Results tagged ‘ Mark Trumbo ’
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
David Freese, 3B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS
Last year — with Mark Trumbo, but also with a slumping Hamilton and barely with Pujols — the Angels ranked seventh in the Majors in runs and fifth in OPS.
“I think we can be better than that,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think offensively, we’re going to be able to do, hopefully, at least as much as last year and rebound off of that. The production wasn’t quite what we think it could be, but there were some things we talked about that that impacted. But as far as our production, we can get it going.”
Scioscia mainly wants to see an improvement in situational hitting, which they’ve focused on more than ever in Spring Training. The Angels ranked 11th in the Majors in OPS with runners in scoring position.
Some other notes from Wednesday morning …
- Sean Burnett threw his fourth bullpen session on Wednesday morning, a 37-pitch set that saw him integrate changeups. He felt great, as has been the case in every step he’s taken thus far. His changeup felt “better than it has in a long time.” Burnett pretty much lost that pitch when he had Tommy John surgery for the first time in 2005, but maybe he’s getting it back. He still has to integrate bullpen sessions into another bullpen sessions, then face hitters, and then get into games, so he’s likely to start the season on the disabled list. But he’s progressing well. “I have a smile on my face and the coaches have smiles on their faces,” Burnett said, “so I must be doing something right.”
- Garrett Richards got some work in during the Angels’ off day on Tuesday, pitching six full innings and giving up one run against the Cubs’ Triple-A team. Richards felt good the next day, and was really happy with his fastball command.
- Wednesday will mark Hamilton’s first game in the outfield (he went 1-for-3 as the designated hitter in his debut on Monday). “He’s a terrific outfielder, so there’s nothing really that we’re going to evaluate,” Scioscia said. “It’s just how he’s moving, with what ease, how he rebounds. He felt good yesterday, which was a good sign, even though we didn’t play.”
The 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.
On being traded for the first time in his career …
I think it’s all for the better. Hopefully for the better of all the teams and for the better of my career. It seems like the Angels are really happy to have me. And as long as they want me there, it’s nice to have that. As long as they want to have me, I’m happy to be there.
On whether it took him by surprise …
I had an idea that was going to happen, with having four lefties in the rotation. It’s the first time I’ve been traded in my career, so I really didn’t know how to react and don’t know how to go by it. But I kind of felt it coming. I heard a bunch of rumors and just people texting, like, ‘Hey, it’s possible.’ I kind of had an idea it was possible. I didn’t know if it was going to go through, especially talking to the White Sox, planning ahead, trying to get ready for 200 innings next year as a starter in the White Sox rotation. And then a week and a half, two weeks later, it was like, ‘Oh, you just got traded.’ But it’s for the better, so I’m happy.
On his comfort level in bouncing around from bullpen to rotation …
I’m really comfortable. I feel like I’ve done it all the time, through high school and college, Minor League Baseball and the big leagues. Forever. It’s to the point where it’s normal to me. Growing up as a kid in high school, playing summer ball, I would play center field for two innings and then pitch. It’s something I’ve done before, jumping all over the place. But it was definitely a fun experience, coming up from being a starter in the Minor Leagues and then the big leagues. I’ve had every role I think that you can have in the big leagues. It was definitely fun, because you came to the park not knowing what was going on. It was definitely a fun experience in coming to the field every day and not knowing what was going to happen.
On building off 2013 …
It was definitely a different year — innings-wise, strength-wise, learning how to pitch every fifth day. It was definitely a new experience. I don’t know if I made this many, but I had a bunch of starts in the Minor Leagues in 2011 and it definitely wasn’t as difficult as this, between the big league level and playing great teams every day. But I learned a lot. This year, I definitely want to improve on going after guys earlier in the count, get some earlier outs so I can get deeper in the game. It seemed like at the beginning of the game, in the first inning, I’d worry about starting the game with a zero instead of just pitching the same way later in the game. So, early in the game, if I attack the zone more, I felt like after the first, second inning, it was an easier inning for me. It was me putting pressure on myself to start off the game clean and making sure that I gave my team a 0-0 score, and hopefully we can get some runs early in the game. And I put a lot of pressure on myself with my stuff and with my command. That was a big thing of just getting used to the role of a starting pitcher. In the bullpen, you come in for one inning, so you have a little bit of leeway where you can waste a few pitches. But as a starter, you have to try to get as many early outs as you can.
On what he was told in his phone call with the Angels …
It was short, brief. [Jerry Dipoto] was just saying, ‘We’re happy to have you. We had to make a move, and I felt like you were the right move for what we needed and you fill a spot that needed to be filled.’ … They seem very excited to have me, and it seems like I’m going to hopefully be filling one of the voids that they need.
* Shortly after getting traded to the D-backs on Tuesday, Mark Trumbo reached out to the Angels’ PR department to ask about still attending the team’s annual Holiday Party at the ESPN Zone. They couldn’t believe it. And they were even more stunned when he actually showed up the next day, alongside Hank Conger, Chuck Finley, Adam Kennedy and others. (Photo on the left courtesy of Angels PR man Eric Kay.)
Angels broadcasters Jose Mota and Terry Smith left Trumbo for last during the introductions, and he got by far the loudest ovation.
“I’ve been attending these parties for as long as I’ve been here, 11 years,” Mota said, “but you know one thing — Trumbo has been going to these parties since he was in A ball, and that part doesn’t surprise me because he’s so invested in the community-outreach programs, which he’s done for so many years. And we’re talking about a guy who, because he’s local, he was accessible, good kid, the Angels felt comfortable calling him out of A ball and saying, ‘Come to this party.’ But to see a player who had just gotten traded, No. 1, putting away all the emotions, and then a guy that is not an Angel at that party, it was a bit strange.
“He didn’t put the jersey on, of course,” Mota added. “But he was Trumbo. He was just Mark Trumbo, that’s all you expected. And he had a huge ovation from the kids and all the adults that were there because they knew that this is quite a unique thing — a guy who’s not on the team, got traded, could’ve been mopy. He decided, ‘No, this is who I am.’ You talk about showing your true colors and who you really are, I don’t think it speaks any better than that action right there.”
* Trumbo, during a phone conversation with Lyle Spencer and I, admitted that he smiled when he realized he’d be ditching the Angel Stadium marine layer and was following Tuesday’s trade rumors via Twitter “more than I lead on, probably.”
“I knew that things were getting close from messages and phone calls I received,” Trumbo said, “but I did find out first on Twitter that things had become official, so that’s kind of some insight from a player’s perspective that, in this day and age, that’s how things work.”
* Spoke to yet another scout about Tyler Skaggs recently. Here’s what he said (and this guy knows him very well) …
People seem concerned about a loss of velocity. But if you go back to what you thought he was going to be, when you drafted, scouted and signed him, that’s exactly the fastball that he’s working with now. Maybe for a short time he peaked a little bit and worked at 93, 94 or whatever, but he’s 88 to 91, touches 92 occasional now. That’s plenty of fastball, when you consider his curveball and his changeup, and the belief that he’s been a strike-thrower. I know his strikeout numbers are all right. He’s got angle, he’s got plane, he’s got spin, he’s got some touch-and-feel, some back-and-forth with the changeup. This guy was well-regarded, highly regarded throughout the industry, had the numbers to match up. He had a mediocre year last year. … I think the comfort level of going back where he came from is going to help. He’s a Southern California kid. There’s going to be a comfort level, a familiarity level.
* You think coaching the Yankees, Cowboys or Lakers is a pressure-filled job? That’s nothing compared to managing winter ball, and Angels bench coach Dino Ebel experienced that recently. Ebel, promoted from third-base coach shortly after the season, was managing the Estrellas Orientales of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. But that lasted only 18 games. He went 6-12, and then was let go, done in time to join Mike Scioscia and several other members of the Angels’ coaching staff at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
* Someone who is still playing winter ball — for the Leones de Escogido in the D.R. — is C.J. Cron, who’s batting .212/.250/.364 through eight games. That’s a lot of baseball for Cron, who played a full season of Double-A (.746 OPS) and tore it up in the Arizona Fall League (1.167), but he’s a first baseman/designated hitter, so it’s not like he has to move around too much. The Angels view him as a potential option for them late in 2014.
* Some additional minutia on the Angels’ situation at the moment: Matt Garza is still “the guy they really want” a source said Friday, but the perception is that they won’t go above a four-year contract. … The Angels still aren’t expected to spend much on a bat. Right now, they’re budgeting a one-year deal worth less than $5 million. Can they get Raul Ibanez or Kevin Youkilis for that? We’ll see. … Santiago and Skaggs both have options left, but it looks like Santiago has a spot on the Major League roster (as a starter or a reliever) and Skaggs is more of a question. Either he starts in the Majors or in Triple-A. Both have options, nonetheless.
Winter Meetings stories …
Angels Notebook from Day 1, on Albert Pujols‘ health, Mike Trout extension talks and the evolving AL West
Phillip Wellman (this guy) will manage the Angels’ Double-A affiliate
Story on the three-team trade between the D-backs, White Sox and Angels
Spencer, on how the deal benefits the Angels
Trout’s cycle lands GIBBY for Hitting Performance
Trout likely to bat second again next season
Spencer, on Scioscia seeking chemistry on the field
Lefty specialist picked up in Rule 5 Draft
On what’s next, now that the Winter Meetings are over
On Tuesday’s trade, in which the Angels acquired Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago for Mark Trumbo …
I think it’s a big step in the right direction. It’s always tough to ‑‑ when you’re trying to find pitching and to have to lose a piece as important to us as Mark Trumbo was. It’s a little easier to sign a guy like Joe Smith, who we signed as a free agent. But our deficiencies, I think, were very evident, probably for the last couple of years on the pitching side, to be able to have starters that can get you to your game and have the lead and hold those leads. And we were very poor at that for the last couple of seasons and we paid a huge price for it. Hopefully we’re working back for that direction.
On whether the Angels still need to add to the rotation via free agency …
I don’t think Jerry [Dipoto] is done as far as trying to find pitching depth and adding to the rotation. He has a lot of things on the table that he’s looking at. And if we’re able to acquire someone, it’d probably be important; if we don’t, I think we’re in a much more solid side on the pitching end than we were for most season last year.
On Albert Pujols’ progress …
He’s swinging the bat. He’s taking batting practice. He feels very strong physically. I really feel that he’s going to be the healthiest he’s been, certainly from what he’s been out here with us, probably a couple of years before that in St. Louis where he was banged up. I think the foot will be a non-issue. And I think that he’ll take a lot of pressure off of his knee that kind of went hand-in-hand with having his foot issue. I’m going to be really surprised if he’s not the healthiest he’s been in a number of years. And that obviously is an important piece of what we need.
On the expectations for Josh Hamilton …
I think Josh is going to move back to left field and just stay in left field. And I think he’ll be more comfortable with that aspect as opposed to switching him to right field. But I do feel, from the way he finished up the second half of last season and made some adjustments, that he understands what his role is a little more, what our team is about and what he can bring. And Josh is going to have a big year for us next year.
On what kind of bat fits in the DH spot …
I think there’s a number of ways to go because we have versatility with a guy like Kole Calhoun that can play first base. It can be on the defensive side, a corner outfield and first base, to a player that might be just restricted to a DH spot or a leftfield spot. And so as far as the bat being left‑handed or right‑handed, I think you’re always happy to add left‑handed depth in your lineup. But there’s also, as we go through the whole exercise of looking at rosters and possibilities, there’s also a role for a right‑handed bat that can fit very nice.
On whether Pujols will still need a lot of time at DH …
I think we’ll probably be proactive with that and do it on a hopefully preventative basis. Albert is at his best when he’s playing first base. We’re a better team when he can play first base and bring that defensive component to our team. We’ll look at that first and just try to manage the health issue of how he feels on a daily basis. I do think we’ll use him DH days just to keep him fresh, as we will a lot of our guys. But I don’t think that he needs to be pigeonholed. And it’s not in our best interest as a team to pigeonhole him in the DH, because I think he’s going to be healthy and ready to play first.
On where C.J. Cron fits in …
I think C.J. is a guy that is working his way on to our depth chart. As far as breaking Spring Training and making our team, that might be a bit of a stretch. But I think we’re very comfortable with the fact that at some point next year, if he makes the same improvement that he made this year in the Fall League to where he was during the season this year to the Fall League, and in winter ball he’s swinging the bat well down in the Dominican. He will be in our depth chart, no doubt.
On whether the Angels can reach 93-94 wins …
If you analyze on the offensive side our season last year, although maybe we underachieved because maybe some guys were struggling a little. Still we scored enough runs to reach our goal. I think it’s real clear we’re going to be ‑‑ to go down very deep on the layers of our club to understand, our starters didn’t pitch at a certain point in the game, some of our starters, C.J. Wilson had a terrific season. Some guys struggled to get us there. Missed Jered Weaver for a long time. I think there are components on our club that will come together. And we’re very comfortable in the challenge of bridging that gap that you’re talking about in getting there. It’s definitely something we can achieve. And I think what Boston did is a great indication, two years ago, of what they did last year. I think we have the same potential to hopefully do what they did.
On Mike Trout’s first two years …
He’s done things that most players at that progression of Mike Trout are in Double‑A doing, and he’s doing them at a Major League level, or triple League level, getting their first taste. He’s been around a couple of years, and realize he’s not even 23. He’s ‑‑ this guy is just a kid. So I didn’t see Ken Griffey Jr. up close when he came up in Seattle when he was 19 and obviously had his Hall of Fame career. So I can’t say a guy like this has never been around, because I think there are some instances of guys that did it. But I can only say from a personal perspective, I’ve never seen anyone this young that is this ‑‑ that has this much poise and the ability to do the things that Mike can do on a baseball field. I just haven’t seen it. It’s going to be hopefully fun to watch for the next 15 or 20 years.
On where Mike Trout fits in the lineup …
I think a number of things for Mike Trout, if you look at what his potential is and what is the potential of the team, he has the capability of scoring a hundred‑plus runs and driving in a hundred‑plus runs for the season if we set the table well enough for him. I think in the American League in the lead‑off spot, where in the National League if you’re always having pitchers bunting, he might get more RBI opportunities in the 1 hole. That’s tougher to do, because your on‑base guys usually aren’t 8th or 9th in the American League. So you have to look at that, factor that in as far as who do you want hitting in front of him? Some higher on‑base guys like Calhoun and [J.B.] Shuck at times in front of Trout last year, his RBI chances totally picked up when we moved him to the 2 hole, if you look at the raw numbers of it. So I think that his future is definitely anywhere 2, 3 or 4 in the lineup. Where he ends up this year, I just think that from a leadoff spot it’s always sexy to talk about that type of leadoff hitter. But I don’t know if it’s as functional for Mike or our team if you’re not setting the table for him. So that’s probably why it bodes better for him to hit at least 2 and see where it goes from there.
On Masahiro Tanaka …
Yes, I have seen his video. I think he’s a unique talent and you can see why he’s coveted. And there will certainly be a lot of interest in Major League Baseball, if all the details are ironed out that he can come over. I think much like a lot of the Japanese pitchers we’ve seen over the years, particularly in the recent past with [Yu] Darvish, there was a lot of talent in Japan, and he’s certainly on the top of the list.
As reporters waited in the hallway for their scheduled session with Jerry Dipoto, the Angels’ general manager walked towards his suite while chatting with D-backs GM Kevin Towers. “Just friends talking,” Dipoto said. Maybe. But the D-backs are one team that could be interested in someone like Mark Trumbo, and may have some cost-controlled starting pitching they’re willing to give up (more on Trumbo’s potential availability in a trade here).
In any case, Dipoto said he doesn’t expect the Angels to make any moves on Monday, Day 1 of the Winter Meetings from the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort. But he did get the sense that more teams appear willing to access pitching via the trade market, rather than a free-agent market that has seen prices skyrocket.
Here are the highlights from Dipoto’s session with the media (with outstanding camera work provided by the iPhone of Angels PR man Eric Kay) …
On the most likely scenario to address the two holes in the rotation — free agency, trades or both …
I’m not really a prognosticator in that way. Any of them are all still possibilities. We’re open to the trade market, we’re open to free agency, we’re open to any combination of the two. Like I’ve said throughout, especially these last couple of weeks, we know what our needs are, they’re pretty clearly defined, and we’re going to go out and fill them the best we can.
On whether the Angels are a match with the D-backs …
Still trying to figure it out, like with a lot of teams.
On whether not signing a top-tier starter can impact who is available via trade …
Everything you do in a roster, all 25 players, work hand-in-hand. Often times one will define the next move, or what kind of flexibility you have available to make the next move. But in this particular case, as I’ve said throughout, we’re not particularly excited about the idea of losing our first-round Draft [pick]. That’s not Plan A. We’re going out, we’re looking at the rest of the market, we’ve not closed the door on any candidates specifically, we’re open-minded to how we’re going to fill our needs. And if that comes in some combination of trade or free agency, then that’s what we expect.
On whether he’d be willing to part ways with prospects …
If it makes sense in doing a deal, sure. With Major League players, with prospects in the system, you have to go in open-minded and see where it leads you. Obviously we’re not looking to unload our Minor League system to achieve anything in the big leagues, but you have to be open-minded to all the different ways you can access what you’re looking for. In this case, we know what we’re looking for – we’re looking for starting pitching, and however we get there, we’re going to learn a lot about that in these next couple of days.
On whether it’s easier when your needs are so clearly defined (starting pitching) …
We really do have a short shopping list, but that can change. As we’ve all talked about before, every move opens up a whole new avenue. Your roster looks one way today, it can look another way tomorrow. The same is true of 29 other teams. We’re trying to stay in tune with what’s happening in the market, even outside of what our specific shopping needs are, and be abreast of where it goes should our dynamic change, because it’s possible it could.
On if teams and free agents are generally waiting for Masahiro Tanaka to be posted/sign …
Not really. Just the conversations we’ve had today with other teams, it’s business as usual. I don’t think there’s any one person or event holding up the market.
On whether he has a sense he can get something done during the Winter Meetings …
Not yet. We haven’t been here 24 hours yet. But the way the Winter Meetings are now, you do so much prep work before you get here, dating back to well before the GM Meetings – conversations with teams, the discussions of what may or may not be out there trade-wise. Free agency has been open for quite some time now. We’ve had at least some exchange in rhetoric with free agent groups on their desires, what they’re looking for, both in contract and term for their player, and then the fit – the city, the team, the ballpark, etc.
On if teams still view the Angels as a ‘championship contender’ …
For the players out there, they know they’re getting into a competitive situation. This is the same team that won 89 games the year before last, and like I said, the talent that you can roll out there on paper, that just so happened to not be out there all the time in performance last year, whether it be due to injury, struggle, what-have-you, there’s still players that are respected with what they do presently, what they have done in their careers, and we are I think a very attractive destination for free agents as a result.
On if it’s safe to say Trumbo has been the most-inquired-about player …
We’ve been hit a fair amount on a number of our players, and particularly Mark. Mark’s been a popular name, Howie [Kendrick has] been a popular name, and there have been others. We’ve been asked in context about most of the players on our roster, which is not uncommon. It’s very similar for a lot of other teams. But I would say there’s been fairly heavy traffic on guys like Mark specifically.
On a potential Mike Trout extension …
It’s something we’re definitely aware of, I know it’s something Mike’s aware of, but it’s nothing that we’ll talk about publicly. Those are private conversations that we’ll have with Mike and his people at the appropriate time.
The Angels’ budget got a little clearer on Monday, upon announcing they were non-tendering Jerome Williams, Tommy Hanson, Chris Nelson and Juan Gutierrez. That clears about $10 million in projected salary, crucial to an Angels team that needs to add at least two starting pitchers while staying below the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million.
So, how much room do they have left on the budget?
Let’s have a look …
The Collective Balance Tax Payroll is the average annual value of all 40-man-roster contracts, plus benefits, pensions, bonuses, etc. First, let’s add up the AAV of the 10 players on the budget …
Josh Hamilton: $25M
Albert Pujols: $24M
Jered Weaver: $17M
C.J. Wilson: $15.5M
Erick Aybar: $8.75M
Howie Kendrick: $8.375M
Joe Blanton: $7.5M
Joe Smith: $5.25M
Chris Iannetta: $5.18M
Sean Burnett: $4M
That equals $120.56 million. Then you have to add the $18.6 million the Angels owe the Yankees for the final season of Vernon Wells’ contract, which puts the total at $139.16. Then you have to project ahead for arbitration. Below are the Angels’ five remaining arbitration-eligible players, with the projections provided by MLBTradeRumors.com …
Mark Trumbo: $4.7M
David Freese: $4.4M
Ernesto Frieri: $3.4M
Kevin Jepsen: $1.4M
Fernando Salas: $700K
That’s $14.6 million, and it puts the CBT payroll at $153.76 million.
The last part is when it gets really uncertain with more than four months left before Opening Day (keep in mind: a team’s final CBT payroll isn’t calculated until after the season). To that figure, you have to tack on all the contracts for players with zero to three years of service time (the Major League minimum in 2014 is $500,000) plus benefits. I’m told the best way to go about it is to just allocate $20 million for all of this.
That puts the Angels’ CBT payroll at roughly $174 million, which gives them about $15 million of wiggle-room before hitting the luxury tax.
That figure is nowhere near exact, but as close as you can get at this point.
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 …
- 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.
- 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.)
The Next Tier
Big Names, Big Reclamations
Coming Back From Injury
Potential Minor League Options
Some Upside Left?
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 …
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.
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.
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?
* thanks to Cot’s Contracts for providing all the info
SP: RH Garrett Richards (7-6, 3.91 ERA)
SP: RH Sonny Gray (3-3, 2.63 ERA)
- Chris Nelson‘s season looked finished when he suffered a strained hamstring on Aug. 28. Today, he was activated off the disabled list. Mike Scioscia said he’ll initially be available as a defensive replacement and pinch-hitter, and may work his way back towards playing third base regularly. “With hamstrings you never know,” Scioscia said. “But when he came off the field, you were thinking man, this is not good on the timing of the season, how long it will take. He’s worked really hard; definitely available to play defense and ran well enough that hopefully he’s day-to-day before he can get out there and start playing and get some at-bats.”
- Luis Jimenez, however, is still “a ways away” from getting back, Scioscia said. His right shoulder remains sore, and he has a ways to go before being able to throw again. So, he’s probably done for the year.
- Trout’s home run was initially thought to be 420 feet. But after coming back up from the clubhouse, ESPN’s Home Run Tracker put it at 452 feet. That distance was still not enough for Scioscia. “At 452, that ball is still in the air past that fence. I’m sorry. That ball is 500 feet.”
- Cool stat from the game notes: Trout is one double and one triple shy of being the first ever member of the 10-20-30-40 club (10 triples, 20 homers, 30 steals, 40 doubles) in Major League history. Trout is at 9-24-33-39.