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Angels trade Jepsen to Rays for Joyce

The Angels traded homegrown reliever Kevin Jepsen to the Rays for outfielder Matt Joyce, the latest in a string of moves this offseason.

Joyce, a 30-year-old left-handed hitter with experience at both outfield corners, is one year away from free agency and projected to make roughly $5 million. Jepsen was in his third of four arbitration years and projected to make about $2.5 million.

Joyce has batted .252/.341/.428 over the last four years, hitting 63 homers, driving in 233 runs and stealing 26 bases while averaging 136 games in that stretch. On the Angels, Joyce projects as a fifth outfielder who can platoon with the right-handed-hitting C.J. Cron at designated hitter.

Jepsen, originally a second-round Draft pick by the Angels in 2002, is coming off a breakout season, one that saw the 30-year-old right-hander post a 2.63 ERA and strike out 10.4 batters per nine innings in 74 games. But on an Angels team with lots of right-handed-relief depth, Jepsen was no more than a seventh-inning guy, making him expendable in their quest to make up for the loss of Howie Kendrick.

With Jepsen gone, Fernando Salas and Mike Morin look like the leading candidates to take over the seventh inning.

– Alden Gonzalez

Angels acquire Rutledge from Rockies for RP Diaz …

Moments after sources confirmed an agreement to trade second baseman Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers for young starter Andrew Heaney, the Angels announced they had acquired infielder Josh Rutledge from the Rockies for relief-pitching prospect Jairo Diaz.

Rutledge will conceivably compete for the second-base job, which is now open.

The 25-year-old right-handed hitter has posted a .259/.308/.403 slash line in 266 games with the Rockies over the last three years, seeing action at shortstop, second base and, to a far lesser extent, third base.

Diaz, 23, is a converted catcher who posted a 3.18 ERA in five appearances for the Angels this past season.

– Alden Gonzalez

Dodgers, Angels swap Kendrick for Heaney

The Angels sent homegrown second baseman Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers for pitching prospect Andrew Heaney late Wednesday night, industry sources confirmed to MLB.com.

Heaney, 23, was acquired from the Marlins moments earlier in the deal that sent Dee Gordon to Miami. No cash is being exchanged in the deal, which is a straight one-for-one, a source said.

Kendrick has been with the Angels since being selected in the 10th round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, but was heading into his final year of free agency in 2015. Over the last five years, the 31-year-old has posted a .288/.332/.420 slash line with 56 homers and 62 stolen bases while averaging 145 games.

With Kendrick gone, the Angels have a hole at second base and still have a need for a utility infielder. But they freed up Kendrick’s $9.5 million salary for 2015 and now have a wealth of starting-pitching depth, with Heaney looking like the No. 7 starter in their depth chart.

Heaney pitched 29 1/3 innings in his rookie season with the Marlins, posting a 5.83 ERA, but has great stuff and has excelled in the Minors. Heaney had a 3.28 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and a 3.97 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Double-A and Triple-A this past season. In 2013, he had a 1.60 ERA in high A and Double-A.

– Alden Gonzalez

Teams still interested in trading for Angels infielders …

We forget, perhaps because it seems like so long ago that they were mentioned on the rumor mill, but second baseman Howie Kendrick and third baseman David Freese are still going into their final seasons before free agency and the Angels are still, at the very least, open minded about moving them.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said teams have expressed interest in his position players, particularly his infielders

“Nothing remarkable,” he added, “but there’s the chance for some opportunities.”

Dipoto’s focus is on acquiring a utility infielder via trade, but if another team makes an intriguing offer in a deal involving Freese or Kendrick — perhaps a frontline starter, though more players would probably have to get involved — it could get interesting.

“Our stance has never been, ‘We’re not moving anybody,'” Dipoto said. “Our stance is always, ‘The line’s open, we’re going to listen.’ There’s guys who are going to be much tougher for us to move than others. We are not in a rush to move our players. We feel like we have an average-to-better player on the field at every position, and to bust that out, it’s going to have to be a compelling reason. But if there’s a compelling reason, we will not hesitate. We will do what we feel makes the Angels a better team in the medium term and in the long term.”

So everybody is available, right?

Well, not Mike Trout.

Dipoto said he’s never even received a call about Trout. If a rival executive does call him about Trout, “I will just wait ’til they’re done and say no. I will opt not to be rude.”

Alden

Angels sign LH Scott Snodgress …

The Angels signed left-hander Scott Snodgress to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite on Wednesday.

Snodgress, 25, posted a 4.01 ERA in 29 games (21 starts) in the White Sox Double-A and Triple-A affiliates last year and made four Major League appearances, giving up four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. With the Angels, though, he’ll work as a reliever, competing for the final spot in their bullpen or joining the likes of Jeremy McBryde, Vinnie Pestano, Cam Bedrosian, Atahualpa Severino, Jairo Diaz and Dan Reynolds in Triple-A.

Snodgress was originally a fifth-round Draft pick by the White Sox in 2011 and has a 3.84 ERA in his four-year Minor League career. Last year, he held opposing left-handed hitters to a .536 OPS in the Minors.

“He’s 6-6, big-body guy with downhill angle and a low slot, and we saw a velocity spike once he went to the bullpen that made him an intriguing pickup as a Minor League free agent,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said.

– Alden Gonzalez

CJ Wilson generating some early interest

Angels starter C.J. Wilson can be had in a trade, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on Sunday. And industry sources said Monday that the veteran left-hander has generated some interest in the first day of the Winter Meetings.

At this point, though, a deal seems unlikely.

With so many starting pitchers available in free agency or via trade, and WIlson coming off his worst season as a starting pitcher, the Angels would have to eat a big chunk of the $38 million left in his deal over the next two years. And if they do trade Wilson, they would have to replace him.

The Angels are currently less than $10 million below the luxury-tax threshold and a Wilson trade could free up payroll flexibility to go after the top of the free-agent market. And with Jered Weaver now only two years away from free agency, a long-term contract could make sense.

But Wilson’s value probably won’t get any higher until those top-tier free agents come off the board.

Oh the irony.

– Alden Gonzalez

Cron could draw trade interest at Winter Meetings

The Angels had never really received much outside interest in C.J. Cron, with other clubs questioning his defense and whether his bat would play in the big leagues, but the 2014 Winter Meetings could change that.

Right-handed power is as coveted as ever these days, as evidenced by contracts signed by the likes of Nelson Cruz, Hanley Ramirez and Yasmany Tomas. And Cron impressed some in his rookie season this year, hitting 11 homers while posting an .892 OPS with runners in scoring position and handling himself better than expected at first base.

The Angels have Cron penciled in as their designated hitter for next season, but could trade him in an effort to acquire a utility infielder, left-handed reliever or perhaps even a starting pitcher without greatly impacting their lineup.

The Marlins, Padres, A’s, Royals, Orioles, Phillies, Brewers, Rays, Cardinals and Pirates are among the teams seeking a right-handed power bat like Cron, who finished 2014 with a .256/.289/.450 slash line in the Majors but has a .290/.337/.494 slash line in his Minor League career.

– Alden Gonzalez

Baldoquin deal expected to be finalized by New Year

Cuban middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin, who agreed to an $8 million signing bonus with the Angels in early November, is expected to obtain his visitor visa from the Dominican Republic by the end of December, an industry source said Monday.

Once Baldoquin obtains his visa, he can fly to the United States, take his physical and sign on the dotted line, a process that isn’t expected to last longer than 72 hours. The Angels haven’t commented on the agreement and can’t until it’s finalized.

Baldoquin, who turns 21 in May, would likely be invited to Major League Spring Training and could start the season in Double-A.

The right-handed hitter is deemed by some evaluators to already be capable of handling shortstop at the Major League level, but still needs to prove he can produce consistently at the plate. The Angels went after him aggressively because third baseman David Freese and second baseman Howie Kendrick are free agents at season’s end, with shortstop Erick Aybar slated for free agency after 2016.

The Angels — taxed 100 percent on the overage and unable to sign anybody for more than $300,000 for the next two international signing periods because of the Baldoquin agreement — likely won’t make another major addition in this international signing period.

– Alden Gonzalez

Extension with Huston Street possible …

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto picked up closer Huston Street’s $7 million club option for 2015 shortly after the World Series and may explore a contract extension with the 31-year-old right-hander before Opening Day.

Those talks, however, won’t occur until the start of Spring Training.

“In picking up his option for 2015, I told him we can talk about it when we get to Spring Training,” Dipoto told MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert from the General Managers Meetings in Phoenix on Tuesday. “We’ve made a habit out of whatever we’re doing for the coming season we’ll take care of after the New Year once we get to Spring Training and everybody is face-to-face rather than trying to piece things together over an offseason. And if something works out, great. If nothing works out, I’m sure he’s going to do just fine in the free market in 2016.”

Street, who features a plus changeup, has posted a 1.97 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and a 3.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio while converting 97 of his 103 save chances over the last three years. Another season like 2014 — 1.37 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 41 saves and an invitation to the All-Star Game — and Street could fetch major dollars on the free-agent market, which is why the Angels would love to lock him up before then.

After the 2015 season, the Angels will free up some money under the luxury-tax threshold with second baseman Howie Kendrick, catcher Chris Iannetta, third baseman David Freese and infielder Gordon Beckham headed for free agency. The Angels aren’t expected to engage in extension talks with any of those four players before the 2015 season. Kendrick and Freese are getting shopped this winter, and Beckham could be non-tendered in early December.

– Alden Gonzalez

Is there a trade market for David Freese? …

The General Managers’ Meetings, currently taking place in Phoenix, are usually considered an appetizer to the grander, more-eventful Winter Meetings of early December. But for Angels GM Jerry Dipoto, these next three days could be crucial in one respect: Gauging the trade market for third baseman David Freese.

The Angels will shop Freese, along with second baseman Howie Kendrick, in hopes of freeing up money and/or attaining some pitching. They also have until Dec. 2 to decide whether to tender Freese a contract for 2015. He’s due to make more than $6 million in his final year before free agency, so there’s a good chance the Angels could non-tender him — and perhaps try to resign him for a lower average annual value — if they don’t think the trade market for Freese is favorable.

The 31-year-old struggles against right-handed pitching and was replaced for defense late in games in his first year with the Angels, but he still posted a .260/.321/.383 slash line and a 103 OPS-plus at a position many teams struggle to get production from. He could have some suitors.

Alden Gonzalez

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