Results tagged ‘ Yankees ’
Here’s how it stacked up in combined wins …
AL East: 433
NL Central: 421
AL Central: 400
NL West: 399
NL East: 391
AL West: 387
And here’s where it ranked in run-differential …
AL East: 235
NL Central: 219
AL Central: 0
NL West: -137
AL West: -138
NL East: -179
But AL West teams have been particularly aggressive in the early portion of this offseason — and yes, it’s worth reminding all of you that it is, indeed, still early — which could make for an interesting dynamic in 2014, and should make the Angels’ return to the postseason that much tougher.
The Mariners just reeled in the biggest free agent of the offseason, snatching Robinson Cano from the Yankees via a reported 10-year, $240-million, Albert Pujols-like contract. No, they aren’t an instant contender. And as the Angels themselves have shown, throwing the most dollars at the best free agent in no way guarantees success. But this is an important building block for a Mariners team that has always struggled to land the big names (see: Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder). At some point, you have to overpay to lay a foundation (the Mets thought the same thing with Curtis Granderson). This reminds me of the Jayson Werth deal the Nationals made three offseasons ago. It was a vast overpay at seven years and $126 million. But at that time, it was the only way the Nats were going to land a premier free agent. Adding Werth — even if he isn’t a star to the magnitude of Cano — changed the expectations in Washington and ultimately helped make it a place where free agents wanted to play. Same can happen in Seattle, where the Mariners are showing a willingness to spend. And if they trade for David Price — they have the prospects to do it — watch out.
In the words of one executive, “The A’s may have one of the best bullpens in history.” It’s not much of an exaggeration when you consider that they added Luke Gregerson to a group that includes Jim Johnson, Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins, Sean Doolittle, etc. Their rotation — Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily, Sonny Gray, in whatever order — is darn good, as well. But here’s the most important part about the current A’s: After back-to-back exits in the Division Series, they’re going for it. You don’t trade for one season of Johnson, flip a talented prospect (Michael Choice) for Craig Gentry or give Kazmir a two-year, $22 million contract if you aren’t.
Then there are the Rangers, who you just know have another big more or two in them. I actually liked the Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler deal for them (and loved it for the Tigers). They’re paying Fielder $138 million over the next seven years, which is very reasonable for a guy whose home-run rate will inflate in Texas and who gives them the middle-of-the-order bat they’ve been missing since Hamilton left. Over the last four years, the Rangers have the third-best regular-season winning percentage in the Majors (.570, trailing only the Yankees and Braves) and have been to the World Series twice. They had the 10th-best staff ERA in baseball last year, and they surely aren’t done.
Even the Astros have made some moves. They reached agreement on a three-year, $30 million deal with starter Scott Feldman — a guy the Angels would’ve liked, but not for three years — and previously traded for former Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler. They were easily dead last in 2013 in winning percentage (.315) and run-differential (minus-238), so they’re a ways away. But they have the second-best farm system in the Majors, per Baseball America, and they’re on their way.
What does all this mean for the Angels?
Well, nothing. At least not now.
They have about $15 million and some trade chips — Howie Kendrick still chief among them — to fill two spots in their starting rotation. They still have baseball’s best player in Mike Trout, two premier superstars in Pujols and Hamilton, two legit starters at the top of their rotation in Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, and a bullpen that can be among the deepest in baseball if Sean Burnett returns to full health. If they can sign someone like Matt Garza, they’re no doubt a legit playoff contender, regardless of how bad this past season turned out for them.
But their competition just keeps getting better.
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.
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
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) …
Pitching: RH Garrett Richards (3-4, 4.20 ERA)
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.
Here’s what Nelson Cruz‘s two former teammates on the Angels had to say about today’s news that Cruz joined 12 other players — most notably Alex Rodriguez — in getting suspended due to their links to the now-defunct “wellness clinic” in Miami …
On his initial thoughts: “I’m very surprised. It’s one of those things, you know. You’re teammates, you spend a lot of time with him. Some guys keep certain parts of their lives to themselves. Take from what you see. Nellie was always a good teammate. I enjoyed playing with him and enjoyed having him in the locker room. I saw his statement that he made a mistake. I’ve made plenty of those.
On whether he feels differently about him now: “We’ve all made mistakes. Some people’s mistakes are different than others and some are the same. He made a poor decision, and now he’s gong to deal with consequences.”
On guys always cheating the system: “People will always be trying to beat the system no matter what. All we can is Major League Baseball and the Players’ Union get together to try to prevent that. But there will always be those few who will try to do it.”
On this being a stain on the game: “I think the big to-do earlier in the 2000′s was a process of getting that out of the game, and this is part of that process.”
On whether the suspensions are long enough: “It’s not for me to decide. It’s for Major League Baseball and the [MLBPA] to decide.”
On whether he accepts Cruz’s statement: “I was there last year and I saw him when he came to Spring Training and what he looked like. I asked the same questions everyone else did. ‘What happened?’ ‘How did you get sick?’ There was nothing he said to me that made me question anything.”
C.J. Wilson (also the Angels’ MLBPA rep)
On constantly talking about this: “Hopefully this is the last press conference we have to have; this is the last scandal for the game. I think it’s good they’re getting all this stuff out of the way. It’s a uniform thing, everybody is taking their suspensions except for that other guy, and hopefully we can move on from this. It’s sad that playoff races are impacted by players who used PEDs, but this is the nature of the beast.”
“I think the issue centers around greed. If anybody says it’s something else, they’re not telling the truth. The players want to do well because they want to get bigger contracts. That money they earn is tainted, just like their statistics are. Hopefully we can take this as a lesson, for everybody watching, all the clean players, that we’re cleaning up the game and getting rid of the incentive to do this stuff.”
On this affecting playoff-bound teams: “It affects everybody. Think about that series we just had against Texas. Nelson did really well, and he’s not available for this series. Is the playing field level? I don’t know. You can’t take away wins he’s created through his contributions, but this is the way the game is right now. You hope with the suspension of Rodriguez also that we’ve found a level playing field for the clean players.”
“We need the greed to stop. I’ve accepted the fact I’m not a $300-million player, God didn’t bless me with that. I’m dealing with regular-guy stuff and trying to compete, and that’s the way it is for the rest of the guys in this dugout. You’re dealt a certain hand and you have to play that. Stop being a baby and move on.”
On whether he’s happy with the process: “I think there’s less people slipping through the cracks than 10 years ago. Other sports don’t have the frequency or accuracy of testing that we do.”
On Cruz specifically: “It’s hard to make character judgments of people when you don’t know all the circumstances. I’ve known Nelson for many years, always thought he was a great guy and teammate, but at this point, he’s a competitor, on the other team, so it’s immaterial what I think. He got hits off me and I’m [ticked] off about that.”
“If you really look at it, it’s a small percentage of players who are cheating, and that’s getting weeded out culturally. We’re getting into an issue of ethics. You’re never going to have perfect people. They can’t follow the rules.”
On whether he’s relieved it didn’t affect the Angels: “It’s affected our team. We’ve played against these guys. They’ve all hit home runs against us, struck us out, and we’re not happy about that. We’re hoping this would happen sooner rather than later to give us a chance to play against the clean guys.
On the A-Rod ordeal: “I think it’s going to end in a 30 for 30 special. It’s a saga. Always has been for him. He’s been in spotlight for 20 years. Nothing is gonna change that. He has one of those polarizing personalities that people are going to be drawn to. People will think he’s a villain no matter what he does. This latest chapter just gives further fuel to the fire that he’s made bad decisions. The whole appeal process is kind of curious. I don’t even know how the Yankees fans are going to react. When he goes to Boston, other cities, gonna be rough. But good for the game that they’re finally getting him on something. All these press conferences, Good Morning America, 20-20, enough of that, let’s just play some baseball and stop trying to be a role model.”
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.”
SP: LH Andy Pettitte (5-3, 3.82 ERA)
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.
Mike Scioscia — his club 26-34, coming off losing five of six to the Astros and Cubs, and entering a brutal nine-game stretch against the Red Sox, Orioles and Yankees — made some drastic changes to his lineup for Game 1 of Saturday’s split doubleheader. Mike Trout is back at leadoff, Josh Hamilton is batting second for the first time in six years, Howie Kendrick has moved up to fifth and Erick Aybar is at the No. 8 spot.
Here, I’ll simplify it for you: This is all about Hamilton, and trying to find some way to get him going.
Will he get better pitches to hit simply because he’s batting between Trout and Albert Pujols (starting at designated hitter)?
Probably not. But it certainly won’t hurt.
Is this the kind of change that can finally get him going?
Who knows. But, hey, why not?
“It’s something we’ve talked about for the last couple weeks and it’s the lineup we talked about before,” Scioscia said. “Right now, it’d be a good spot for Josh to hit between Mike and Albert, and hopefully get him into a different neighborhood. We need Josh to get it going, and it might be something that can spark him.”
Hamilton heads into Saturday’s split doubleheader with a .216/.278/.383 slash line, with eight homers, 18 RBIs and 62 strikeouts in 59 games. He’s made six previous starts in the No. 2 spot, and all of them came during his rookie year of 2007, when the Reds simply had no idea what they’d get from Hamilton.
The Angels have tried everything with their slumping, $125 million slugger. On April 22, he batted fifth against a lefty. On April 30, he began to hit fifth against everybody. And on three separate occasions — May 4, May 18 and June 3 — he was given a day off to clear his head. Recently, he and hitting coach Jim Eppard talked about going back to his pregame routine of 2010.
Now, he’s batting second.
“If you’re looking at what makes sense on paper, obviously you’d want Josh somewhere in the middle of your lineup, but that’s not what we’re dealing with right now,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully with the emergence of Mark [Trumbo] and the emergence of Howie swinging like they can, we’ll be able to keep the middle of the lineup where we need it, and just give Josh a chance to get into a comfort zone where he is.”
Here are the full lineups for Game 1 …
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
J.B. Shuck, LF
SP: Tommy Hanson (2-2, 4.19 ERA)
Red Sox (37-24)
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Daniel Nava, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Mike Carp, LF
Stephen Drew, SS
Jose Iglesias, 3B
SP: Felix Doubront (4-2, 4.88 ERA)
Have hitters figured out Ernesto Frieri? — @Tyrexsmith
I think we’re past the point of wondering if hitters have “figured out” Frieri. Frieri’s fastball is the kind of pitch that can be dominant if he’s locating it and commanding it well, regardless of how many times you’ve seen it. But it isn’t Mariano Rivera‘s cutter. He’ll hit some rough patches throughout the year, like he did in the second half last season, but still has the stuff to be an effective closer. He hasn’t been lately, giving up six earned runs in his last 5 1/3 innings, but it’s part of the ebbs and flows for a guy who never pitched in a prominent role until arriving here.
“He’s been a little bit erratic his last couple outings, but before then, this guy’s been terrific,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after Wednesday’s 4-3 win. “He’s gotten four-out saves for us, he’s done whatever we’ve asked him to do, and he’ll be there for us. Last couple outing’s it’s just he’s got behind a couple and hit some bats.”
* On Wednesday night, Frieri became the first Angels pitcher ever to earn a one-inning save despite giving up two home runs.
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.
Starters: 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?
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)
Plenty. 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.
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.