The closer July 31 gets, the more vulnerable the Angels’ starting rotation looks, making the need and desire for outside help seem that much more prominent.
With 12 days left until the non-waiver Trade Deadline, though, everyone seems to be in a holding pattern.
The Angels themselves are waiting to see if Dan Haren can regain form after dealing with lingering back stiffness, which could have a major say in how willing they are to trade for a premium starter. And the trade market in general could be slowed by two wrinkles in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement – the extra wild card and the diminishing Draft-pick compensation.
But general manager Jerry Dipoto doesn’t anticipate pitching being any more difficult to come by this year.
“I think there are different dynamics at play that are creating a little bit of a drag on the market, but I don’t think it’s moving at any quicker or slower pace, or there’s any more or less players that are available at the right price,” he said. “I just don’t know that we’ve determined, as an industry, what the appropriate value for those players might be.”
Some of that has to do with Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke – two starters the Angels have been linked to all month.
The Phillies, CBSSports.com reported on Tuesday, are preparing to offer Hamels a six-year extension worth $130 million. If he doesn’t accept, they’ll have little chance but to shop him. But until that’s finalized, those talks won’t intensify.
And then there’s Greinke, who’s slumping through July and did not pitch as scheduled this week, with the Brewers trying to get him back on track while still deciding whether they’re going to be buyers or sellers – or neither – at the Deadline.
Until the situations surrounding the two most coveted starting pitchers are decided, little movement can take place.
One thing’s for sure: The Angles are keeping their ears open.
With a 5.28 rotation ERA in July, and several uncertainties up and down their staff, they need to.
“Our starters just before the [All-Star] break started struggling with some stuff,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after his club’s 5-1 loss to the Tigers on Thursday, which saw Jerome Williams give up five runs in six innings. “[Jered Weaver] is obviously pitching well, C.J. [Wilson] has given us a couple good looks here and there, Ervin [Santana] did a couple nights ago. But outside of that, we’re just not getting the ball to a certain point in the game. That also affects how your bullpen is going to do.”
– Alden Gonzalez
Pretty much since he took the job over the offseason, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto has viciously tried to fend off rumors that the club considers center fielder Peter Bourjos — currently without an everyday role — a trade chip.
That took place again on Wednesday, in the midst of a couple of reports — from Jon Heyman and Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com — saying that Bourjos is available for the right deal. Dipoto publicly denied that once again, saying: “At no point have we offered Peter Bourjos for anyone, starter or reliever.”
The Angels are indeed looking for pitching, for the bullpen and rotation, and they’ve been linked to a bevy of player, like Francisco Liriano, Jonathan Broxton and, of course, Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels. But you can probably throw out 50 other names that the Angels have considered, tabled, had talks about and sent advanced scouts to watch. The Angels have been looking to upgrade the bullpen — particularly with another left-hander — for a while now.
As for starting pitching? The health of Dan Haren could go a long way in deciding how aggressive they get in that pursuit — and, perhaps, whether Bourjos is in fact dealt.
Here’s what Dipoto said when asked about how important the next week, with Haren returning and Ervin Santana making a couple of tough starts, is to their starting-pitching pursuit …
“We just want to get [Haren] back 100 percent healthy to compete. And we feel, and I’ve been very forthright with that, that he’s the best addition we can make. We anticipate that that’s the case. And in Ervin’s case, it’s not as simple as just determining where he is in the next two starts. Ervin’s got a history of being a better second-half performer than first. It’s the way it looks from last year. I’m just looking at his track record, what he does. And we’re not two starts away from kicking Ervin Santana out the door. Ervin’s going to be in our rotation. The Ervin component is not going to have any effect on what we do at all.”
The Royals had a scout at Comerica Park on Tuesday, and word is Kansas City is interested in designated hitter Kendrys Morales — despite the presence of Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler.
“We have nothing significant or imminent at this time,” Dipoto said. “Like everybody is, we’re just doing our due diligence.”
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels want to add a starter. It’s more likely that they don’t have the chips to acquire a premium one, but they’re doing their due diligence anyway.
This week could be a big one with regards to that pursuit.
This is the week when the erratic Ervin Santana will make two tough starts (against the Tigers on Monday and against the Rangers on Saturday), this is the week more will be known about the health of Dan Haren (he’ll make a rehab outing today, and if all goes well, he could start against Texas on Sunday), and this may be the week that dictates how aggressive Jerry Dipoto is in his pursuit of another rotation arm.
We’re now 15 days away from the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. And the more time passes, the less likely it seems that the Angels can acquire a guy like Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels.
First, there’s the fact each of their teams would like to resign them. The Phillies, Paul Hagen writes, are entering a critical stage with Hamels. The Brewers, according to Adam McCalvy, pushed back the struggling Greinke to give him a blow (making him less appealing on the trade market and more likely to be retained, perhaps?).
Second, there’s the whole “assets” thing. The Angels don’t have a lot of that to give up. As one executive said, if they’re going up against the Rangers for a starter (T.R. Sullivan says Roy Oswalt’s effectiveness could determine how aggressive they get) it would be “like taking a butter knife to a gunfight.” The only heavy artillery the Angels carry is Peter Bourjos, the high-upside center fielder who’s without an everyday role but is a big part of their long-term plans. Dipoto has continued to stress that the Angels will not trade Bourjos, but things can certainly change. The only way I see them giving him up is if it’s for a starting pitcher they can resign — not one who’s going to walk away in two months and leave them with nothing.
And that brings me to the third reason — the new CBA. The extra Wild Card has put more teams in the race for the playoffs, making less of them sellers in July. But a bigger reason for a possibly slow market could be that the only players who bring back Draft pick compensation upon signing with another club are those who spent the previous full season with the same team. For example, if a team trades for Hamels and he signs elsewhere, that team gets no additional Draft picks in 2013. If he stays with the Phillies and he signs elsewhere, the Phils do get the compensation. One scout said the trade market so far is “extra quiet” and “not much is happening” yet. No surprise there.
Of course, there are other, more-attainable starters out there (Wandy Rodriguez and Ryan Dempster come to mind). Will the Angels go outside of themselves to add another front-line guy?
It may depend on how this week goes.
– Alden Gonzalez
ANAHEIM – Albert Pujols has said that his first Opening Day at-bat is one of very few times he’ll ever feel nervous on a baseball field – along with his first at-bat of Spring Training and his first at-bat of the playoffs.
But Friday night didn’t feel like just any Opening Day for the premier slugger. It was his first under the weight of a $240 million contract, his first without a Cardinals jersey on, and his first in front of a West-coast fan base eager to see great things.
Afterwards, Pujols maintained, it was no different.
“It was the same nerves I’ve been going through my first 11 years in the big leagues,” he said after going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and an intentional walk. “It’s just something that my dad told me – if you don’t go through that, whether it’s when you walk in early to the park and get ready, excited for the game, he always told me you ain’t ready. I knew I was ready because I was going through that, and I wanted to do something special. But that’s the way it goes. We got a win. I think that’s the most important thing.”
The Angels drew a sold-out crowd, as expected, on Opening Night against the Royals – an eventual 5-0 win sparked by a Jered Weaver gem and an eighth-inning surge.
Three hours before game time, the parking lot was almost full. When gates opened at 5 p.m. PT, a sea of red flooded in. And when players were introduced, the noise was almost deafening.
In many ways, it was a typical Opening Day for the Angels.
In many ways – because of the expectations and buzz surrounding the Pujols and C.J. Wilson signings – it wasn’t.
“For sure, this is the most exciting it’s been in the area for the Angels,” said Jared Pfeifer, a long-time Angels fan who resides in Yorba Linda, Calif. “I have never seen more people wearing Angels gear in one area my entire life.”
The opening ceremonies included a David Cook National Anthem, ceremonial first pitches thrown out by three members of the 2002 World Series team – Tim Salmon, David Eckstein and Troy Percival – and a C17 flyover.
Before that, an announced crowd of 44,106 provided a loud ovation for Pujols, who doffed his cap from the third-base line in appreciation.
“They were excited,” Pujols said. “They couldn’t wait until this day. Neither could we. We were looking forward to it, and it was great to come up with the win today.”
Angels fans have been jubilant about their club before.
There was that inspiring run to the 2002 World Series. There was the signings of Vladimir Guerrero and Don Baylor. The trades for Rod Carew and Nolan Ryan.
But this, perhaps, is different.
“This is definitely the most excited I’ve ever been going into a season,” added Adam Rank of Huntington Beach, Calif. “There’s just a lot of really high expectations.”
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels previously inked reliever Francisco Rodriguez (not K-Rod) to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Rodriguez, the Mexico native who was signed as an amateur free agent by the Angels in 2005, will make $481,000 if he makes the big league club.
The 28-year-old right-hander was designated for assignment this offseason, then slipped through waivers and became a free agent. During his rookie season in 2010, Rodriguez put up a 4.37 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP in 43 appearances. Last season, though, shoulder woes limited him to 13 2/3 innings in the Majors and 10 innings in the Minors.
In seven seasons in the Minors, Rodriguez has gone 25-37 with a 5.27 ERA in 215 games (47 starts).
– Alden Gonzalez, Spencer Fordin
The Angels are one of “a handful of teams” that have tendered a formal offer to Luis Ayla, but a source familiar with the negotiations said the free-agent reliever is still weighing his options and a decision is not imminent.
It’s unclear at this point whether the Angels have offered a Major League or a Minor League contract, but they are believed to be in the mix along with the Orioles, Yankees, Astros and perhaps others. Considering he’s coming off a bounceback season with the Yankees, one that saw him post a 2.09 ERA and a 1.268 WHIP in 56 innings, the 34-year-old right-hander would likely command a Major League deal.
The Angels were among four teams interested in adding Francisco Cordero, but he wound up agreeing to terms on a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Cordero is reportedly headed to Toronto to serve as a setup man — a pretty clear indication that the Blue Jays’ offer trumped that of the Angels and other suitors.
– Alden Gonzalez
Free-agent closer Francisco Cordero expects to pick a team by the end of this week, and the Angels are one of four finalists for his services, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told MLB.com.
The identity of the other three clubs is not known at this point, but one of the four, the source said, is a championship-contending team looking to slot him in the eighth inning. That may be the Phillies, which could use a setup man for the recently signed Jonathan Papelbon. The Orioles have also reportedly been in touch. The Rays, which have a need in the ninth inning, are not one of those other three clubs, however.
At this point in the offseason, with the closer’s market dried up and a return to the Reds seemingly not possible, Cordero is open to signing a one-year deal, which would be huge for an Angels club that has already inked Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to long-term deals this offseason and doesn’t have much money to spend.
In Anaheim, Cordero would supplant 24-year-old Jordan Walden, who finished last year with a 2.98 ERA and 32 saves but fell off in September. Cordero, 36, is a three-time All-Star with a career 3.17 ERA and 327 saves. Last year with the Reds, he posted a 2.45 ERA and a 1.019 WHIP, and converted 37 of his 43 save chances.
The market for Cordero has taken a while to develop, mostly because teams figured a return to Cincinnati was a foregone conclusion. Once Ryan Madson signed a bargain-rate one-year, $8.5 million deal to be the Reds’ closer, though, interest around the league intensified.
The Angels were one of the first teams to reach out to Cordero’s representative, Bean Stringfellow, and have been in touch throughout the offseason, according to a source. They’ve also been in touch with right-handed reliever Luis Ayala.
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels have expressed interest in free-agent reliever Luis Ayala, a source with knowledge of the situation told MLB.com. Right now, though, it appears they’re one of four clubs interested in giving the 34-year-old right-hander a big league contract, an industry source said.
Ayala signed a Minor League deal with the Yankees last February and had a big bounce-back year, posting a 2.09 ERA and a 1.268 WHIP in 56 innings (spanning 52 appearances). For his big league career, he has a 3.47 ERA and a 1.286 WHIP in seven seasons.
Ayala has been lights out while pitching for the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican winter league this offseason, giving up just two earned runs in 19 2/3 innings (good for an ERA of 0.92) while striking out 13 batters and walking four. A report out of Mexico said Ayala was choosing between the Angels and Orioles, but a source said that of Saturday, teams hadn’t begun tendering formal offers.
The Angels signed veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins to a $3 million contract in December and are looking to add more depth to a bullpen that was tied for the American League lead in blown saves last season. Ayala could be drawn to Southern California because of its strong Mexican-American presence and its close proximities to Ayala’s native country.
– Alden Gonzalez
UPDATE, 12:22 P.M. PT: Reached by phone, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said today’s one-year agreement with shortstop Erick Aybar means nothing with regards to their quest to sign him to a long-term deal. In fact, the two sides continue to move forward in those negotiations.
“We’ll just have to let it take care of itself,” Dipoto said. “Obviously, it’s something that we’re interested in, something Erick’s interested in, and we’ll just let the negotiations and conversations take place as they will. There is no line in the sand right now on when we have to be done with it. Today’s agreement with Erick does nothing to keep us from moving the ball forward in that regard.”
If an extension does happen, the new deal would kick in for the 2013 season now, not 2012.
More will be up on Angels.com soon.
The good news is the Angels have taken care of all their arbitration-eligible players before sides were even scheduled to exchange figures.
The bad news is shortstop Erick Aybar didn’t get his long-term deal. At least not yet.
Aybar and the Angels agreed instead to a one-year, $5.075 million contract on Tuesday, meaning he’ll be eligible for free agency after the 2012 season if the two sides can’t agree to something more long-term before then.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto had recently opened up extension talks with Aybar, probably in hopes of signing him to a deal similar to the one second baseman Howie Kendrick agreed to on Jan. 7 – a four-year, $33.5 million contract.
Aybar, like Kendrick, was drafted by the Angels in 2002. And like Kendrick, he’s coming off a career year, one that saw him win his first Gold Glove while batting .279 with a .322 on-base percentage and setting personal bests in home runs (10), RBIs (59) and stolen bases (30).
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels agreed to a one-year, arbitration-avoiding contract with infielder Alberto Callaspo on Monday. The deal is worth $3.15 million, which is slightly higher than the reported figure Kendrys Morales agreed to – $2.975 million – and right around what Callaspo was projected to garner via arbitration.
Callaspo, two seasons away from free agency, hit .288 with a .366 on-base percentage, six home runs and 46 RBIs while playing mostly third base in his first full season with the Angels in 2011.
The only arbitration-eligible player remaining now is shortstop Erick Aybar, who’s eligible for free agency after this season and who general manager Jerry Dipoto previously said is open to negotiating an extension with.
– Alden Gonzalez