Jason Vargas is officially a free agent, with no ties to Draft-pick compensation, and the Angels will face some stiff competition.
They’ve made it clear to Vargas for quite some time that they’d like to bring him back, but the remaining holes on their roster and the lack of wiggle-room on their payroll give them little desire to overpay.
And Vargas – as most free agents tend to do – opted to wait out the five-day, exclusive negotiating window to delve into a thin free-agent class of starters, all of whom were free to talk with other teams as of 9:01 p.m. PT on Monday.
“We obviously have interest in having Jason back,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said when reached by phone Monday night, though he opted not to go into further details. “This is the process, and it’s playing itself out, and we’ll honor that. Obviously Jason earned the right to see what was out there in free agency. We’ll maintain a rhetoric with him and do have interest in him returning. I think it’s a mutual interest.”
In the end, it may come down to one element: The third year.
MLBTradeRumors.com predicted a three-year, $28.5 million contract for Vargas. But the Angels are hesitant to go a third year and at this point don’t seem willing to approach an average annual value of $10 million with the 30-year-old left-hander, considering he projects as a fourth starter in their rotation.
Vargas will no doubt hold out for something better. But keep in mind that just last season, only five starting pitchers – Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse and Jeremy Guthrie – garnered extensions longer that two years. And while Vargas has been a steady, mid-rotation starter over the last four season, he isn’t considered among the top handful of available arms despite a thin free-agent class.
The Angels didn’t tender Vargas the one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer because there was little doubt in their mind that he would accept it, and they’d be too close to the luxury-tax threshold if he did.
More info here.
– Alden Gonzalez
With one hour and 25 minutes left before the 1 p.m. PT non-waiver Trade Deadline, it looked like Howie Kendrick will not be switching teams.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com first reported that the Angels are “likely to keep Kendrick” because they can’t find the right match for a starting pitcher, and a source familiar with the team’s thinking echoed that sentiment to MLB.com, saying it “appears” the veteran second baseman will stay put for the time being.
Kendrick’s agent, Larry Reynolds, said at 11:44 a.m. PT that he has not heard a word from the Angels about a potential trade or waiving his no-trade clause (Kendrick’s deal allows him to block a trade to 12 teams in 2013).
But (and this is worth repeating often) things change very quickly this time of year, and the Angels are definitely interested in using Kendrick as a chip to attain cost-controlled starting pitching. The Dodgers, Royals and Blue Jays were linked to Kendrick by ESPN’s Jim Bowden on Wednesday.
If not now, they’ll likely try again in the offseason.
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels are unlikely to part ways with shortstop Erick Aybar, an industry source told MLB.com late Tuesday night, but second baseman Howie Kendrick remains in play.
The Angels and Cardinals engaged in brief talks for Aybar, as Jim Bowden of ESPN first reported, but it was the Cardinals that approached the Angels first and the talks quickly faded, according to a source. The Angels are trying to acquire cost-controlled starting pitching but would prefer not to trade Aybar because a shortstop is much more difficult to replace.
Kendrick, however, can block deals to 12 different teams in 2013 (whereas Aybar’s contract doesn’t have any no-trade protection).
Earlier on Tuesday, the Angels flipped third baseman Alberto Callaspo to the A’s for Minor League infielder Grant Green. The deal saved about $6 million in salary through 2014, which they can allocate towards starting pitching, and gave them an option to replace Kendrick if he’s traded.
As of late Tuesday night, though, the Angels weren’t close on any deals involving their homegrown second baseman, who notched his 1,000th career hit in the Angels’ 14-11 walk-off loss to the Rangers.
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels have traded third baseman Alberto Callaspo to the A’s in exchange for Minor League infielder Grant Green, sources confirmed to MLB.com on Tuesday night.
Callaspo is expected to play second base for the A’s, who have Josh Donaldson at third. He was pulled from Tuesday’s game at Rangers Ballpark in the top of the sixth, and at about the same time, infielder Chris Nelson was pulled from a game in Triple-A Salt Lake. It looks like he’ll be taking Callaspo’s place on the 25-man roster.
This trade could set up another deal, as Green can play both middle-infield positions — he’s played mostly shortstop in the Minor Leagues — and Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick have been heavily discussed over the last couple of days.
Green, 25, made his Major League debut for Oakland this year, ultimately appearing in five games and going 0-for-15. He isn’t considered a very good defender, but he posted a .325/.379/.500 slash line in 87 games for the A’s Triple-A affiliate. He, too, was removed from the game on Tuesday night.
Callaspo is signed through next year, making $4.875 million in 2014.
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels have expressed mild interest in acquiring D-backs starter Ian Kennedy for the last couple weeks, and reports on Tuesday suggested they may be closing in on the 28-year-old right-hander.
The Padres are also interested in Kennedy, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reported.
Kennedy has had a rough year, going 3-7 with a 5.22 ERA, but Angels like him in a buy-low deal. As one exec said, “That’s when those guys are available.” Acquiring Kennedy wouldn’t cost the Angels Howie Kendrick or Erick Aybar, the two guys who are basically considered their best trade assets right now. Likely prospects, as they try to make room to add another starting pitcher.
“Stuff is still good,” one scout in charge of NL West teams said.
According to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, the D-backs are interested in adding Bud Norris, who was scratched from his Tuesday start with the Astros.
Kennedy went 10-12 with a 3.55 ERA in 624 1/3 innings, and Jerry Dipoto is very familiar with him from his days in the D-backs front office. He’s owed $1.4 million through the remainder of this season and would be under club control through 2015 as an arbitration-eligible player.
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels — 14 games out of first place and eight games below .500 — have been fielding a lot of phone calls in the last couple of days, with a multitude of teams gauging their interest in parting ways with some of their position players. One person familiar with the team’s thinking said Tuesday afternoon that the chances they strike a deal before Wednesday’s 1 p.m. PT non-waiver Trade Deadline are “better than 50/50.”
“Vultures appear to be circling,” the source said.
Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar appear to be the most likely to be traded, given how solid they’ve been on both sides of the field and the team-friendly extensions they signed last year. The Royals — with Chris Getz, Elliot Johnson and Miguel Tejada — are looking for a second baseman with offense and would be willing to include veteran starter Bruce Chen or Luke Hochevar, who’s been effective out of the bullpen but hasn’t started all year, in a deal. They also have two top guys in the Minors in Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, but Royals reporter Dick Kaegel doesn’t believe they’ll be included in a deal.
And according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, the Royals are one of the 12 teams Kendrick could block a trade to this season.
Aybar, however, has no such no-trade protection in his contract. And if Jhonny Peralta gets suspended as part of the Biogenesis investigation, perhaps they get interested. So far, though, they’ve shown no signs of being on the lookout for a shortstop, per Tigers reporter Jason Beck.
So, we’ll see. There can be a lot of surprises this time of year, especially in the final hours. But there’s definitely incentive for the Angels to wait until the offseason to swap a position player for cost-controlled starting pitching. More teams can get involved, and plenty more time permits.
Early on Monday, the Angels traded veteran lefty reliever Scott Downs to the Braves in exchange for Minor League reliever Cory Rasmus.
– Alden Gonzalez
Scott Downs has long been considered to be the most likely player the Angels move this month, and as someone familiar with their situation said recently: “If they make only one trade this month, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Long-term, though, the Angels know they have to improve their rotation. They know the best way to do that is to trade for starting pitching, and they know their best assets to trade — given the state of their farm system — are offensive players. Which is why the recent report by Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, who said Sunday that the Angels have made Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar available in exchange for a cost-controlled starting pitcher, falls right in line with their plan.
Such a big trade may have to wait until the offseason, when there’s more time and more teams can get in the mix. But you never know who will get desperate this time of year and swoop in with a great offer.
The potential free-agent market isn’t necessarily flush with starting-pitching talent. Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, Matt Garza and Vargas are the only names that really stick out — and the Angels already have more than $131 million in salary commitments for 2014. That includes $18.6 million owed to the Yankees for Vernon Wells and does not include the potential arbitration cases for Jerome Williams, Kevin Jepsen, Mark Trumbo, Ernesto Frieri and Peter Bourjos.
Kendrick (.299/.339/.446) and Aybar (.283/.310/.389) both signed pretty team-friendly extensions in 2012. Beyond this year, Kendrick is signed for two years and $18.85 million and has limited no-trade protection, allowing him to block deals to 12 clubs this year. Aybar is owed $25.5 million from 2014-16 but can’t block deals.
Trading them, of course, would mean replacing them. The Angels don’t have anybody ready to man the middle infield on an everyday basis in their organization.
– Alden Gonzalez
Any indication the Angels will sell next week? — @ChrisSexton
All indications continue to point to a relatively quiet next six days for the Angels, leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Things change really fast this time of year. Teams get desperate, sentiments change, and there’s always the possibility that the Angels are blown away by an offer.
But here’s something you can pretty much count on: They won’t be picking up any rentals, a la Zack Greinke in 2012. And they’re not really going to be “sellers,” per se, because the construction of their roster — most notably Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols — doesn’t really allow for that. Somewhere in the middle is where I’d put them. If they can find a good deal for Scott Downs, they’ll probably take it. In August, if they don’t make progress in the standings, they can also look to trade Jason Vargas — at that point, they’d have to put him through waivers first — if he pitches well in his return from the DL.
And if there’s a deal they really like, which would allow them to turn an offensive player into controllable starting pitching, they’ll take it.
That deal hasn’t presented itself yet. And the chances of it coming this month are highly unlikely. That may have to wait until the offseason.
As one person familiar with the Angels’ thinking said recently, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they made just one minor trade.”
– Alden Gonzalez
Things tend to change very quickly this time of year, but indications around the Angels point to a relatively quiet next nine days leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline. They’re too far back in the race and too close to the threshold at which teams are taxed 17.5 percent to be buyers; too burdened by big contracts to be all-out sellers.
One player who can very well be moved, though, is Scott Downs, the lefty reliever who will be a free agent at season’s end.
“I’ve been through this before,” the 12-year veteran said. “I can’t control what’s going on on the other side. The only thing I can control is what I do out on the field to help this team win. That’s the only thing I want to do, that’s the only thing I’m going to worry about.”
Downs figures to be an attractive name leading up to July 31, especially given the amount of teams that need relief help down the stretch. He’s having a very solid season (1.32 ERA, 1.17 WHIP). He’s affordable (owed the pro-rated share of a $5 million salary for 2013). He’s got a great track record (a 2.30 ERA while averaging 63 appearances from 2007-12). And the Angels entered Monday’s game 8 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the American League.
The Braves and Indians are among the teams that would have interest.
Downs is 37, has yet to pitch in the playoffs and would welcome appearing in meaningful October games. But he’d like to make that happen here, and would love to find a way to stay with the Angels past 2013.
“I signed out here because I wanted to win and because of the makeup of this team,” said Downs, in the final months of a three-year, $15 million contract. “I still believe, and I think everyone in this clubhouse believes, we have a chance to win; we have a chance to do something special here. So for me to say I want to leave here to go somewhere else, that’s not the case. I want to win with this team and that’s my mindset. Unless that changes, my mindset is on this team and this team only.”
– Alden Gonzalez
Jason Vargas would figure to be one of the more attractive arms leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline. He’s a free agent at season’s end, he’d cost the pro-rated share of $8.5 million this season, he’s on an Angels team that enters the second half nine games out of the final playoff spot and, well, he’s a solid left-handed starting pitcher.
Problem: He may still be on the disabled list by the time the non-waiver Trade Deadline comes and goes.
Vargas has been on the shelf since June 21 with a blood clot near his left armpit area. He had surgery, took two weeks off from throwing a baseball and has progressed since then, currently playing catch from 140 feet. But he has yet to get off a mound, and after he does that, he’ll likely have to go on a rehab assignment.
And the Trade Deadline is 13 days away.
“He’s got a little more work to do long-tossing before he can get on the mound,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ll evaluate him through this next week.”
– Alden Gonzalez