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Should The Angels Bid For Jung-ho Kang?

December 15th, 2014
kang

If Kang doesn’t work out, there’s always Kodos.

 

Korean superstar Jung-ho Kang was posted Monday evening, adding some much-needed intrigue to this winter’s market for middle infielders. MLB clubs have until Friday to submit bids for the 27-year-old shortstop, who hit a Bondsian .356/.459/.739 with 40 home runs in 2014, earning his league’s MVP award. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) is a notoriously offense-friendly league, so it’s tough to take Kang’s numbers at face value, but there’s no denying he’s got some wallop in his bat.

The Mets, A’s, and Giants are the only teams to be directly linked to Kang so far, but there are also several other clubs who at least have him on their radar. Since Kang’s future might involve a position shift to either third or second base, where the Angels are noticeably weakest at the moment, we thought it behooved us touch on whether or not Jerry Dipoto should make a run at him.

But first, a little history…

Oh My! Dick Enberg Voted into Hall of Fame

December 12th, 2014
jhgkjhg

“And the halo shines tonight!”

 

Earlier this week, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that former Angels and current Padres play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg had won the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence.  Enberg was the voice of the California Angels from 1969 to 1978, and was a guest announcer often in 1985 during the Angels’ 25th franchise anniversary season.

Enberg grew up in the midwest as a Tigers fan and attended Indiana Univeristy where he earned a masters and doctorate in health sciences.  His first love was sports, though, and he worked the airwaves calling Indiana Hoosiers football and basketball games.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1961 and found employment with Gene Autry’s KTLA television station and his KMPC radio station calling UCLA Bruins basketball games and Los Angeles Rams football games.  He also worked as a baseball coach from 1961 to 1965 for Cal State Northridge.

At the end of the 1968 baseball season, long-time Angels play-by-play man Buddy Blattner decided to move back home to Missouri, so that left the Angels’ play-by-play spot open.  The honey-voiced Enberg was an in-house talent whom Autry hired to take over for Blattner, and Enberg ended up working the mic as the Angels’ lead broadcaster for the next ten years, his distinctive “Oh, My!” often punctuating a phenomenal play on the field.

When asked in 2010 by Los Angeles Times reporter Jeff Fellenzer for an article titled “Q & A with Dick Enberg” if he could recall his most memorable games as a broadcaster, Enberg replied:

 

That’s easy. I’ve said many times that in all of sport, the most exciting game for an announcer is calling a no-hit, no-run game. There’s nothing like it, the drama of knowing from the seventh inning on that there’s the potential of a no-hitter. And the importance of every out, every nuance, every subtlety, and then to have it grow in theater and become more compelling, into the eighth and ninth, and then you ultimately finish with one.

As an announcer, to be able to sink your teeth into a no-hitter and have it come to fruition — there’s just nothing like it. You can hear the sounds of the no-hitter as well. Having the joy of calling Nolan Ryan’s no-hitter in 1973 in Detroit, where I had been so many times as a kid, was special.

There was Rod Carew’s 3,000th hit and other individual accomplishments. But you know those are coming, and you’re prepared for them. You’re never prepared to see a no-hitter when you come to the ballpark. And then it happens, and it’s like a joyful script that lands in your lap. The no-hitter is the most delicious experience any sportscaster can encounter.

 

After his decade calling Angel games, the time came for Enberg to share his talent with the rest of the country as he signed with NBC and later CBS and ESPN to work national regular season and post season baseball games as well as golf tournaments, tennis grand slam events, eight Super Bowls, and the Olympics.

In December of 2009, Enberg was hired to be the play-by-play man for the San Diego Padres, a position the 79-year-old continues to hold, and on Wednesday he was announced as the newest Ford C. Frick Award winner, joining such baseball broadcasting luminaries as Vin Scully, Mel Allen, Red Barber, Ernie Harwell, Harry Caray, Jaime Jarrin, and Jerry Coleman.

Did You Know?:  Enberg also was a long time television announcer for the New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade as well as the host of several television game shows like this one.

 

Howie Kendrick Traded To Dodgers

December 11th, 2014
He gone.

He gone.

 

All week Jerry Dipoto was playing it cool. He said time and again that the Angels’ plans for the Winter Meetings were simply to fill a few holes at the bottom of the roster, and he backed it up with a deal for a new fringe player each morning: Marc Krauss on Monday; Drew Butera on Tuesday; Scott Snodgress on Wednesday. Dipoto was so casual in his words and his overall demeanor—showing up to his MLB Network interview in a pullover sweater rather than his customary suit and tie—that it was easy to overlook the prescient caveat he fit into just about every interview: that the team would make a big move “should an opportunity present itself.”

Well at about 9:00 pm Wednesday night, that opportunity came. The Angels saw their chance to add a promising, cost-controlled starting pitcher and they took it, sending Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers for young left-hander Andrew Heaney, who had just been acquired from the Marlins hours earlier1. A one-for-one deal, no money involved.

There’s a lot to unravel in this trade, and I’m not sure I can digest Kendrick playing for the Dodgers just yet, so let’s start by talking about Heaney…

The 23-year-old began his Wednesday as the top prospect in the Miami Marlins system and the No. 18 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. The southpaw struggled in his first cup of coffee with Miami in September, but he had already blown past his career high in innings pitched at that point and had started the year at Double-A, so there’s really not much to be read into those 29.1 innings. What can be scrutinized are the 137.1 innings he threw in the minors this past season, where he posted a stellar 3.28 ERA, 0.7 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, and 9.4 K/9 between the Southern League and the hitter-friendly PCL.

Heaney’s smooth, repeatable delivery and a solid three-pitch arsenal (sinker, slider, change) has earned him a No. 2 starter ceiling and a mid-rotation floor over at Baseball Prospectus, and glowing reviews from around the scouting world. Perhaps the most exciting thing about him is that, unlike rotation-mates C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago, Heaney has excellent control—a career 2.4 BB/9 in the minors. His command within the strike zone still needs a little work, but you could probably say that about every 23-year-old pitcher ever.

Heaney was with the big-league club in Miami for only a little more than a month, meaning the Angels will get a full six years with left-hander in the rotation. He is more than ready for a shot in Anaheim, so his arrival likely means that Cory Rasmus will abandon his conversion to starter, and that Hector Santiago could begin the year as a second lefty in the bullpen (if Garrett Richards is healthy). What does this mean for Nick Tropeano? Well, it probably means he’ll start the year at Triple-A, where teams with rotation depth typically store their extra arms. Extra arms! The Angels! What is happening?!

As for Kendrick…

Howie was a cornerstone in Anaheim for nine seasons, and part of the organization for more than a third of his life. He leaves the Angels just a couple seasons shy of taking the reins from Bobby Grich as the best second baseman in franchise history, but still comes away as the easy runner-up. It goes without saying that he will be greatly missed. Watching Kendrick and Aybar man the middle of the infield the last nine years has been a joy to watch, and it’ll be a long while before it won’t be weird to see Kendrick in a Dodger uniform–I never got used to Garrett Anderson in blue.

So far as replacing Kendrick goes, the Angels’ plans are rather unclear. The late-night addition of Josh Rutledge from Colorado gives the club an immediate option at the keystone, but it’s hard to believe he’ll be the guy manning second come Opening Day. Alex Yarbrough, the top positional prospect in the system (non-Baldoquin division), is another option, but he’s still at least half a season away from a promotion to the big stage. Grant Green’s could also get a shot at the starting job, I suppose, but it just seems unlikely.

The clearest answer, to me, seems to be to use the money saved by dealing Kendrick to pick up some veteran help at the keystone. Before Howie’s trade, the Angels had about $10 million in wiggle room before hitting the luxury tax threshold. Now, that number is closer to $19 million. There’s no reason for the front office to go out and spent all their funds, but someone like Jed Lowrie, Stephen Drew, or Asdrubal Cabrera could be within reach.

All in all, I really like this trade for the Angels. Yes, they created a hole on the infield and in the lineup, but in return they got a pitcher who should anchor the middle of the rotation for much of the next decade. There’s still plenty of time to find an adequate replacement for Howie, and even if they don’t the team is so strong elsewhere on the diamond that they can afford to be subpar at one position.

__

1 I have no idea if the Angels and Marlins ever talked about a one-for-one Heaney/Kendrick swap, but one imagines it came up at some point. Does Miami feel bad about having four years of Gordon rather than one of Kendrick? Probably not. Also worth noting that Miami was one of four teams on Howie’s limited no-trade clause.

Winter Meetings: Day 3

December 10th, 2014

 

- 9:20 pm -

Oh dear lord. Howie Kendrick’s been traded to the Dodgers. Full post here.

 

***

 

- 9:05 pm -

It seems Jerry Dipoto and everyone else has decided to take a step back this evening and stand in awe of the workings of the Dodgers’ Dream Team front office. Remember how they snatched Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies earlier this afternoon? Then bamboozled the Marlins by dangling Dee Gordon? Well now they’re closing in on a multi-year deal with Brandon McCarthy that’ll complete their rotation. McCarthy obviously isn’t the best pitcher available, but when you consider that he’s going to be the club’s No. 4 starter at best, it’s a more than understandable move. What’s more, the Dodgers have pretty much filled all their roster holes (except catcher) in the span of 12 hours. Now all they have left to do is collect more promising prospects to clear up their outfield glut. At this moment, I’m exceedingly glad the Angels don’t play in the NL West.

Believe it or not, there is at least one other thing going on as well:

- The Red Sox may or may not have acquired Wade Miley from the D’Backs for Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and a third piece. All the big-name newsbreakers had it confirmed, then 10 minutes later new Arizona GM Dave Stewart came out and denied it. Who knows.

 

***

 

- 5:00 pm -

The Angels are “very unlikely” to land their infielder today, per Alden Gonzalez.

The same can’t be said for the folks up in Chavez Ravine. Not only did the Dodgers acquire long-time Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins this afternoon, they also got four promising young players from the Marlins, including top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney. All new GM Farhad Zaidi had to give up for that score was Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, and a still-unknown minor leaguer. Unless that prospect ends up being Julio Urias or something, that deal is going to go down as the biggest steal of the winter.

Oh yeah, and the Dodgers probably aren’t done. They still have about seven outfielders on the roster, so there’s still a chance they’ll send Matt Kemp to San Diego for even more young, cost-controlled talent. Good day to be a Dodger fan.

 

***

 

- 2:50 pm -

Nothing new to report on the Angels’ quest for a middle infielder, but there were a couple interesting bits of information in Mike Scioscia’s media session this morning:

1) Garrett Richards is unlikely to be fully healthy by the start of 2015, but should be good to go by the end of April. This has always been a possibility, but until today no one had ruled out an Opening Day return. Richards was just cleared to throw earlier this week, so it seems the Halos got a much more definitive idea of his rehab timeline after seeing him play some catch. Far, far too soon to be worried about his recovery.

2) Mike Scioscia is open to batting Mike Trout in the three spot next season, which … I don’t want to overreact to an offhand comment made in December, but this seems like an awful decision. It’s long been understood that lineup construction makes surprisingly little difference in a team’s overall run production. I get that. The thing is, though, most lineups don’t have Mike Trout. When he’s in your lineup, the goal should be to get him as many plate appearances as possible, not drop him down in the order so he can “drive in more runs.” With Chris Iannetta in the nine hole, Trout will get just as many RBI opportunities, if not more, as the two hitter as he would in the three spot with Kendrick ahead of him.

Other notes:

- The Phillies have *finally* started to clear house. Jimmy Rollins is reportedly going to the Dodgers in return for two pitching prospects. Philadelphia fans are probably praying that Julio Urias is one of the arms going east, but that’d be a massive overpay on L.A.’s part. Much more likely that it’ll be Zach Lee and some other guy from the low minors.

- The Phillies are also close on a deal that’d send Antonio Bastardo to the Pirates for an unknown return. Seems like it’s only a matter of time before Cole Hamels hits the road.

 

- 11:55 pm -

Another day, another small deal. The Angels have crossed yet another item off their short Winter Meetings checklist, signing lefty reliever Scott Snodgress to a minor-league contract with an invite to Spring Training. The 25-year-old Snodgress was one of the many southpaws non-tendered at the start of the month, after making all of four appearances with the White Sox in 2014.

Snodgress has never put up numbers that jump off the page, but there is some reason to believe he has better days ahead of him. Until July of this year, the Stanford alum was just another lefty starter with maybe enough deception to crack the back end of an MLB rotation at some point. When moved to the bullpen upon his promotion to Triple-A, though, an immediate improvement in his peripherals hinted at the possibility of a bright future as a reliever. Snodgress doesn’t have great control, but his mid-90s fastball, 6’6″ frame, and three-quarters delivery should be unsettling enough to hitters to offset his walk-rate woes, especially in a LOOGY role. The southpaw complemented his plus heater with a slider and a change-up while working as a starter, but effectively dropped the cambio from his arsenal when moved to the ‘pen.

Snodgress’s size, arsenal, and projection are strikingly similar to those of Mark Sappington, who the Angels shipped off to Tampa Bay last month for Cesar Ramos. The biggest difference between the two, other than the whole throwing-with-a-different-arm thing, is that Snodgress has actually had success in the high minors. Sappington has most definitely not. Trading away Sappington, then, only to get the slightly more productive lefty version of him at no cost a month later is some pretty sweet maneuvering by Dipoto and crew. /tips cap

 

***

 

- 9:15 am - 

Jon Lester finally came off the board late Tuesday night, signing a six-year, $155 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. His departure to the North Side opens the doors for things to get pretty hectic the next two days. Many teams were waiting for Lester to sign to see how the chips would fall, and now that he has there shouldn’t be anything holding them back. The Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers, Royals, Tigers, Yankees, and more still need starting pitching, and there’s plenty of it to be had. I’d be surprised if at least two more starters aren’t traded or inked to lucrative contracts before Thursday afternoon’s Rule 5 draft.

For the Angels, the modus operandi for the remainder of the trip appears to be adding depth in the middle infield. As was written last night, there are at least seven guys the front office is looking at: Brock Holt, Eugenio Suarez, Marwin Gonzalez, Nick Ahmed, Pete Kozma, Eduardo Escobar, and Josh Rutledge. If tasked to rank which players would bring the best return, it’d probably be in that order. Word on the rumor mill is that the Halos are looking to deal from their surplus of righty relief pitchers to acquire their infield help, but it’s not clear who is and isn’t available among that group.

The best of the rest:

- The Astros have shored up their bullpen some, signing Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson to multi-year deals. Is it just me, or does it feel like almost every free-agent pitcher this winter was on the A’s at some point in time?

- The Phillies are probably going to trade Cole Hamels. The Red Sox, Giants, and Dodgers are all said to have interest in the three-time All-Star, but only two of those teams have the volume of high-ceiling prospects necessary to get a deal done, and only Boston has the absolute dire need for rotation help to make it worth the cost.

Recaps: Day 1 | Day 2

 

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.

Halos Daily

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