- 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.
- 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.