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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.

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.

 

***

Trade Possibilities: David Freese

November 8th, 2014

 

Freese

 

The likelihood of Howie Kendrick and David Freese being dealt this winter took a nosedive Wednesday when the Angels acquired the cost-controlled rotation arm and lefty reliever they needed without dealing either infielder. Only Hank Conger and Mark Sappington were needed as sacrifices for the good of the 2015 season, leaving 2014′s starting nine completely intact. A touch of genius by Jerry Dipoto and crew, if you ask me.

All that’s left for the Halos to do over the next four months is add a cheap DH option and maybe a utility guy, and I highly doubt that Kendrick or Freese will be traded to fill those minor roster gaps. However, in an effort to cover all our bases—and to not let 1,000 words of pre-Wednesday writing go to waste—I thought I’d finish what I started on Monday and go through a few hypothetical trade scenarios for the Angels’ third baseman.

Let’s get straight to the point. Freese is highly unlikely to command anywhere near the same attention on the trading block as Hank Conger, let alone Kendrick. He may have netted two promising, cost-controlled players on his way into Anaheim last December, but there’s no chance he’ll do so on the way out. The sheen of his 2011 World Series MVP has had another year to dull, and the down 2013 numbers passed off as an injury-related aberration have quickly become the new norm.

Both Freese and Kendrick are in their early 30s and entering their final season of team control, but Freese is closer to a bottom-five player at his position than top-five, and the market for third basemen this offseason projects to be rather muted. Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley will no doubt be paid handsomely for their services, but beyond that there probably won’t be much noise made at the hot corner this winter. Only the Astros, Phillies, and Tigers got replacement-level or worse production out of their third basemen in 2014—compared to seven such teams at the keystone—and the only team to lose a non-stopgap third baseman to free agency was the Giants.

Trade Possibilities: Howie Kendrick

November 3rd, 2014

Kendrick

 

It’s no secret that, like last winter, the Angels have little financial wiggle room to sign free agents this offseason. And with a need to bolster the rotation yet again, the prevailing question is not whether someone might get traded, but who those someones will be. Well, we may have an answer. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Halos are looking to trade either Howie Kendrick or David Freese to fill their rotation and lefty-specialist needs this winter.

For today let’s focus on HK, who’s a trade-rumor veteran at this point.

Kendrick been said to be on the block three different times now in the past two years, each time in the service of his club’s need for starting pitching. The fifth- or sixth-most valuable second baseman in baseball over the past five years, depending on your WAR metric of choice, Kendrick should be a hot commodity this winter even with just one year of team control remaining. So let’s speculate.

Determining fair compensation in the world of hypothetical trades is a tricky business. The biggest obstacle, obviously, is that no one knows how front offices really value certain players. We’re all throwing darts at a wall, and we know it. That doesn’t stop us from guessing, of course. Permanent outsider status aside, the most common pitfall in the unruly world of Internet baseball trades is overestimating the value of one team’s player(s) while dramatically underestimating the worth of the other’s. I like to think that most of these skewed propositions are simply the result of an altruistic overeagerness about a favorite team, but there are also those that make you wonder if people just really don’t understand how baseball works at all. In an attempt to avoid this sort of transgression, I’m going to try basing our speculative swap on actual recent trades of a similar ilk.

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