoped, and it looks like he’ll be placed on the DL.

Alden

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