UPDATE, MONDAY, 1:30 P.M. PT: Fujikawa did indeed meet with Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto this weekend, a source confirmed to MLB.com, with Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times specifying that it took place Saturday and Mike Scioscia was also in attendance.
Right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa, the top closer in Japan for nearly a decade, is a free agent now, has begun meeting with Major League clubs and is slated to stop by the Angels’ facility, according to a recent report in The Dallas Morning News, which added that the 32-year-old had already visited with the D-backs and Cubs and was also slated to meet with the Dodgers. The Rangers are also believed to have interest.
Since he’s a free agent, Fujikawa won’t have to go through the expensive posting system, where teams bid on the rights to simply negotiate with a player. Fujikawa, who mixes a mid-90s fastball with a split-finger and slider, has gone 42-25 with a 1.77 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, 914 strikeouts and 220 saves in 692 1/3 career innings for the Hanshin Tigers. In 2012, he posted a 1.24 ERA and 41 saves in 56 games.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto likes him, but he’s among several free agents the club is looking at in hopes of improving the bullpen.
“I have seen Fujikawa; we have up-to-date scouting reports on him,” Dipoto said. “We have scouted him, as have the 29 other Major League clubs. He’s no secret in the industry. Everyone has seen him. He’s been a premier closer in Japan for the last half-dozen, seven years, and it remains to be seen where he winds up. But he’s one of the available free agents, and therefore he’s a name that we, like everybody else, have considered.”
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels are among those interested in signing veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported. But he’s mostly considered a fall-back option if they can’t resign Zack Greinke, a source told MLB.com.
The Angels probably can’t afford to sign both. Not when you consider Kuroda turned down the Yankees’ $13.3 million qualifying offer, a sign he’s looking for more money; or that Greinke’s price tag will probably be at least $120 million on a six-year deal; or that the Angels also have to fill holes in their bullpen; or that Jerry Dipoto paid $3.5 million to buy out Dan Haren’s contract largely because they didn’t want to pay $15.5 million for a back-end starter.
Of course, Kuroda was much better than Haren last year, and there’s a lot to like about him moving forward.
The 37-year-old has talked about finishing his career back home in Japan, so it may only take a one-year deal to sign him. He’s been very consistent in his five years in the big leagues, going 57-57 with a 3.42 ERA and 184 innings per season (including a career-high 219 2/3 with New York in 2012). And he spent his first four years on the West coast, pitching for the Dodgers.
Heyman also listed the Dodgers and Red Sox as interested suitors in Kuroda, adding that he’s a priority for the Yankees.
The Angels have just Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson returning from last year’s rotation — with Garrett Richards being the fifth starter, in an ideal world — so they’re checking in on basically every top arm available.
But the most important thing for them is to get more clarity on Greinke’s future destination. The sooner that happens, the better an idea they can have on how to allocate their money.
– Alden Gonzalez
As the offseason ensues, and the chances of Torii Hunter returning to the Angels continues to look awfully bleak, the list of potential suitors for the veteran right fielder continues to grow.
On Monday, CBSSports.com reported that as many as 13-14 teams have checked in on Hunter, with the Tigers, Rangers and Braves being the most aggressive. The Dodgers are out on Hunter, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com, which said Hunter will make a decision on his 2013 destination within the next couple weeks.
As for the Angels? They haven’t offered Hunter anything more than a one-year, $5 million contract since mid-September, a source said, because they have plenty of depth in their outfield and need to allocate funds to shore up their pitching — specifically a rotation that has only two 2012 members guaranteed to return and a bullpen that blew 22 saves.
General manager Jerry Dipoto previously admitted that it’s “not likely” Hunter returns, and Hunter’s agent, Larry Reynolds, echoed those same thoughts. They could free up more money for Hunter if they get something back on the $42 million owed to Vernon Wells over the next two seasons, but that doesn’t seem favorable right now, either.
Hunter, 37, batted a career-high .313 with 16 homers and 92 RBIs in 2012. His production, health and athleticism at this stage in his career, coupled with his leadership and character, make him an appealing, affordable free agent. So does not having to give up a Draft pick to sign him, since the Angels didn’t tender a $13.3 million qualifying offer to Hunter.
“My plan is to win no matter what, and of course I’m going to try to get with a ballclub that’s trying to win,” Hunter recently told MLB.com. “That’s the plan.”
The Angels have been in talks with the Mariners for right-handed reliever Brandon League, sources said Sunday, though it’s unsure how deep those discussions are at this point.
An industry source told MLB.com on Sunday afternoon that the Mariners could be close to trading League to either the Giants or Angels. Nothing is definite just yet, but the Angels are an interested suitor. They’ve been looking for another late-inning bullpen option all month, but after giving up pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena along with shortstop Jean Segura for Zack Greinke on Friday, they don’t have a lot left in their farm system to deal. The Mariners seek young offensive help.
League, 29, is a free agent at the end of the season and is making $5 million in 2012. He struggled through the first two months and lost his job as closer, but has rebounded ever since. In 44 1/3 innings, he has a 3.05 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP, with 26 strikeouts and 19 walks. As an All-Star last year, he posted a 2.79 ERA and 37 saves in 65 appearances.
– Alden Gonzalez
The non-waiver Trade Deadline is now only five days away, and the Angels continue to work diligently to find a reliable starter for their rotation or an additional weapon for their bullpen, or both.
Can first-year general manager Jerry Dipoto work his magic to shore up some glaring holes on the Angels’ staff?
The chips are stacked against him, it seems.
A source with knowledge of the team’s thinking described the Angels’ chances of acquiring a starter as “below average and diminishing” on Thursday. The asking prices are too high, the competition for pitching is too intense – largely due to the additional Wild Card that has more teams in the hunt than ever – and the Angels don’t have an abundance of intriguing prospects to offer up.
That, and a $155 million payroll with little wiggle room, has made the Angels’ search for a starter “an uphill task,” the source said – before adding, “But don’t underestimate Jerry.”
The Angels continue to search for additional bullpen pieces, particularly a cost-controlled lefty. But it’s starting pitching – the one area that seemed rock solid at the start of the year – that seems most necessary considering the struggles of Ervin Santana and the recent back troubles of Dan Haren.
But how many feasible upgrades are out there?
Cole Hamels has agreed to a lucrative extension to stay in Philadelphia, the Marlins seem unwilling to part ways with Josh Johnson, Wandy Rodriguez has moved on to the Pirates, Matt Garza has some elbow issues, Ryan Dempster seemingly only wants to pitch for the Dodgers and Francisco Liriano is fresh off giving up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings, putting his ERA at 5.31.
That makes the competition for the likes of James Shields (signed pretty affordably through 2014) and Zack Greinke (free-agent-to-be) quite fierce.
It would be a shock, a source said, if the Angels were to move Garrett Richards, who’s 24, cost-controlled for five more seasons and boasts a ton of upside. Young center fielder Peter Bourjos, a reserve with Mike Trout now in the fold, is perhaps their biggest chip – though Dipoto has publicly said he’s unwilling to trade him because he’s still a big part of their future. Then there are prospects like middle infielder Jean Segura, catcher Hank Conger, first baseman C.J. Cron and pitcher John Hellweg, among others, who could be expendable in the right package.
More on Angels.com soon.
– Alden Gonzalez
As Monday’s trade with the Tigers showed, the underachieving Marlins are sellers this July.
And that shifts the focus partly to Josh Johnson, the ace pitcher whose deal expires after the 2013 season.
Angels director of pro scouting Hal Morris was in Miami on Monday night, watching as Johnson gave up just one hit and struck out nine in six innings against the Braves. The Angels would no doubt love to get their hands on Johnson, who was having a disappointing year coming off surgery shoulder surgery before that outing (5-7, 4.35 ERA) but no doubt provides an instant upgrade to the rotation.
Johnson is one of many arms the Angels would consider, though — along with guys like James Shields, Matt Garza, Francisco Liriano and, as mentioned frequently, Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke.
If the Angels are to add a starter, though, the preference would be to add someone who’s under contract for more than just the next two months (like Shields, Garza and Johnson).
Any deal for Johnson would probably have to include center fielder Peter Bourjos, who the Marlins have targeted for quite a while.
– Alden Gonzalez
There are indications that the Angels have interest in trading for Rays starting pitcher James Shields. Whether they can actually get a deal done in the 10 days leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline remains to be seen — but Shields is an intriguing name for several reasons.
He was born and raised in Southern California (Newhall), is under contract through 2014 (the Angels are very hesitant to trade for any rental players, especially under this new CBA) and would provide an instant upgrade to their staff, which has been among the best in the American League all year but has a 4.98 ERA in July.
The Rays had a high-level scout at Comerica Park earlier this week — while Garrett Richards threw seven scoreless innings against the Tigers on Tuesday — and the Angels reportedly had a scout in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Friday, when Shields gave up three runs in 7 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Mariners. But that could also be due to the fact that these two clubs play each other next weekend.
Shields, 30, has struggled a bit this year, going 8-6 with a 4.39 ERA and leading the Majors in hits allowed. But he’s a known commodity who’s been very durable, averaging 220 innings while posting a 3.86 ERA from 2007-11, and has long been the subject of trade talks. Shields also has two affordable club options coming up, for $9 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014. The Angels could free up money to pick up those options by declining those of either Dan Haren ($15.5 million) or Ervin Santana ($13 million).
One potential hiccup in any deal with the Rays: They’re strapped financially and are hesitant to take on any money in a deal.
Prior to Saturday’s game, manager Mike Scioscia announced Richards will get the start on Tuesday, a move that would send Jerome Williams to the bullpen.
Will the Angels have a new starter by then?
– Alden Gonzalez
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