Results tagged ‘ Vernon Wells ’

Pondering a Mike Trout extension …

troutMike Trout spoke to reporters in Arizona for the first time on Wednesday, but before taking questions for 15 minutes, the Angels’ 22-year-old center fielder wanted to say one thing.

I know what you guys are gonna ask. I’m here to get ready for the season. I don’t want to comment on the contract negotiations and stuff. I’m here to just get ready, prepare myself for the upcoming season.

Trout may not talk about it publicly, but his agent and the Angels will surely continue to have dialogue.

The Angels, owner Arte Moreno confirmed, are in “active discussions” with Trout and his agent, Craig Landis, over a long-term deal even though he’s still four years away from free agency. The reason is three-fold: (1) The last thing the Angels want to do is go into a complex, record-breaking, all-over-the-Internet arbitration hearing with Trout next season; (2) signing him to a deal will give the organization some much-needed cost certainty; (3) duh, they’d like to buy out some of his free-agent years before it’s too late.

An important note about a potential Trout extension, which is worth repeating: Even if both sides agree to terms tomorrow, Trout can’t sign the deal (and thus the Angels can’t announce it) until after Opening Day because the organization doesn’t want it to count towards its Collective Balance Tax payroll until 2015, when Vernon Wells and Joe Blanton are off the books and the Angels have more wiggle room.

I explained it in more detail here, but here’s the gist: The CBT payroll, used by Major League Baseball to determine which teams will be taxed for going over the luxury-tax threshold, takes into account the average annual value of contracts, not the yearly breakdown. So, if Trout signs a 10-year, $300 million deal, that would be $30 million counting towards the CBT payroll, even if Trout is only making $15 million in Year 1.

Now, having said all that … I don’t think Trout becomes baseball’s first $300-million player.

That’s the shiny round number everybody keeps been throwing out, but it’d be hard for me to see Trout get that given his service time and his camp’s desire to set him up for two mega contracts.

Let’s say Trout doesn’t sign an extension, so he goes to arbitration and shatters every record based on service time. And let’s say that has him making $15 million as a first-year arbitration-eligible player, $20 million as a second-year arbitration-eligible player and $25 million as a third-year arbitration-eligible player. (That, by the way, is quite generous.) If he gets that, and you factor that into the breakdown of a 10-year, $300 million deal, then in his seven free-agent years, that contract is carrying an AAV north of $34 million.

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw just recently set the record for AAV with a seven-year contract that pays him more than $30.7 million annually — but he signed it with one year left before free agency.

The Angels, in my opinion, are still at a point where they can offer less AAV than that and still give Trout’s camp incentive to take it. Why? Because there are no certainties in this game. Trout is the best all-around player in the game, but he’s a whole four years away from free agency. A lot can happen — injuries, under-performance — and it’d be hard to walk away from so much guaranteed money this early. That’s why clubs do this.

The question, of course, is: What’s the price that makes both sides comfortable?

I had this conversation with Jim Bowden while on MLB Network Radio recently. Bowden, whose opinion I respect, said if he’s Trout’s agent, he’s demanding that the Angels pay him more than any other player in baseball if they want to buy out some of his free-agent years. And so I said: What if the Angels offered a long-term contract with, say, an AAV of $22 million (just throwing out a lower number, that may end up being too low)? Would you really turn that down with so much time left before free agency?

“I’d take that risk with that player,” Bowden said.

Fair point. If ever there was a guy to take a risk like that one, it’s probably Trout.

And that’s what makes this all so fascinating.

My guess (and that’s all this is)? I’d say a $35 million AAV for his four free-agent years (Kershaw maxes out at $33 million by 2017). Given that, the (perhaps generous) arbitration projections and the potential desire to make Trout a free agent again at or just before age 30 — seven years, $200 million ($28.6 million AAV) for a Trout extension.

Again, just a guess.

Alden

How much is left for starting pitching? …

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.

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

Game 67: Yankees-Angels …

Yes, the Angels — 10 games below .500, 12 games back in the AL West, 9 1/2 games back of the final Wild Card spot — haven’t had much luck with injuries this season, particularly with their highest-paid player (Albert Pujols) and the two guys they were counting on to turn their bullpen around (Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett). You know who has been hit with more injuries? The Yankees team they’ll now face. I mean, just look at their lineup. And yet, they kept on rolling, while the Angels are in need of an amazing run to get back in the race.

“A lot of the things we see are very tangible, a lot of the things we see are reversible,” Mike Scioscia continues to say. “That has to be our goal, to get these guys out there playing consistent baseball and bringing the talent on the field, because we have the potential to have a terrific team.”

Yankees (37-29)

NYYBrett Gardner, CF
Jayson Nix, 3B
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, DH
Vernon Wells, LF
Thomas Neal, RF
David Adams, 2B
Reid Brignac, SS
Austin Romine, C

SP: LH Andy Pettitte (5-3, 3.82 ERA)

Angels (28-38)

laaMike Trout, LF
Josh Hamilton, RF
Pujols, DH
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS
Peter Bourjos, CF

Pitching: LH C.J. Wilson (4-5, 4.05 ERA)

  • Starting rotation-wise, we know Tommy Hanson and Jered Weaver are starting the other two games in this series, respectively. And now, we know Jason Vargas will start Monday, with the order resetting again on Wednesday and Thursday. Who’s starting on Tuesday? That’s a decision that will perceivably come down to Joe Blanton and Jerome Williams, and Scioscia didn’t reveal anything on Friday. “Let’s get through this weekend,” he said. You have to figure, that if Blanton were starting Tuesday, he’d simply be listed as the starter by the team. The fact he isn’t makes me believe it’s going to be Williams, as long as he isn’t needed out of the bullpen in some crazy long game (like the 18-inning game the Yankees played against the A’s last night). Just an educated guess, though.
  • Robert Coello, placed on the disabled list with what the team called right shoulder inflammation, will be shut down from throwing for a minimum of four weeks. Coello’s elbow is also hurting.
  • The Angels will honor Mariano Rivera on Saturday.
  • The Angels have signed 34 of their 39 Draft picks. Among those remaining are their first selection, lefty Hunter Green, who was taken in the second round.
  • Sicoscia, on his biggest takeaway from his time with Wells: “He worked very hard at the game. You could tell that his non-performance is something he did not take in stride. I mean he felt it. And whether he had a rough day the night before, he came out with a positive frame of mind and said, ‘I’m going to help us win today.’ Maybe fans don’t see that side of him, but he didn’t take it easy when he was struggling, and he knows that he’s a better player than what he showed when he played with us.”
  • Wells, by the way, has cooled off considerably since his hot start. Over his last 40 games, he has a .182/.209/.284 slash line. He comes in batting .229/.274/.386, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs.

Alden

Question of the Day, 5/15 …

We don’t have the depth for a big trade come July. What, if anything, is going to save this team? – @angelfan91

Performing to expectations and staying healthy. That simple.

For as star-laden and expensive a team as this is, it’s not a club that can really absorb an inordinate amount of injuries. Their farm system is barren, and their bench looked pretty weak once Vernon Wells was dealt to the Yankees. Look no further than the three starts Tommy Hanson (restricted list) has missed. Each of those nights — especially the latest one — the opposing team has batted around in an inning, basically because the Angels are left with nowhere to turn for additional starting pitching help. There are some teams (Yankees?) that can withstand using the disabled list seven times in the first six weeks. The Angels, apparently, aren’t one of them.

More than that, though, guys are simply under performing, as this Baseball Prospectus article evidenced by deploying PECOTA projections. Joe Blanton (0-7, 6.46 ERA, 1.87 WHIP) has taken the brunt of the criticism. But just as crippling, if not more so, is the fact that the three big signings of the last two offseasons — Albert Pujols (.248/.328/.418), Josh Hamilton (.214/.264/.358) and C.J. Wilson (3.88 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) — are simply not living up to their track records. Add that to all those who have been on the DL since April 1 (Jered Weaver, Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett, Kevin Jepsen, Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar) and you have a problem.

The good news: Three-quarters of the season remains.

I’ll be away from the team for a little while moving forward, while trying to juggle a bunch of other things I have going on. William Boor is your man for the rest of this homestand.

Alden

As if the in-house issues weren’t bad enough …

Ervin SantanaThe baseball gods are doing the on-field equivalent of trolling the Angels right now. It’s not just that they’re 11-20, with Josh Hamilton slumping and every facet of their team — starting pitching, relief pitching, baserunning, defense, production — in a rut through the first five weeks of the season. It’s that so many of the players they’ve discarded recently are, well, thriving.

See for yourself …

RF Torii Hunter (offered little more than a $5 million base salary, plus incentives, this offseason before he inked a two-year, $26 million deal with the Tigers): .361/.406/.479 slash line through his first 27 games in the No. 2 spot for first-place Detroit.

LF Vernon Wells (dealt to the Yankees for the financial relief of getting under the Competitive Balance Tax payroll, with New York picking up $13.9 million of the $42 million owed to him over the next two seasons): .280/.339/.486 with six homers team while batting mostly third — yes, third — for an injury-riddled Yankees team that’s somehow six games over .500.

SP Ervin Santana (essentially given to the Royals because the Angels weren’t going to exercise his $13 million option for 2013): 3-1, 2.00 ERA with 31 strikeouts and five walks in 36 innings for a Kansas City team that — of course — is 17-11.

SS Jean Segura (traded alongside Ariel Pena and John Hellweg for Zack Greinke last July): .333/.380/.523, with a league-leading three triples and one very interesting sequence on the basepaths.

RP Jordan Walden (dealt straight up to the Braves for Tommy Hanson in November): 2.92 ERA, with 14 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.

RP LaTroy Hawkins (unsigned as a free agent): 2.77 ERA, 1.23 WHIP in 13 innings for the Mets.

SP Patrick Corbin (dealt — by then-Arizona interim GM Jerry Dipoto — to the Angels along with Tyler Skaggs, Rafael Rodriguez and Joe Saunders in exchange for Dan Haren in July 2010): 4-0, 1.85 ERA in six starts.

What does all this mean to the Angels? Well nothing, of course. In fact, in my mind, almost all of these moves were justified (you could certainly argue in favor of bringing Hunter back and using the additional funds on pitching). The fact anyone would take on that much for Wells was flat-out shocking; it made little sense to pay Santana $13 million for 2013 given how his 2012 season went; I’ll do Walden-for-Hanson any day of the week; the Greinke trade was a good one considering Dipoto didn’t have to give up Peter Bourjos and/or Garrett Richards, and he would’ve been applauded for it had they made the playoffs last year; and, well, there was little reason to give a 40-year-old Hawkins a guaranteed contract, or a likely shot at winning a bullpen spot, given the group the Angels had going into Spring Training.

But still …

Unrelated subject (well, sort of): Here’s a look at who’s shining, and who isn’t, in the Angels’ system so far …

HOT

INF Luis Rodriguez (AAA): .314/.344/.496, 4 HR, 24 RBI
RP Jeremy Berg (AAA): 1.65 ERA, 13 SO, 1 BB, 16 1/3 IP
SP Austin Wood (A+): 2.41 ERA, 4 GS, 17 SO, 9 BB, 18 2/3 IP

NOT

RP Mitch Stetter (AAA): 5.56 ERA, 11 1/3 IP, 12 SO, 10 BB
SP A.J. Schugel (AAA): 0-1, 6.21 ERA, 6 GS, 30 SO, 14 BB, 29 IP
OF Randal Grichuk (AA): .186/.262/.351, 2 HR, 7 RBI

Alden

Question of the Day, 4/16 …

What can fix the Angels???? — @VivaJRC

I hate for the first QOTD of the season to come under such tumultuous times, but, well, this is probably as good a time as any.

The answer to that question is very simple: The starters need to be better. They have a Major League-worst 6.07 ERA and have pitched into the seventh inning only once all season, putting the offense behind early on an almost-nightly basis and gutting a bullpen that’s already thin.

The solution? It has to come in-house, at least for now. The Angels have some payroll flexibility after trading Vernon Wells, but teams don’t make trades in April — not for big-name players, anyway. It’s too early. Newcomers Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton may not boast the resumes of, say, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, but they have reputations for pitching deep into games, and they’re simply not doing that. The three of them are a combined 1-6 with a 7.36 ERA in 40 1/3 innings so far. They simply have to be better.

I’ve been getting a lot of the predictable, fire-and-brimstone tweets and e-mails recently — FIRE BUTCHER!!! FIRE SCIOSCIA!!! — and if this team continues to underachieve, there’s no telling what Arte Moreno will do.

But would that actually solve anything right now?

Alden

Previewing the 2013 season …

ANGELS

Come Monday, Jered Weaver will be making his fourth straight Opening Day start, Josh Hamilton‘s reunion tour will begin and the Angels will (once again) try to cash in on the grand expectations they carry into the season.

Before that happens, here’s a station-to-station look at where they stand heading into what should be a very fun 2013 …

Position players: I don’t see a way this team won’t be among the top three in runs scored in the American League this season. From mid-May to the end of the season last year, when Mike Trout arrived in more ways than one and Albert Pujols remembered he’s Albert Freakin’ Pujols, the Angels led the Majors in runs per game. And that was without Hamilton, mind you. The Angels have three dynamic speed guys (Peter Bourjos-Trout-Erick Aybar) and three lethal power hitters (Pujols-Hamilton-Mark Trumbo) all conveniently lining up together. The rest of the guys (Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Iannetta) don’t need to be anything more than themselves for the Angels to be an offensive juggernaut. Defensively, Trout-Bourjos-Hamilton could be the best defensive outfield in baseball (which tailors perfectly to their flyball-heavy pitching staff) and the infield is solid at every position.

WEAVERStarters: Angels starters got their necessary work this spring, but just barely. Spring Training may not teach us much, but it certainly didn’t quell any apprehensions about this rotation. Everyone except the no-walks Joe Blanton struggled at some point, with Weaver, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson all bringing temporary concerns that they wouldn’t have enough stamina heading into the regular season. But they do, and most importantly, they’re all healthy. Are they good enough to match one of the best offenses in baseball? No. Will they be adequate enough to eat innings (so the ‘pen doesn’t get worn out) and keep the Angels in games (with the lineup taking care of the rest)? That’s the plan. The key: C.J. Wilson, the $77.5 million No. 2 starter who should be a lot better than his 2012 second half.

Relievers: The Angels are deeper here, with or without Ryan Madson (who is still on track to return in late April or early May, barring another setback). They’ve added arguably the best free-agent lefty available in Sean Burnett, will have a full season of Ernesto Frieri, are banking on Kevin Jepsen‘s last three months being no fluke and, along with Scott Downs, seemingly have four formidable options to protect leads late in games. There’s also the high-upside Garrett Richards, coming off a great spring, the hard-throwing Mark Lowe, who the Angels have targeted since November, and the veteran Jerome Williams. Many will point to last year’s 22 blown saves as the biggest reason the Angels ultimately missed the playoffs, and this year, they’re better in the ‘pen. But that’s on paper. Relievers are a very unpredictable species.

Reserves: If all their everyday players stay healthy, this won’t be much of a factor, particularly in the AL. Chances are, though, injuries will happen. And given that, the Angels took a step back with regards to their bench (though if you’re going to pick one area to downgrade, this would be it). Without Vernon Wells, they don’t have any real power threat in reserve — besides Hank Conger, but he’s the backup catcher — and are pretty darn young. Andrew Romine takes over for the seasoned Maicer Izturis and Conger, awfully talented but coming off a spring soured by throwing woes, has spent most of the last three years in Triple-A. Contact-hitting lefty outfielder J.B. Shuck is the third player on this bench making his first Opening Day roster. The last reserve, veteran infielder Brendan Harris, hasn’t been in the big leagues since 2010.

Depth: The Angels’ farm system is dead last in all of baseball, according to ESPN and Baseball America. But those in the organization will tell you that mostly has to do with pitching; their position-player talent is just fine. Furthermore, the Angels’ front office is confident they’ve built more depth in the upper levels to serve as insurance in 2013. The Triple-A roster has several players with Major League experience, such as Luis Rodriguez, Tommy Field, Scott Cousins, Trent Oeltjen, Chris Snyder (possibly), John Hester, Luke Carlin, Mitch Stetter and Fernando Cabrera. But with Richards’ length shortened in the ‘pen, and Williams’ workload unpredictable as a swing man, where do the Angels turn if something happens to one of their starters? Barry Enright, Billy Buckner, Matt Shoemaker and the young A.J. Schugel figure to make up the Salt Lake Bees’ rotation.

Financials: The Angels’ payroll sits under $150 million, thanks to the Yankees taking on $11.5 million of Wells’ 2013 salary in the recent trade. The deal also bought them some luxury tax flexibility. Prior to the deal, the Angels’ Competitive Balance Tax payroll — which takes into account the average annual value of all 40-man roster salaries, plus benefits and performance bonuses at the end of the season — was $178 million, the threshold at which first-time offenders are taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball. Now, it’s about $172M, giving them some flexibility to take on salary in an in-season trade. Last year, after acquiring Zack Greinke, their CBT payroll was at $178 million, which affected their pursuit of some necessary relief-pitching help.

Underlying theme: Expectations can do some funny things, and it’ll be interesting to see how the magnitude of it all will play into how the Angels go about — and react to — their second year under the microscope. Will it affect them out of the gate? Will it bring turmoil in the clubhouse, especially now that Torii Hunter is gone? Can it cause more tension between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, who have their philosophical differences and were at odds at times last season? And what will it lead Arte Moreno to do if they miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season?

Questions

In addition to Trumbo at DH, how much time do you think he will get a first base and right field, giving Pujols and Hamilton a day to rest their legs? (Stephen H., San Luis Obispo)

SOSHPlenty. And if I had to pin a number on it, I’d say there’s a very good chance — even if everyone stays healthy — that Trumbo spends about half his time playing the field. If he’s hitting, he’ll be in the lineup for all the Angels’ Interleague games. For a good chunk of April, with Pujols in the early stages of his return from offseason knee surgery, he figures to play plenty of first base. With Wells gone, he’s also the fourth outfielder. And fundamentally, with so much money tied to Hamilton and Pujols long-term, Scioscia will get them off their feet as often as necessary now that he has a revolving door at DH (that wasn’t very feasible with Kendrys Morales there last year).

Do you see the day when the Angels move Trout down in the batting order and put Bourjos, if he can cut it, in the leadoff spot? (Albert H., Los Angeles)

I do. Scioscia continues to say Trout profiles better in the middle of the order, the reason being that you want your best hitter to be in as many RBI situations as possible. The makeup of the Angels’ lineup right now — with Pujols, Hamilton and Trumbo in the middle of the order, and no clear solution in the leadoff spot just yet — means Trout is the best fit to bat first. You can argue that the Angels’ everyday lineup doesn’t figure to change much any time soon, with almost everyone in the books long term. But Trout is the kind of player you construct a lineup around, and his bat figures to eventually become too potent to not put in the 3 spot.

Is this the year the Angels finally get back to the playoffs and make a deep run? (Samuel M., Tempe, Ariz.)

Who knows. I do think that, on paper, they are the best team in the AL West and should win the division. Once you get in the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. The sample size is too small. But 162 games is not a small sample size, and if the Angels stay healthy, there is no excuse for not taking the division crown. The Rangers’ lineup took a step back, replacing Hamilton with Lance Berkman, and the pitching staff won’t have Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis or Joakim Soria to start the season. The A’s are deep, but will need a lot of guys to over-perform again. It’s nice to see the Mariners spending money, but they still have holes and concerns all over the place. And the Astros are a last-place team. But who am I kidding — predicting a baseball season is a foolish act.

Now, at last, we can see how it all plays out on the field.

Don’t forget, you can also follow me on Instagram and Google+.

Alden

Vernon Wells is officially a Yankee …

Vernon WellsVernon Wells’ two-year stint with the Angels officially came to an end on Tuesday, when the 34-year-old outfielder passed his physical and suited up for the Yankees.

In exchange, the Angels received two low-level prospects in outfielder Exicardo Cayones and lefty Kramer Sneed – but that was little more than a formality.

The real prize is the money they’ll save.

The Yankees are picking up $13.9 million of the $42 million owed to Wells over the final two seasons of his contract. It’s more than expected for a guy who has posted a .222/.258/.409 slash line in 208 games the last two seasons and was the fifth outfielder in the Angels’ depth chart – behind Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Peter Bourjos and designated hitter Mark Trumbo.

But there’s a caveat for both teams.

Prior to the trade, the Angels’ payroll was at about $160 million, but their Competitive Balance Tax payroll – which takes into account the average annual value of all 40-man roster salaries, plus benefits and performance bonuses at the end of the season – was $178 million, the threshold at which first-time offenders are taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball.

For Wells, the Yankees will pay $11.5 million of the $21 million owed to Wells in 2013 and $2.4 million of the $21 million he’s owed in 2014. New York is paying more on the front end because World Baseball Classic officials are paying for Mark Teixeira’s contract while he’s on the disabled list – about $6 million if he returns by mid-May – and because their goal is to get under the CBT threshold in 2014, not 2013.

Wells suited up for the Yankees for their Tuesday night game against the Astros in Tampa, Fla, batting sixth, playing left field and wearing No. 56 (his customary No. 10 belongs to Phil Rizzuto and has already been retired).

“I got goosebumps driving down the road a couple hours after they told me about the trade,” Wells said. “I started thinking about the roll call. I won’t be the guy that gets picked on by the bleachers this time, even though I enjoyed it. Now it’s going to be a little bit different hearing my name and being in pinstripes. It gives me chills now.”

Wells figures to get plenty of playing time in New York, at least early on. Curtis Granderson is not expected to play until early May because of a fractured right forearm and Juan Rivera, considered a leading candidate for the right-handed outfield job, might be the regular first baseman with Teixeira out with a strained right forearm.

The Angels, meanwhile, are left with a thinner bench. But also some much-needed wiggle room.

Asked if he received any advice from former manager Mike Scioscia, Wells responded: “He said, ‘You’re in a good place right now from a baseball standpoint.’ I think he noticed the changes that I made. He said, ‘Just keep doing the things you’ve been doing the past three weeks and have fun with it.’ I told him, ‘That’s fine, I’m just going to try to [Mike] Napoli you guys when I play you.’ I don’t know if you all saw Napoli’s numbers against the Angels, but they were pretty ugly. I’ll just try to do the same thing.”

Thanks to Bryan Hoch for passing along the Wells quotes.

Alden

Vernon Wells to the Yankees? …

The Angels and Yankees are in talks regarding a deal that would send Vernon Wells to the Bronx, an industry source confirmed to MLB.com on Sunday.

How much money is exchanged in the deal and who the Angels get back — if anyone — is still unknown. The Angels have not made any official announcements. Deals like this, with money changing hands and approval needed by MLB, usually have several hurdles to overcome. Last spring, the Angels and Indians talked extensively about a deal for Bobby Abreu that ultimately fell through.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported that the deal “could be done today.”

Wells has a full no trade clause and is owed $42 million over the next two seasons, but he comes into the season as the fifth outfielder in the depth chart — behind Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Josh Hamilton and designated hitter Mark Trumbo.

The 34-year-old outfielder, who has the day off on Sunday, has enjoyed a nice spring, batting .361 (13-for-36) with four homers and 11 RBIs. The Yankees have Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson slated to start the season on the disabled list.

If the deal does go through, it would relieve some of the pressure off Bourjos, who came in as the everyday center fielder but had some pressure to succeed early with Wells on the bench.

The Angels dangled Wells in the offseason, but weren’t able to find anyone willing to take on much of any of his contract in a trade.

Wells, who plans to retire after the 2014 season, has been very accepting of his role all spring, saying he understands he comes in as a reserve and just wants to fight for playing time.

“I put myself in this position,” Wells said early in spring. “Obviously, some guys played well last year. You have the most exciting player in the game in Mike Trout; Trumbo, who’s one of the most powerful guys in this league when it comes to hitting a baseball; you sign Josh Hamilton; and you have Peter. Peter deserves a chance. What he had to go through last year was far more difficult than what anybody had to go through, sitting and watching that entire time. There’s a lot of things at play. I understand that.”

With the Blue Jays from 2002-10, Wells posted a .279/.330/.478 slash line, won two Gold Gloves and made three All-Star teams. But he hasn’t been able to duplicate that success since coming to Anaheim, in a January 2011 deal that saw the Angels send Juan Rivera, Mike Napoli and $81 million of the $86 million owed to Wells.

Wells hit 25 homers in 2011, but posted the lowest batting average (.218) and on-base percentage (.248) in the Majors. He batted .244 with six homers in the first two months of 2012, then missed the next two months with thumb surgery and, with Trout producing, hardly played the rest of the way.

Alden Gonzalez

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