Results tagged ‘ Zack Greinke ’
The 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 …
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
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
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?
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.
The Angels, in case you missed it, had quite the turnover this offseason. I knew that. But it didn’t really hit me until today, when I decided to compile a list of all the guys who are on a new team this spring. Below are nine of them — with Jason Isringhausen still in limbo — to catch you up on how 2012 Angels look heading into 2013 …
RF Torii Hunter (DET)
Numbers: .207 BA (6-for-29), 1 HR, 2 RBI
SP Zack Greinke (LAD)
Numbers: 3.60 ERA (2 ER, 5 IP), 3 K, 1 BB
Notes: Greinke missed Sunday’s bullpen session with minor forearm tightness and missed Wednesday’s start because of the flu, but he had an impressive bullpen session on Friday. Earlier in the spring, Greinke went into his social-anxiety disorder and his decision to sign with the Dodgers.
SP Dan Haren (WAS)
Numbers: 0-1, 3.60 ERA (2 ER, 5 IP), 5 K, 1 BB
Notes: Haren felt “a lot of good stuff” came out of his last outing. Last year, he said, “I didn’t trust myself.” Haren was involved in a prank-call this spring. Somebody made Peter Bourjos‘ cell phone ring in a pre-workout meeting — he suspected Mark Trumbo or Jered Weaver, or both — and the person on the other end was Haren, who was put on speaker phone so he could briefly talk with all of his ex-teammates.
SP Ervin Santana (KCR)
Numbers: 1.80 ERA (1 ER, 5 IP), 6 K, 1 BB
Notes: At $13 million, Santana is the highest-paid player on the Royals this year. They’re counting on a bounceback year.
DH Kendrys Morales (SEA)
Numbers: .320 BA (8-for-25), 2 HR, 4 RBI
Notes: Now that he has a full season under his belt after that devastating ankle injury, Morales can finally just have a normal spring. That’s big, given that this is his walk year.
INF Maicer Izturis (TOR)
Numbers: .160 BA (4-for-25), 1 RBI
Notes: Not a good start for Izturis, since he’s going to be fighting for playing time.
RP Jordan Walden (ATL)
Numbers: 1 IP, 4 R (1 ER), 3 H, 0 SO, 0 BB
Notes: Walden hasn’t appeared in a game since Feb. 23 due to a bulging disk in his back. He received an epidural injection in Atlanta on Wednesday, and if he continues to progress, he could throw off a mound again this weekend.
RP LaTroy Hawkins (NYM)
Numbers: 1 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 SO, 0 BB
Notes: Hawkins is 40 years old and now, after signing a Minor League deal with the Mets this offseason, has a good chance to make an Opening Day roster with his 10th different team.
C Bobby Wilson (NYY)
Numbers: .167 BA (2-for-12)
Notes: Some of you may be surprised to see he’s even on the Yankees. Wilson was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays early in the offseason, but was released in late November and signed with the Yankees on a Minor League deal a couple weeks later. He’ll be in Triple-A, but with not much talent in front of him — Austin Romine, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart — perhaps he can win playing time.
Everything is fuzzy this time of year, with the start of Spring Training around the corner and the regular-season grind still about six weeks away.
But looking at the Angels’ roster, two things seem certain: The offense is very potent and the starting pitching is quite questionable.
Funny thing is, it could’ve easily been in reverse, or perhaps a little more balanced. In fact, there were two instances this offseason when general manager Jerry Dipoto reached a fork in the road and made a decision that, perceivably, worked to improve the offense and sacrificed some starting pitching.
With pitchers and catchers reporting to Tempe, Ariz., in three days, I thought it’d be a good time to look at those two crucial decisions. I’m not suggesting they were the wrong choices; I just feel they’re worth examining. Because depending on where the Angels are come October, they may be something to point to.
Here they are …
Josh Hamilton over Zack Greinke: When Dipoto scoffed at Greinke’s concrete contractual demands on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, we thought it signaled the return to a payroll in the $135- to $140-million range. What we didn’t find out until a few weeks later was that at a certain price point, Dipoto preferred Hamilton over Greinke, and that Hamilton — at least in the words of several members of the Angels’ front office — was the one guy owner Arte Moreno was willing to “blow up” the budget for, putting it back at about $150 million.
Greinke wound up getting an average annual value of $24.5 million on a six-year deal with the Dodgers; Hamilton got a $25 million AAV on a five-year deal. Yes, it adds up to $22 million more in total value for Greinke, but I don’t think that was the main motivating factor here. Dipoto’s thinking was that signing Hamilton was a two-for-one — it improved their offense and allowed them to improve a pitching staff that at that point could use it.
But Greinke is, in many ways, an ace; a guy who would’ve continued to form a standout one-two punch with Jered Weaver at the top of the rotation, which always sets up nicely for the playoffs.
Not trading Mark Trumbo and/or Peter Bourjos: In some ways, this was yet another offense-for-pitching sacrifice by the Angels’ front office. By trading Kendrys Morales to the Mariners for lefty starter Jason Vargas — two pending free agents — the lineup would be more fluid. Trumbo would be the designated hitter most days, but would also readily fill in at first base and right field to give Hamilton and Albert Pujols a blow. That’s big, given the amount of money owed to those two 30-something sluggers, and it’s a big improvement over what was mostly a cluttered position-player roster last spring.
But what if trading Trumbo and/or Bourjos, two cost-controlled outfielders teams covet more than Morales, could’ve landed the Angels an even better, cost-controlled, top-of-the-rotation starter — maybe a Jeremy Hellickson-type?
Shortly after flipping Morales for Vargas, and keeping Trumbo and Bourjos, Dipoto said: “That was very much a part of the plan. Dating back to the start of this offseason, and even as we were trailing towards the end of the 2012 season, it’s been a priority for us to keep as much of our young nucleus in place as possible.”
Maybe it was, and maybe Dipoto also didn’t like the potential returns he was seeing for Trumbo/Bourjos. Whatever the case, the Angels head into the 2013 season with arguably the best lineup in baseball, but a far less heralded rotation — though, to be fair, also one that eats innings and tailors very well to its surroundings with lots of fly-ball pitchers.
Come October, we’ll know how those decisions really worked out.
I wrote Wednesday about the Angels’ rotation, which is seemingly the only uncertain, less-than-stellar department of the 2013 team. The down-the-stretch trio of Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana is being replaced by Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton, a new trio that costs less but should put more pressure on the revamped bullpen and a stellar offense.
But here’s one other thing worth noting about this less-sexy rotation: It’ll absorb a plentiful amount of innings, perhaps more so than that of any other club in the American League.
Consider the averages of each of the five starters …
- Jered Weaver (2007-12): 200 IP
- C.J. Wilson (2010-12): 210 IP
- Vargas (2010-12): 204 IP
- Hanson (2010-12): 169 IP
- Blanton (05-12): 178 IP
Put another way: The Angels have a realistic chance of having five starters throw at least 170 innings in 2013. No other AL team was able to boast that in 2012. In fact, nine of the 14 clubs didn’t have more than two starters account for 170-plus frames (the Twins and playoff-bound Orioles only had one; the Angels, Rays and Yankees were the only ones with four).
Weaver (6.4), Wilson (6.1), Vargas (6) and Blanton (6.2) have each averaged at least six innings per start throughout their careers, while Hanson is at 5.9. So, if the quintet of Weaver, Wilson, Hanson, Vargas and Blanton stay healthy all year (a big “if” in every circumstance, of course), Angels starters will have absorbed about 991 innings combined, based on each of their career track records.
In 2012, 991 innings from a starting rotation would’ve ranked seventh in the Majors and fourth in the AL, behind only the Mariners, Yankees and Rays.
Yes, the Angels currently have just one — maybe two, if Wilson regroups — ace-like starter capable of single-handedly halting losing streaks and altering a short playoff series. But there’s something to be said about starters consistently pitching deep into games. It repeatedly gives an offense as potent as the Angels’ a chance to win, and it means a strong bullpen won’t have to account for so many innings.
It’s why Blanton doesn’t find the term “innings-eater” insulting.
“I’m fine with that, honestly,” said Blanton, who has actually averaged 198 innings since ’05 if you discount an injury-riddled 2011.
“In my personal opinion, I don’t feel like you throw 180, 190, 200 innings without being able to go deep into games. Just taking the ball every fifth day, if you weren’t getting the job done, you’d be done every five innings, and in 30 starts, that’s 150 innings. So you still have to go deep into games, and be successful enough and keep a team in the game enough to be able to rack up those innings.”
The Angels also have a little more overall starting-pitching depth than they entered with last season.
The high-upside Garrett Richards and the capable Jerome Williams, both of whom were competing for the fifth spot last spring, are now insurance policies; as are the likes of Brad Mills, Barry Enright and the two Minor League signings, Jo-Jo Reyes and Billy Buckner.
“The likelihood of having five starters go post-to-post and not miss a day is unlikely; it doesn’t happen very often,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “So you want to have that depth.”
Whatever the Angels’ rotation lacks in prestige is made up for in numbers — as in the number of innings absorbed and the number of viable arms.
I’ve made the mistake of believing the Angels were done before. So when general manager Jerry Dipoto, speaking shortly after trading Kendrys Morales for Jason Vargas, says “in all likelihood” he’s done making major moves this offseason, I’m naturally skeptical. But, yeah, barring a low-risk addition or two to the bullpen, probably via Minor League deals, this essentially puts a bow on Dipoto’s offseason. Seriously this time.
In my opinion, it was a very successful one for the Angels’ second-year GM.
With a very similar payroll (about $160 million), and a ridiculously expensive free agent market, Dipoto was able to add yet another weapon to an already-dangerous lineup, greatly improve a thin bullpen and build more starting-pitching depth. (Here’s an updated depth chart.) Granted, the rotation is nowhere near as heralded as it was at the start of last season, but it is solid and a lot more payroll-efficient.
We could go on forever about whether or not it was better to sign Zack Greinke (six years, $147 million) or Josh Hamilton (five years, $125 million). Frankly, I’m not sure. Greinke’s risk is greater, in some ways, because he’s a pitcher and it’s an extra year. In a vacuum, and if we’re factoring out that sixth year, it comes down to whether you prefer Greinke and Morales or Hamilton and Vargas.
But you can’t analyze offseasons like that because they never play out in linear fashion. It’s like the butterfly effect; each move is dependent on the other. Skipping out on Greinke allowed Dipoto to get Joe Blanton and Sean Burnett, adding them to the additions of Tommy Hanson and Ryan Madson. Then he got Hamilton, which allowed him to then flip Morales for Vargas. Had he delved into a bidding war with the Rangers and Dodgers for Greinke, perhaps he would’ve been stuck with nothing (look at the Rangers right now).
Basically, the 2012 septet of Morales, Greinke, Dan Haren, Torii Hunter, Ervin Santana, Jordan Walden and LaTroy Hawkins is being replaced by the 2013 septet of Bourjos, Hamilton, Blanton, Vargas, Hanson, Madson and Burnett. If we’re going by Wins Above Replacement, as interpreted by FanGraphs.com, the Angels improved this offseason.
Here’s a look at each player’s WAR from this past season …
Bourjos (from 2011): 4.5
Madson (’11): 1.7
Too long for Twitter, too short for a story …
* Joe Blanton and Sean Burnett are scheduled to undergo their physical examinations on Tuesday and their two-year contracts are expected to be official by Wednesday.
* Blanton’s deal will pay him $6.5 million in 2013 and $7.5 million in 2014, plus an $8 million club option (and $1 million buyout). The 31-year-old right-hander can also make an extra $500,000 each year for reaching 200 innings. Burnett signed a two-year, $8 million contract with a $4.5 million club option for 2015 (with a $500,000 buyout).
* Zack Greinke‘s six-year, $147 million deal with the Dodgers has been finalized. His press conference will take place Tuesday, at 1:30 p.m. PT, at Dodger Stadium. It’ll be streamed live on Dodgers.com, too.
* The first workout for Angels pitchers and catchers is Feb. 12. The first full-squad workout will take place Feb. 15. You can see the full Cactus League schedule here.
* Major League Baseball Advanced Media and StubHub.com announced a new five-year deal on Monday, but the Angels, Yankees and Cubs backed out of that extension. The Angels seek an alternative partnership in the secondary ticket market and are expected to announce a new deal soon.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia met with the media from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday, the final full day of the Winter Meetings. With the pitching market moving slowly — and likely staying that way until Zack Greinke chooses his destination — the Angels haven’t addressed their final rotation and bullpen need, and there are still no indications that they’ll do so before heading back West.
In a wide-ranging interview, Scioscia talked about the Angels’ pursuit of Greinke — who he hasn’t talked to since the end of the regular season, the addition of Ryan Madson, the new-look outfield, Mike Trout‘s future spot in the outfield and Vernon Wells‘ limited role.
Here are the highlights …
Any sense you guys will be able to do something today?
Well, you know, there’s a lot of things that Jerry [Dipoto] is working on, and I think the important thing about this time of year is really not only who you’re targeting but the contingencies. Those guys have put a lot of time in and a lot of effort into getting us ready to go whatever direction negotiations take you, whatever direction these Winter Meetings take you. We’re very, very comfortable and confident in the team that we’re going to have. I think there are already some things that were vastly improved on from where we were in September. We’ll see where this leads.
Any concerns from a rotation standpoint, numbers and maybe some of the quality, as we get through right now?
Well, we have right now a couple good guys to build around when you talk about Jered [Weaver] and you talk about C.J. [Wilson]. Obviously there’s some young guys coming up, guys like Garrett [Richards] that are obviously going to have opportunities, Jerome Williams. But when you talk about the Greinkes, you talk about a lot of the other pitchers that are still out there right now with some question marks as to are they going to be part of your team or not, you know, there are things you have to prepare for.
So yeah, starting rotation is obviously the heartbeat of your club, and I know that Jerry is putting a lot of time and effort into it. And I think as we’re waiting for that to hopefully develop and get solidified, there have been some great additions that we’re very, very excited about.
What dialogue, if any, have you had with Zack over the winter or maybe in the last week or two?
The dialogue is really going to be between Jerry and his agent. I think Zack was very comfortable here at the end of last year, pitched very, very good baseball for us. Free agency is complicated. Right now we’re at a stage where I don’t know if there’s as much clarity as there are in some other areas that are going on, but he’s certainly a guy that I know that they’re talking to.
So have you talked to him at all?
I talked to Zack at the end of the season.
Even if you solidify the pitching staff the way you want, would you still consider it a disappointment if Greinke isn’t part of it?
I don’t know if you ever are going to say, well, this is disappointing and that’s disappointing. You want to see what direction negotiations take your team and what direction Winter Meetings take your team. I think we’re going to have a strong rotation with or without Zack. Naturally we’d like Zack to be part of it because we saw where he was and what he did for us last year, but if it plays out that way, then obviously that’s important. If it doesn’t go that way, I think there are some names that Jerry is certainly ‑‑ there’s some names that he’s in negotiations with that hopefully are going to take our rotation where it needs to be.
How do you feel about the bullpen right now?
I think it’s terrific. I think that when you look at a guy like Madson and you look at adding him to what [Ernesto] Frieri did and [Kevin Jepsen's] development, and you look at [Scott] Downs, there are so many situations where we didn’t hold leads the way we needed to last season. And I think going into this year, if everyone hits the ground running as far as our bullpen, we’re going to hold leads at a much better rate, and that’s going to definitely influence where we finish our standings.
If he’s healthy, is Madson the closer?
Well, there’s no doubt that he wants to be and has the potential to be. But I don’t think we have to make that determination right now. I think that where Ryan is is certainly one factor. Where Ernie is, if you look at Scott Downs who had saves last year, where Kevin Jepsen is, our bullpen is much deeper right now, and that’s encouraging. It’s always easier when that one guy emerges and can be the closer. If that is what materializes, great; if it doesn’t, then we’re going to hold leads in different ways and have the good arms to do it.
How will the loss of Torii Hunter impact your team on and off the field?
There’s no doubt it impacts our club. I think when you lose a presence in the clubhouse ‑‑ I think we have plenty of guys in the clubhouse that are a presence, and they’ll absorb that. I think what we have to carve out is that No. 2 spot that Torii just fit like a glove. He took that role and he just ran with it and got back to his roots of being a young player coming up and getting into a situational game and played at a high level for us. That’s what we have to, I think, be able to replicate, and hopefully we will.
What are you thinking for the 2-hole?
There’s a lot of guys we can revisit, but I think if you look at where Erick [Aybar] was and where Howie [Kendrick] was as they moved on in the season and got more comfortable, there’s certainly going to be some spots for that. Where we end up at the end of these Meetings and going into Spring Training will have a lot to do with who’s going to hit in the No. 2 spot.
Do you still have Trout leading off next year?
There’s definitely things that we’ve talked about. If you look at Mike Trout and where he can hit, he can hit anywhere from 1 to 4 in your lineup. Where you’re going to get the most production from Mike, he fell right into lead‑off hole and was just natural, but you certainly want to set the table for Mike, and I think as a lead‑off hitter, there’s certainly an argument to saying how much are your 8 and 9 guys getting on for Mike to be able to justify putting him in that spot. He might be suited to hit second in your lineup if you had the right combination.
I think there’s a lot of lineups that you can roll around right now. I think the one thing with Mike that was incredible was really the number of RBIs he had or really maybe not getting as many opportunities as some guys, and that’s something you would definitely explore when you’re putting lineups together.
What do you think [Peter] Bourjos can do offensively?
I think Peter had a good 2011 for us. If you look at how he did particularly in the second half where his on‑base percentage improved, I think you saw some power evolve. Pete’s obviously a presence in the outfield, but he still needs to bring us some offense, which he’s definitely capable of doing.
There’s some people that may not have seen a lot of Bourjos that go, ‘Hey, you have somebody that’s a better center fielder than Mike Trout?’
I think Mike has the tools to play an incredible level of center field, and with experience I think you’ll see Mike improve on some things as a center fielder. Not that he was really deficient, but you’re going to see some routes that are going to be cleaner. It just happens with experience. Peter had a little more time to play in the Minor Leagues and work on some things and is probably a little more polished in center field right now than Mike. And I think that says more about Peter’s ability than it does to say any deficiency that Mike has, because Mike Trout is a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. But Peter plays to a special level.
I’m assuming you will play him at left, Peter in center? What is the overall reason you would say, one or two reasons, and is there something to be said for exposing Mike a little less to some of the rigors defensively?
I don’t think that’s as much to where you think the pieces fit that give you the best defensive look you can have. You know, Peter is very polished on stopping at first and third, he’s got incredible range at center field he’s going to play, and there’s some things from a center fielder look that Peter is going to give you that gives you a chance to have a really dynamic outfield if that’s the way it plays out. Mike in left field and Peter in center, especially in our park, are going to give you range plus out there, and you know, we’ll see how things unfold.
If your question is taking pressure off of Mike going to be one of the reasons why we would go with that alignment, I’d say no. I’d say he can play center field every day. We wouldn’t shy away from that if that’s going to make us a better team.
What do you think you can get out of Vernon Wells this year?
Well, you know, Vernon is a guy that we’ve seen struggle for a couple years. I talked to Vernon over the winter about it. I think that for him to find his comfort zone and get into his game, he’s a guy that’s much more talented than he’s shown in the last couple years. Part of him was slowed a little bit with the groin injury in ’11, and then last season with the thumb. It’s been frustrating not only for Vernon but for us as a staff because of the talent. You still see the bat speed there. You see a guy that can play at a higher level, and you know, we’ll see where Vernon is. But he’s been very frustrated, also.
I keep getting questions about the 2013 payroll and how much money Jerry Dipoto can spend on starting pitching, but it’s hard to give a definite answer because the Angels won’t publicly say where they project it.
As I’ve written all along, though, my best assumption for 2013 — based on conversations with others, and simply the Angels’ approach thus far — is that they’ll be somewhere between $140 and $145 million; maybe a little less, maybe a little more. It won’t be $159 million like last year.
If that ends up being the case, it leaves them with less than you might think.
Here’s a breakdown, with a little help from The Count …
* The Angels owe just over $96 million to the following eight players: Vernon Wells, Jered Weaver, Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Chris Iannetta and Scott Downs.
* Ryan Madson, the ninth signed player, could make somewhere between $3.5 million and $7 million. Let’s assume, for the purposes of this exercise, that he makes $6 million — easily attainable if healthy. That puts them at $102 million.
* The Angels paid $3.5 million to buy out Dan Haren‘s option, and they paid the Royals $1 million in sending Ervin Santana to Kansas City. That’s now roughly $107 million (we’ll round up).
* The Angels will tender contracts to all four of their arbitration-eligible players. If we’re using MLBTradeRumors.com’s arbitration projections — about as accurate as you can find — that puts Kendrys Morales ($4.8 million), Alberto Callaspo ($4.2 million), Jerome Williams ($1.9 million) and Kevin Jepsen ($1.1 million) at a combined $12 million. Now we’re looking at about $119 million.
* You’d think that leaves them with somewhere between $21 to $26 million based on the earlier payroll projection, right? Well, you have to account for everyone else. I’ve currently listed 13 active players the Angels are accounting for on their 25-man roster. Let’s say they sign two starters and nothing more. That’s 15, leaving them with 10 players who make the Major League minimum because they’re between zero to three years of service time. Those contracts are usually about $500,000, so that’s an additional $5 million, putting them at $124 million.
If we bump that up to $125 million — some of the arbitration guys may get a little more; the Angels may pay Mike Trout a little extra after his near-MVP season — that leaves them with $15 to $20 million, if my payroll projection holds true. I’ve been told the Angels likely won’t be paying Zack Greinke $150 million on a six-year contract (an average of $25 million a year), and perhaps you can see why based on this breakdown. Will he really get that much? That’s the big question. Are they out on Greinke? I wouldn’t go that far just yet.
But the Angels need two starters, and if Greinke prices himself out of Anaheim, the alternate route could be to sign one mid-rotation starter, one innings-eater and more relievers.
Obligatory PSA: The current payroll is a rough estimation, and the payroll projection is an educated guess. I’m just trying to provide as clear a picture as I can. We won’t know for sure until the offseason concludes — and as last year showed, anything can happen.