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Winter Meetings: Day 2

December 9th, 2014

 

- 8:40 pm -

A bunch of information has emerged this evening on the Angels’ hunt for a utility infielder. Among the team’s trade targets, per Jeff Fletcher, are Colorado’s Josh Rutledge, Detroit’s Eugenio Suarez, St. Louis’ Pete Kozma, and Houston’s Marwin Gonzalez. Boston super utility guy Brock Holt is also on the team’s radar, but the Red Sox are reportedly asking for too much in return right now, says Alden Gonzalez, who adds that Minnesota’s Eduardo Escobar is also a potential target. Not wanting to feel left out, Mike DiGiovanna chimes in to say that Arizona’s Nick Ahmed is an option as well.

All seven guys of the guys mentioned are 26 or younger and, with the exception of Gonzalez, all are pre-arbitration players. If I had to rank them in terms of desirability, it’d probably be something like Holt, Suarez, Gonzalez, Ahmed, Kozma, Escobar, a large gap, and then Rutledge, whose defensive numbers are ghastly.

In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter which guy they acquired because Roberto Baldoquin, who is finally stateside, would rake in Spring Training and make the team out of camp. But, yeah, that’s not gonna happen. So, we’re left with adding a young-ish player on the trading block. The Angels probably aren’t willing to part with Kevin Jepsen or Mike Morin for a bench player—nor should they be—but they could listen on second-tier righty relievers like Vinnie Pestano or Fernando Salas. Not sure either of them would be enough to bring in the guys at the top of the wish list, but who knows at this point.

 

***

 

- 3:55 pm - 

Nothing Angels-related to speak of in the last couple hours, so may as well give you more information on the newest acquisition…

As I wrote earlier, Drew Butera’s overall framing numbers are unimpressive. However, he does seem to be improving. The two basic goals of framing are 1) getting fewer called balls on pitches inside the strike zone; and 2) getting more called strikes on pitches outside the strike zone. For his career, Butera has always been better at keeping pitches strikes than getting the extra ones: his 3.4% lost-strike percentage is about league average, while his 8.9% extra-strike percentage is the 11th worst in the PitchF/X era—i.e. since 2008—for a catcher who’s received at least 10,000 pitches.

Butera improved in both components last year—to 2.6% and 9.2%, respectively—which was enough to move him to almost two runs above average by Baseball Prospectus’s framing metric. Prior to 2014, he hadn’t rated higher than -2.2 runs over a full season. I know that the Dodgers have been talking up the importance of framing for a while now—A.J. Ellis is well aware he’s not very good at it—so it makes sense that Butera would see improvement once out of Minnesota, where framing doesn’t seem to even be on the radar. The Twins have been in the bottom two in team framing runs each of the last three seasons, and had no qualms re-upping with Kurt Suzuki, Killer of Strikes.

Knowing that the Dodgers made a conscious effort to improve their catchers’ receiving skills makes me at least a little more confident that Butera’s 2014 numbers are sustainable and not just a blip. With his (lack of) bat, strong receiving is really the only way to justify giving him playing time. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

Speaking of framing…

- The Cubs have acquired Miguel Montero and his hefty contract from the D’Backs in exchange for two relievers in the low minors. Can you say contract dump?

- Jon Lester is still deciding where to go, and it’s starting to get on everyone’s nerves. Or maybe just mine. Once he chooses, players should start flying off the shelves. Until then, though, it’s probably going to be pretty quiet.

- Alberto Callaspo is officially a Barve.

 

*All stats from PitchF/X database at Baseball Savant dot com.

 

***

 

- 12:45 pm -

The Angels have acquired veteran catcher Drew Butera from the Dodgers in exchange for a player to be named or cash. It’s not an exciting move, but not one to get upset about either. Come spring, Butera will likely be in competition with Carlos Perez and Jett Bandy for the club’s second-string catcher spot. Or at least the illusion of competition. Perez and Bandy have much more promising ceilings behind the plate than anything Butera can be expected to provide, so he’s likely more of a failsafe than anything else.

The 31-year-old Butera is a .183/.239/.268 hitter in 733 PAs over parts of four MLB seasons, which is actually worse than Jeff Mathis’ career line. Defensively, he rates out as below average by BP’s framing runs (-13.8) and blocking runs (-3.7), but throws out would-be base-stealers at a solid 33% clip. There aren’t any (publicly available) stats that quantify pitch-calling ability or handling pitchers, but one presumes Butera’s pretty good at it. He seemed to be a well-liked guy in Los Angeles.

The wild card with Butera is that he actually seems to have some pretty good stuff on the mound. The right-hander made two pitching appearances in blowout losses with the Dodgers last year, touching the mid-90s with his fastball and complementing that with a few back-breaking 75-mph changeups. I’m not campaigning for the Angels to convert Butera to a pitcher, I’m just saying it’s something he can do. And for a team that hasn’t had a position player pitch in a game since Chili Davis took the hill on June 16, 1993, that’s kind of a big deal.

 

 

***

 

- 11:30 am -

The biggest Angels news of the day is that their 2015 promotional schedule includes bobbleheads for Matt Shoemaker, Kole Calhoun, and Garrett Richards. Thrilling, I know. (These more eccentric giveaways are far more exciting, IMO.) Things are so slow on the rumor front, Jerry Dipoto had time to sit in with the MLB Network crew for a few minutes this morning. Some key quotes:

 

  • “We’ve not talked with anybody about C.J. Wilson. We find him to be an asset. At the end of the day we’re looking for ways to maker ourselves better and deeper, and we feel like C.J. … has been a consistent, 200-inning churner that wins games and gives you a chance every night.”
  • “Right now [we're looking for] role players. Trying to find a backup catcher, a utility infielder that can play shortstop, a little outfield depth. Trying to make adjustments off the roster–those guys who might be able to protect us up and down from Triple-A.”
  • “We had an average or better player at every position on the field [in 2014]. There’s not a lot of ways we can dream of getting better without trying to fix something that’s not broken.”

 

- Not everyone’s waiting for Jon Lester to sign before diving into the free-agent pool. The Pirates have re-upped with Francisco Liriano on a three-year, $39 million pact. Seems like a pretty fair deal for Pittsburgh.

- The Royals are reportedly putting Omar Infante on the block, but plan to hang onto their three-headed bullpen monster. Not sure what the strategy is there. Wade Davis, Greg Holland, and Kelvin Herrera are never going to be valued higher than they are now, while Infante is coming off a career-worst year with three years and $25 million left on his contract. Not to mention KC needs offense more than pitching. Dayton Moore continues to be an enigma.

- The Padres and Dodgers are closing in on that Matt Kemp deal. If L.A. can really net Yasmani Grandal and somone like Joe Ross for Kemp, it’s going to be hard to do anything but hate this deal for San Diego. Yes, Kemp is still solid on offense. That defense in Petco, though… oof.

Winter Meetings: Day 1

December 8th, 2014

 

- 8:00 pm -

All is quiet on the Angels front as Day 1 draws to a close, but there’s still plenty going on elsewhere:

- The jettisoning of veteran talent continues in Oakland. Jeff Samardzija is on the verge of being dealt to the White Sox for middle infielder Marcus Semien—that’s pronounced SIM-ee-in—and a small collection of prospects. With Donaldson, Moss, and now Samardzija out the door, I think it’s time for me to retract my earlier statement that the A’s aren’t rebuilding. They definitely are. It’s still way to early to say they won’t be competitive next season, but there’s now a lot more riding on unproven youngsters, which makes it seem far less certain. On the other end of things, the AL Central should be fun in 2015.

- The Cubs and Diamondbacks are working on a deal that’d send catcher Miguel Montero to Chicago for a still unknown return. Montero’s an albatross contract guy (3/$36M), so Arizona probably won’t get much back. If a trade does get done, one assumes that Welington Castillo’s days at Wrigley Field would be numbered.

 

***

 

- 4:45 pm -

Well, so much for those C.J. Wilson rumors. Jerry Dipoto had his first media session with Angels reporters this afternoon and categorically denied that they’d talked to anyone about Wilson in more than a month. And this wasn’t your usual “we’re not actively shopping him around” followed by a sly wink, Dipoto was straight to the point and left little room for interpretation. He told Bill Shaikin that the club hasn’t “discussed C.J. Wilson at all,” either in making a call or receiving one. Think it’s safe to close the book on this one.

What Dipoto does appear open to, per Alden Gonzalez, is trading a righty reliever for a backup infielder. There are several options on that front, but the one I like most is Astros switch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez. He plays solid defense, has an adequate bat (from the left side, at least), and is under team control for four more seasons. Could the Angels get him for Fernando Salas or Vinnie Pestano? Or would it require Kevin Jepsen? I’d hope for the former but also probably end up being alright with the latter.

Lastly, the OCR’s Jeff Fletcher is hearing that the Halos are primed to sign a lefty reliever to a minor-league deal at some point this week. Any guesses? My money’s on Francisely Bueno. I like other guys (Outman; Cotts) more, but can’t see them taking non-MLB deals.

 

***

 

- 3:05 pm -

Still nothing Angels-related on the rumor mill, but the OCR’s Jeff Fletcher did share an interesting bit of info. He wrote that recent Cuban signee Robert Baldoquin, who is still stuck in immigration limbo in the Dominican Republic, was compared to Martin Prado by an MLB exec, who added that he “definitely can hit.” A Prado comp isn’t the best thing in the world, obviously, but it’s a good sign for a player we still know very little about.

The best of the rest:

- Could a Mark Trumbo reunion be in the works? The D’Backs are apparently floating him around in trade talks, and at one point had a three-way trade going that fell through. No idea if the Halos would be interested in bringing him back, but it’s fun to think about.

- The Mariners are the presumed favorites to sign Melky Cabrera, which seems about right. A 30-year-old outfielder with middling power in Safeco Field … what could possibly go wrong?

 

***

 

- 1:50 pm -

Nothing new on the Angels front, but there are a few things brewing around the league:

- Jon Lester is reportedly deciding between the Cubs and the Giants, except when he isn’t. Wherever he ends up, sooner is better, as he’s likely holding back the rest of the market. If the Angels are really set on dealing C.J. Wilson this week, they’re going to need a bunch of guys to sign quickly.

- A pair of Cleveland’s switch-hitting corner men could be on the block. Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher have both popped up on the rumor mill, though the latter reportedly isn’t drawing much interest. Dealing the older, more expensive Swisher makes much more sense than trading Santana, who’ll make just $14.25 million through 2016. Swisher is a serious bounce-back candidate and might be nice to take a flyer on if he weren’t owed $30 million the next two years.

 

***

 

- 11:35 am - 

The ball is officially rolling. The Angels claimed 1B/OF Marc Krauss from the Houston Astros this morning, giving them some depth of the left-handed hitting variety. Krauss is probably not the answer to the team’s lefty DH-type needs, but he at least gives them a warm body to put in that role should nothing else present itself. Plus, he costs close to nothing.

Mike DiGiovanna notes that Krauss was drafted by the Diamondbacks while Jerry Dipoto was part of the scouting department, so Dipoto probably has a pretty good understanding of what the 6’2, 245 lb Ohio native brings to the table.

Krauss owns a not-so-great .200/.274/.341 line in 354 MLB plate appearances over the last two seasons. He’s taken free passes at a solid clip (8.8%) and has been league average when it comes to extra-base hits, but he’s just struck out far too often (28%) in the big leagues to be a productive hitter thus far. Krauss’ strikeout rate was much lower (20%) in his two-plus seasons at Triple-A, where he hit .264/.370/.429, so the Angels have to believe there’s some chance he can fix whatever hole in his swing it is that MLB pitchers are currently exploiting. The advanced defensive metrics all seem to rate Krauss as roughly average at first and below average in the outfield. He has two option years remaining, so the Angels can shuttle him between Anaheim and Triple-A Salt Lake at will next season.

There are now 38 players on the Angels’ 40-man roster.

 

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Halos Acquire Robertson; Lock In Roster

November 21st, 2014

 

The Angels (and everyone else) made a number of small roster moves on Thursday. The Halos acquired outfielder Daniel Robertson from the Rangers, added catcher Jett Bandy and righty reliever Dan Reynolds to the 40-man roster, and DFA-ed lefty Michael Roth, catcher Jackson Williams, and outfielder Alfredo Marte.

The flurry of transactions were made ahead of the annual offseason 40-man roster lockdown, which “freezes” all 40-man rosters from midnight Thursday until after the Rule 5 Draft on December 11. This is far less ominous than it sounds. The only thing it affects is a team’s ability to add in-house players to the MLB roster. The Angels can trade, sign, and claim (*cough*Ike Davis*cough*) as many players as they want over the next three weeks, they just can’t promote any more players from within the organization no matter how many guys they might deal away.

This is where Jett Bandy and Dan Reynolds come into play. They were two of a number of Angels minor leaguers eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time this winter. By placing Bandy and Reynolds on the 40-man roster before Thursday’s deadline, the Halos have shielded them from selection. Not protected from the draft were prospects Kaleb Cowart, Austin Wood, and Daniel Hurtado, among others. It’s possible those three will be taken in the draft, but it seems highly unlikely given their poor performance, recent injury history, and inexperience at high levels, respectively.

Robertson, 29, was likely on track to be DFA-ed by Texas on Thursday to make room for prospects before the Halos swooped in and acquired him for a player to be named or cash. By grabbing him before he hit the waiver wire, the Angels guaranteed that another team couldn’t put a claim on him. Robertson’s calling cards are his speed and his discerning eye at the plate. The Oregon State alum has averaged about 20 stolen bases a year in the minors (at a 75% clip) and has walked almost as often as he’s struck out (312 vs 316) in over 3,100 plate appearances. Listed at 5’8 and 170 pounds, Robertson’s physical stature is that of a Collin Cowgill clone minus the 12-pack abs (probably).

Robertson was a career minor leaguer before the injury-plagued Rangers promoted him for a time in 2014, so it seems unlikely that he’ll get too much playing time with the Halos. Jerry Dipoto did say Robertson will be in the running for the 5th outfielder spot, though, and seeing as he plays all three outfield positions and his fiercest competition is noted outfielders Efren Navarro and Grant Green, he could end up being a familiar face.

Michael Roth, Jackson Williams, and Alfredo Marte have all been floating on the fringes of various 40-man rosters for several months, so their departures aren’t all that surprising. What would be surprising is if any of the three don’t make it through waivers: Roth already went unclaimed following his DFA in April, and Williams and Marte survived all the way to the Angels (read: the final team) on the waiver wire last month. I highly doubt anything’s changed in their outlooks between then and now.

The Angels’ roster remains full at 40, for now. If the team wants to participate in the Rule 5 Draft, they’ll have to drop at least one player from the roster between now and then. With a number of promising prospects left unprotected from the draft and the non-tender deadline (Dec 2) fast approaching, it’s probably safe to assume that one or two spots will open up before all is said and done.

Mike Trout Wins 2014 MVP Award

November 13th, 2014
2014's Most Valuable Piscine

2014′s Most Valuable Pisces

 

At long last, Mike Trout is the American League Most Valuable Player. And it wasn’t even close this time. Trout took home all 30 first-place votes, making him the youngest unanimous MVP in baseball history. Victor Martinez finished in a distant second, followed by Michael Brantley, Jose Abreu, and Jose Bautista.

I suppose we could complain that it took the BBWAA three tries to get it right, that Trout should be taking home his third consecutive trophy today, but that’d just spoil the moment. Plus, three years is an incredible turnaround by the BBWAA’s standards. Have you seen the Hall of Fame voting?

Anyway, there’s really not much we can write about Mike Trout that hasn’t already been written. At just 23, with just three full seasons in the league, his hagiography is already several volumes long. So rather than make a feeble attempt at describing what others have already penned more eloquently, I’m going to go the easy route and put some of his feats in bullet-point form.

If you’re into bad puns, you might call it Trout click-bait.

The Allure Of Jeremy McBryde

November 9th, 2014

McBryde

 

The Angels made another small addition to the organization on Friday, signing minor-league reliever Jeremy McBryde to a big-league deal and designating new-ish outfielder Roger Kieschnick for assignment. Before Friday, the 27-year-old McBryde had never been on a 40-man roster and had all of one season of experience above Double-A. Why, then, sign him to a Major League contract?

Well, for one, McBryde was a minor-league free agent. As he likely had other clubs vying for his services, the guarantee of at least part of a big-league salary from the Angels—rather than a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invite—probably put them over the top. More importantly, though, McBryde got a spot on the 40-man because he deserved one.

The former 26th round pick out of Rose State College in Oklahoma toiled away as a starter in his first four seasons of professional ball, posting a 4.53 ERA in 340 innings between at the three levels of A-ball. His strikeout and walk rates were good, but hitters were squaring up the ball too often the times they did make contact. Slated to repeat High-A in 2011 at the not-so-young age of 24, the right-hander was moved to the bullpen.

Like most pitchers, McBryde had always found more success against same-sided batters than those with the platoon advantage, but it was nothing extreme. Once he moved to the bullpen, though, something clicked. His success against righties immediately magnified, and the more time he spent in the ‘pen the greater that success became. He put up a .630 OPS vs RHBs at High-A in 2011, then .579 at Double-A in 2012, then .451 in a repeat of Double-A in 2013. And finally, as his coup d’ grâce, McBryde made it to the Pacific Coast League in 2014 and posted a .401 OPS vs RHBs in 135 plate appearances. .401 OPS! In the PCL! That’s bananas!

Overall, McBryde has fanned more than 31% of the 692 right-handed batters he’s faced since converting to full-time relief four years ago. Meanwhile, he’s walked just 4.6% and allowed a .192 average. I have no idea what he does to make righties look so foolish at the plate—honestly, there are zero scouting reports out there—but whatever it is it’s potentially the stuff of legend. Personally, I’m pulling for it to be a wicked slider/change-up combo from some unheard of release point, but really I’m cool with whatever.

Of course, for all that success, there has to be a catch. In McBryde’s case, it’s that his numbers against left-handed hitters are what one would term “not good.” Lefties have batted .274/.372/.459 against him in 436 plate appearances since 2011, and have drawn a walk almost three times (12.6%) as often as righties. All but three of McBryde’s 26 free passes in 2014 were allowed to left-handed batters, likely meaning whatever he’s getting righties to flail at out of the zone isn’t doing squat against lefties.

McBryde’s lack of success against LHBs is unfortunate, but that alone shouldn’t keep him from breaking into the Angels’ bullpen because he’s such a dominant force against righties. A ROOGY can be a valuable weapon when deployed properly, even in limited time. The Halos already have several strong right-handed arms in their relief corps, but McBryde’s path to still seems somewhat clear: If the front office decides they don’t want to pay current righty specialist Vinnie Pestano the ~$1.2 million he’s likely to get in arbitration this winter, McBryde and his MLB-minimum salary could be right there to take his place.

The non-tender deadline isn’t until December 2, so stay tuned.

Halos Daily

Dedicated to bringing you top notch Angels analysis!