The offseason is officially upon us. Before we get into months of back-and-forth about of who should sign whom for what this offseason, we thought it might be a good idea to break down the 40-man roster as it stands today. Several familiar faces have parted ways with the organization this month, and a few more could join them on the open market before too long. Also, four Halos will file for arbitration for the first time this winter, further complicating what was already a rather tight budget.
Here’s a rundown of the roster, broken into five categories:
The Contract Guys: Albert Pujols (’21), Mike Trout (’20), Josh Hamilton (’17), Erick Aybar (’16), C.J. Wilson (’16), Jered Weaver (’16), Joe Smith (’16), Howie Kendrick (’15), Chris Iannetta (’15), Huston Street (’15 option)
The Angels have 10 players already under contract for 2015, and seven of those are locked down for at least another season beyond that. If no contract extensions are negotiated, next year could be the last in Anaheim for Howie Kendrick, Chris Iannetta, and Huston Street, the latter of whom just had his $7 million option for 2015 picked up on Thursday.
These deals cover six of the starting nine, two rotation spots, the set-up man, and the closer, leaving only a smattering of spots to fill with arbitration and pre-arb players. This cuts both ways. It’s undoubtedly a good thing to have many of the most important positions on the field held down by quality players, but when those contracts add up—and/or the players flame out—it becomes difficult to maneuver financially and logistically in other areas of need.
The 10 guaranteed contracts for 2015 will set the Angels back $127.5 million in absolute payroll, which jumps to more than $140 million for luxury tax purposes. This is because luxury tax totals are calculated using average annual values for multi-year deals, meaning Mike Trout is hit for ~$24 million each year of his contract ($144.5 million/6 years) despite an actual salary of $5.25 million next season. Trout’s tax total more or less replaces the 2014 money given to Vernon Wells and Joe Blanton, who are finally off the books.
The Dearly Departed: Jason Grilli (FA), Joe Thatcher (FA), John McDonald (FA), Tony Campana (FA), Michael Kohn (FA), Ian Stewart (FA), Brennan Boesch (FA), John Buck (FA), John Hester (FA), Sean Burnett ($500K buyout), Brian Moran (Rule 5 return), Luis Jimenez (Waivers)
Of the nine players leaving the Angels through free agency (so far) this month, six are doing so after declining their outright assignments to the minors. Only Jason Grilli, Joe Thatcher, and John McDonald are MLB free agents in the traditional sense. Michael Kohn (Rays) and John Hester (Phillies) have already signed on with other clubs, so we know for sure that at least two of the nine won’t re-up with the Halos this winter.
Sean Burnett was just one of two Angels players with a contract option for 2015—the other is Huston Street. Given that Burnett underwent Tommy John surgery just four months ago, declining his $4.5 million team option was a no-brainer. The southpaw finishes his three-year deal with all of 10⅓ innings pitched as a Halo. Sad as that is, he probably gave the club the best return of the four arms added in the 2012 offseason.
Brian Moran was also a Tommy John victim, and never got the chance to take the hill for the Angels. As a Rule 5 pick, he needed to either remain on the club’s Active Roster all year or return to the Mariners along with $25,000. Usually, once the season is up the player can be moved around the organization at will. Because Moran didn’t spend at least 90 in-season days off the DL, though, the Halos would have had to abide by the same keep-him-or-return-him rules next season were they to hang onto him. Two years of that nonsense is ridiculous, so he’s now back with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate. No idea if the $25,000 fee still applied.
Luis Jimenez was snagged off waivers by the Brewers on Monday, which we covered in depth here. It’s possible that one or more fringe players (Yoslan Herrera?) will jump ship between now and December’s non-tender deadline, but it seems more likely that the roster is done leaking until the front office makes up its mind about arbitration cases. Speaking of which…
The Arbitration Dudes: David Freese (3rd year), Gordon Beckham (3rd), Kevin Jepsen (3rd; Super Two), Wade LeBlanc (2nd; ST), Vinnie Pestano (2nd; ST), Fernando Salas (2nd), Hector Santiago (1st), Garrett Richards (1st), Hank Conger (1st), Collin Cowgill (1st)
Jerry Dipoto and crew have their work cut out for them on the arbitration front this winter. The Angels have 10 players who could potentially file this offseason, including four newcomers. While the club was able to dwindle their arb-eligible numbers from eight to three last year through several non-tenders and a couple of timely trades, most are likely to stay on the board this time around.
The only certain non-tender candidate in the group is Wade LeBlanc, who isn’t worth the pay raise he’s required as a Super Two player. Gordon Beckham and Vinnie Pestano can be argued as on-the-fence guys, but everyone else seems a shoo-in to return to Anaheim in 2015—or at least be offered a contract.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts that this year’s Super Two cutoff will be 2.128 service days, meaning that both Garrett Richards (2.148) and Collin Cowgill (2.151) will qualify. I don’t have the skills necessary to project what everyone will earn through the arb process this winter, but I guarantee that Richards, Cowgill, and Jepsen are in line for pretty large pay bumps given their 2014 performances and the extra dough typically afforded to Super Two guys.
The Angels could fork over upwards of $20 million in arbitration salaries when all is said and done this offseason, which will leave little to no room for signing free agents if the club wants to remain under the luxury tax in 2015. The team has ~$140 million in luxury-tax money already guaranteed to 10 players for next season. Add roughly $20 million for the nine arbitration guys, the required $11 million in Player Benefit Costs, and the MLB minimum of $500K for each of the 21 remaining pre-arb players on the roster, and there’s about $8 million left to play with before hitting the $189 million ceiling—and that’s a conservative estimate. Once again, it appears the team’s best (only?) opportunity to add impact talent will be via the trading block.
The New Hires: Jackson Williams (C), Roger Kieschnick (OF), Alfredo Marte (OF)
The three newest Halos were all added on the waiver wire this month. I suppose it’s possible they’ll vie for roster spots come spring, but they’re likely just filler until something more exciting shows up. They come to the Angels from two of the NL’s most hitter-friendly environments—Coors Field and Chase Field—but don’t have even mediocre offensive numbers to show for it.
Jackson Williams is John Hester’s replacement as the organization’s third-string backstop, a position that’s seen less action at the big-league level the past two years (i.e. 5 PAs) than the club’s bullpen catchers. While Hester frequently appeared on the leaderboard of baseball’s worst pitch-framers–in the majors and the minors–Williams has a reputation as a solid defensive catcher. He’s never hit a lick, so least he’s got that going for him.
Alfredo Marte is the youngster of the group, but he’ll be 26 next season. For more detailed info on him and Roger Kieschnick, check this out.
The Rest: Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Jairo Diaz, Yoslan Herrera, Mike Morin, Cory Rasmus, Michael Roth, Drew Rucinski, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, C.J. Cron, Efren Navarro, Shawn O’Malley, Kole Calhoun, Grant Green
There’s a lot to like about the 15 incumbent pre-arbitration players on the 40-man roster. Their average age is just over 25 if you remove outlier Yoslan Herrera (33) from the group, and only Cory Rasmus and Kole Calhoun are within a year of heading to arbitration. Calhoun and Matt Shoemaker have provided the biggest impact in Anaheim thus far, but Cam Bedrosian, Jairo Diaz, and Mike Morin could provide a solid, young foundation for the bullpen for many years to come.
With Tyler Skaggs on the shelf for all of 2015, Rasmus, Jose Alvarez, and Drew Rucinski are likely to get a shot at cracking the back of the rotation. Michael Roth might get an audition as well, but there’s probably not much faith in his pitch-to-contact-and-walk-everybody-else approach. Shoemaker has cemented his place in the rotation, the only question is whether he’ll usurp C.J. Wilson as the No. 3 starter.
C.J. Cron, Efren Navarro, Shawn O’Malley, and Grant Green will certainly hang around as role players, but it’s hard to see them doing much more than that.
All of these guys will get somewhere between $500K and $530K in 2015.
If we assume that Wade LeBlanc gets non-tendered, that Jackson Williams will be activated from the DL soon, and that Tyler Skaggs won’t make a miraculous comeback from elbow surgery, then we can say the Angels’ 40-man roster stands at 36. This leaves four open spots for free-agent acquisitions this winter; maybe one or two more if a trade goes down.
Just who those acquisitions might be is a subject for a later date. Specifically, sometime this weekend.