UPDATE: Blanton’s deal is expected to be two years for $15 million, according to a source, with ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reporting that it includes a third-year club option.
That all but squashes the Angels’ already-faint hopes to land Greinke, who many expect to command at least an average annual value of $25 million on a six-year deal. The likes of Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster and Shaun Marcum also don’t seem to be options, with the Angels’ payroll expected to be at least $10 to $15 million less than the $159 million they ended last season with.
But that’s still unclear, because the club hasn’t publicly commented on its 2013 payroll projections.
Shortly after agreeing to terms on a two-year contract for lefty reliever Sean Burnett, the Angels were on the verge of signing free-agent starting pitcher Joe Blanton, sources confirmed to MLB.com.
Blanton, 31, went 10-13 with a 4.71 ERA in 31 games (30 starts) for the Phillies and Dodgers last season. From 2005-12, the right-hander went 83-75 with a 4.37 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.
How does it affect the Angels’ pursuit of Zack Greinke or others, like Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson and Joe Saunders? Still unclear, but a source said Blanton is only “a piece” for the rotation and not necessarily the final piece.
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels finalized their bullpen search on Wednesday, signing left-handed reliever Sean Burnett to a two-year deal with a club option, a source told MLB.com.
The deal, which is still pending a physical, is expected to be just south of the two-year, $9.5 million deal Kyuji Fujikawa got with the Cubs, and way south of the three-year, $18 million deal Jeremy Affeldt signed with the Giants.
The addition of Burnett has “no effect” on the Angels’ pursuit of a starting pitcher. They’re still not totally out on Zack Greinke. Burnett joins a bullpen that includes fellow lefty Scott Downs in addition to Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and the recently signed Ryan Madson, who’s expected to take over the closer’s role after recovery from Tommy John surgery.
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels continue to sound like a club that isn’t counting on resigning Zack Greinke.
Obviously, things can change very quickly, and Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto has a recent track record of being very coy about his pursuit of big-name free agents (see: 2011 Winter Meetings). But the price tags continue to be sky high — with Dan Haren signing for $13 million and Shane Victorino reportedly getting a three-year, $39 million deal from the Red Sox — and the Angels continue to seem content with simply adding one middle-tier starter and one back-end reliever.
On Tuesday afternoon, Day 2 of the Winter Meetings from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi tweeted that the Dodgers “have become [the] clear favorite to land Greinke,” echoing a sentiment that has been widely reported/speculated for most of the offseason. The Angels, who continue to be portrayed as a dark horse, want to avoid what happened last season, when they committed a lot of money to the rotation and were essentially tapped out in August, unable to add to a bullpen that badly needed an upgrade.
The Nationals dropped out on Greinke with the Haren signing, seemingly making it a three-team race. If Greinke’s price gets to $150 million, the Angels are likely out. If he’s willing to settle for something less, they have a chance.
But this is still the most likely scenario for Dipoto: Sign one No. 3 starter to slot between Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, and Tommy Hanson and Garrett Richards/Jerome Williams (Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, Brandon McCarthy, etc.); sign one more back-end reliever to complement Ryan Madson, Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and Kevin Jepsen (Mike Adams, Sean Burnett, Koji Uehara, etc.).
Dipoto wouldn’t go into much detail in his daily briefing with local reporters on Tuesday, but he did re-iterate that he’s “100 percent” only looking at pitchers and that free agency — not the trade market — is almost his sole focus. The Angels did circle back with Haren, talking to him as recently as Monday, and a source said they improved on their original offer (one-year at $4 million with an $8 million vesting option) before buying out his contract.
Asked whether he was close on any pitchers, Dipoto said …
“Can’t say for certain that I’m getting warm on anything, but again, we’ve picked up the targets that we’re most interested in, we’ve had great discussions — in some cases multiple layers. We’re making progress, the extent of which I can’t tell you. I don’t know if anything gets done today, tomorrow, or post-[Winter Meetings], but I am certain that we’ll line up with a team on the field, and time will make the proper decision.”
– Alden Gonzalez
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said after signing Ryan Madson that he’s not done addressing the bullpen “by any stretch.” And that search has intensified at the Winter Meetings here in Nashville, Tenn., where the Angels are focused on adding one starting pitcher but are keeping their ears open for additional bullpen options.
The Angels, a source confirmed, are one of several teams with a keen interest in former Nats left-hander Sean Burnett, who has posted a 2.76 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 176 1/3 innings from 2010-12, averaging 7.8 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings. Acquiring Burnett would give the Angels a second lefty to complement Scott Downs, who has been reliable the last few years but struggled in the second half of 2012.
It would also let the young Nick Maronde start full-time in the Minor Leagues. Some in the organization, however, believe his future is as a reliever anyway.
Another option for the Angels is right-hander Mike Adams, who posted a 1.60 ERA and a .92 WHIP from 2010-11. The 34-year-old Adams finished last season with a 3.27 ERA with the Rangers, the highest since his rookie year in 2004, due in large part to a rough September that ended with him being shut down due to a right shoulder ailment.
The Angels checked in on Joakim Soria at the General Managers Meetings, but Soria’s preference is to sign somewhere he can close — and with Madson on board, that’s no longer a selling point for Dipoto.
Burnett, Adams and Soria are sure to use the three-year deals signed by Jeremy Affeldt ($18 million), Brandon League ($22.5 million) and Jonathan Broxton ($21 million) as a starting point. That means signing one of them would almost certainly take the Angels out of the Zack Greinke sweepstakes, though a source said they’re “not closing the door on anything.” According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Angels have checked in on the two starting pitchers a tier below Greinke — Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse.
– Alden Gonzalez
Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa is nearing a decision and the Angels are believed to be the front-runners, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reported via Twitter on Friday afternoon. Fujikawa’s agent, Don Nomura, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Fujikawa, 32, is one of the top relievers in the Far East, racking up 202 saves to go along with a 1.36 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP and a rate of 12.4 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine innings in 369 2/3 frames while pitching for the Hanshin Tigers.
Fujikawa met with Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto in Anaheim last week, a source confirmed to MLB.com, as part of a five-team tour that also saw him make stops in the Dodgers’, Orioles’, Cubs’ and D-backs’ facilities. At least 10 teams are believed to have made him an offer, according to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker, who said Fujikawa is seeking a multi-year deal.
The Angels signed Ryan Madson to potentially be their closer on Wednesday, adding him to a back end of the bullpen that also includes Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and Scott Downs. On Friday, they freed up a spot in the ‘pen by trading Jordan Walden to the Braves for starter Tommy Hanson.
If the Angels sign Fujikawa, they’d probably be out of the Zack Greinke sweepstakes, instead going with a cheaper alternative to fill their final rotation spot.
– Alden Gonzalez
Former Angels starter Dan Haren, who was bought out of his 2013 option for $3.5 million, is drawing heavy interest from several teams, most of them residing in the East coast.
Haren’s most aggressive suitor thus far, according to a person with knowledge of his free agency: The Red Sox. The Nationals, Orioles, White Sox, Padres and Blue Jays are among other clubs that have expressed interest. Haren, however, is said to be in no hurry to sign, preferring to let a lot of the smoke clear before making his decision.
The Angels recently checked in on Haren, but nothing had changed from a negotiating standpoint. After trading for Tommy Hanson, only one spot is left in their rotation — and their desire to resign Zack Greinke remains. If Greinke’s price tag reaches $150 million, as has been reported, the Angels will go with a much cheaper free-agent starter and sign at least one more upper-tier reliever, joining Ryan Madson.
Haren, who wants to keep pitching in Southern California, could make sense given his price tag, track record and familiarity. For now, however, a return remains unlikely.
Haren is coming off his first rough season in quite a while, going 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA, a stint on the disabled list with lower back problems and a drop in velocity. From 2005-11, though, he was one of baseball’s most consistent starters, winning 101 games, posting a 3.49 ERA and averaging 226 innings per season.
The Angels also had the framework of a deal in place with the Cubs in early November, sending Haren to Chicago for closer Carlos Marmol. In it, an industry source said, the Cubs were slated to take on most of Haren’s salary and Marmol’s. But according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, the Cubs backed out due to concerns over Haren’s hip — not his back.
– Alden Gonzalez