Huston Street Injured… Again!

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In his first outing, Huston Street exited before he could complete one inning with what the Angels were calling triceps irritation. Turns out it was a lat strain.

The top closer candidate for the Halos bullpen has not seen action on a mound in any game since last August when he was battling knee and oblique injuries. With only 22 1/3 innings with a 6.45 ERA, and a $10 million club option with a $1 million dollar buyout at the end of the season, the club has been hoping for more in 2017.

But as of right now, the latter is the likely scenario. So unless Street gets back on track this season, the closer job is down to Andrew Bailey and Cam Bedrosian.

And then there’s next season.

Angels Not Likely to Acquire Derek Norris

The issue is salary.

Washington Nationals catcher Derek Norris is pretty much ousted by the club’s signing of Matt Wieters. And the Angels are on a short list of likely trade destinations. But with a $4.2 million dollar paycheck, and a decline in the scruffy catcher’s production (.186/.255/.328 in 2016), Billy Eppler and company are nervous about making a deal.

The Nats, however, could release Norris, which would turn him into a low risk/high reward acquisition at a much cheaper price. Much like the possible Wieters situation, this move would create a log jam behind the dish in Anaheim, and it would not be out of the realm of possibility of the Halos finally make a deal involving CJ Cron and Carlos Perez for starting pitching.

According to Norris’ career stats, the 2016 season was an off year, especially due to a .238 BABIP that signals major bad luck when the league average is .300. He also averaged a 2.4 WAR in the previous three seasons, which all by himself would be more than the FanGraphs projection of 1.6 WAR for the current catching duo.

And he’s still only 28 years old.

Angels Starting Lineup Taking Shape

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This is a photo from Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register showing that Mike Scioscia is pretty close to finishing his preferred batting order. All he needs is for Albert Pujols to return. The Martin Maldonado/Carlos Perez battle will have a winner soon. But one has to imagine they’ll end up splitting the time nearly down the middle. Batting Cameron Maybin sixth caught me by surprise, but the 1-2-3 combo the Angels had last season worked very well, so why not stick to it? Luis Valbuena hitting cleanup is probably just to break up the righties. I expected Danny Espinosa to hit seventh. This could turn out to be a lineup with a lot of hits, few strikeouts again, more lefties, more homeruns, and a lot of stolen bases. Should be fun to watch.

Andrew Bailey Didn’t Know He Was a Free Agent!

Eight years after making his Major League debut, reliever Andrew Bailey went into the offseason expecting another arbitration. The former World Champion with the 2013 Red Sox had signed a minor league deal with the Angels last August, and was ending his run of 43 2/3 strong innings in the club’s merry-go-round of a bullpen. And right at the end of September, the right-hander had finally fulfilled his six years of service time by three days.

So how does a player not know he’s a free agent? Well, turns out that missing all of the 2014 season due to reconstructive shoulder surgery, and a slow return back stretched out Bailey’s service time. And with that, he “never seriously considered leaving” the Halos in free agency this winter.

Now Bailey has a new one-year deal in Anaheim, and is in the hunt for the team’s closer role in 2017. I guess players really don’t pay attention to that stuff and just focus on the game after all.

Matt Wieters Will Not Be an Angel

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Oct 4, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (32) stands at home plate during the eighth inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles won 9-4. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE, February 21, 2017: Matt Wieters is not going to be an Angel. Sorry to those who wanted him here. But Scott Boras got what he wanted. The colorful agent got his switch-hitting catcher signed to a two-year, $21 million dollar deal with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday morning. That was way too much for Wieters, and would not have been a wise move for the Angels.

There is actually much debate among Nats fans because Wieters isn’t the greatest defensive backstop, and is overall just an above average hitter. It’s a defensive downgrade. It would’ve been for the Halos.

The overall projected WAR for Angels catchers at FanGraphs is 2.3. That would not have changed much (if at all) with Wieters in Anaheim. The original post at the bottom goes into more detail.

So there you have it. What’s done is done.

Why not bring in another cheap arm for depth instead?

 

UPDATE, February 10, 2017: Turns out that Wieters suffered a laceration that required stitches to his left (non-throwing) arm earlier this offseason. However, the catcher is fully healthy. This would explain much of the hesitancy by clubs to sign him, aside from the metrics.

So no one seems to have a clue about when or where he will sign!

 

Original Post

With the offseason nearing a close, Matt Wieters is still on the market. The Angels still have money left before the luxury tax. And the way things are looking, he’ll have to settle for a one-year contract somewhere for rather cheap.

That makes sense for all three clubs. The Nationals should also be included in the equation. It wouldn’t be surprising if it came down to the wire.

The Orioles already have Wellington Castillo at catcher now. They’d love to have Wieters back on a one-year contract, but he’d have to split time with Castillo behind the dish and fill out the rest of his playing time at DH.

The Angels could jump in on this at the last minute to squeeze Wieters in, and he would definitely get more starting time with a very strong defensive backup catcher in Martin Maldonado behind him.

In fact, FanGraphs has the current Angels catching depth chart projected to produce a 2.8 WAR, which would have Maldonado and Perez combining for just above typical starter level. However, adding Wieters would create a clog behind the dish, so it is conceivable that his presence would push a trade package likely involving Carlos Perez for a young mid-to-backend innings eating starting pitcher.

Plus, with Wieters’ 1.7 WAR last season (and a 1.5 WAR over 101 games combined between 2014 and 2015), that move would basically leave the club the same WAR value (if not slightly more) behind the plate, but more on the offensive side than with the glove. And with the possible trade thereafter, the Halos would be adding more value on the 25-man roster with the aforementioned starting pitcher.

General Manager Billy Eppler has stated all offseason that his approach involved making smaller moves to set up bigger moves.

We don’t know exactly when or where Wieters will sign. Beyond the typical speculation of a one-year deal, and the four clubs mentioned, things have been quiet about him of late.

However, we should still think about this as a possibility.

Hardball Retrospective and the “Original” 1993 Angels

There are a handful of Angels teams that were really good but came up short of the playoffs, and some that should have been way better than they were. When discussing the former I point immediately to the 1989 squad that went 91-71 but still finished third in a pre-Wildcard/seven team AL West. When it comes to the latter, the 1993 club is one that always comes to mind. There was a great mix of key veterans and young talent from what was becoming a minor league system on the rise. Major injuries and growing pains from the Halos youth took their toll, however. And the result was a 71-91 record.

But what about the players the Angels let go in the previous three years leading up to that? How much would just holding onto that youth have helped the Halos compete better? The franchise was finally starting from scratch and building through their farm system, an approach that helped lead the team to a championship a decade later. But could they have done even better than through the rest of the nineteen nineties if they just confused the rebuild without trying to contend?

After all, the Angels came very close to making the playoffs in 1995, 1997, and 1998. They could’ve used the young players they gave away earlier in that decade.

Derek Bain recently posted a very interesting article at FanGraphs about a section is book, Hardball Retrospective, on the 1993 Halos and what the team might have done if the club had kept the young players they gave away.

Here it is…

Garrett Richards Back In Action

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Garrett Richards – wearing #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day – delivers a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on April 15, 2016 (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

After his first sessions in Tempe, Arizona, Garrett Richards said he is feeling normal and is ready for another spring. Once headed for Tommy John Surgery, the Angels ace has undergone several stem cell injections that have helped his UCL in his throwing arm to heal in place of the procedure that would’ve kept the righty out until 2018. But now, he most likely will be ready for Opening Day 2017!

Here’s some footage of Garrett at spring camp.

Angels Acquire Austin Adams

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In a move that puzzled Angels fans last week, the club went out and got reliever Austin Adams from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. The part that confused many was where right-hander Deolis Guerra was designated for assignment, went unclaimed despite a 3.21 ERA in 53 1/3 innings for the Halos in 2015, and then accepted his outright assignment.

Adams, 31, has a 6.29 ERA in 58 2/3 innings in the Majors, but with a 3.33 career ERA in the minors. He’s a right-handed who can post a high strikeout rate but has issues walking hitters.

Guerra didn’t have a great K rate, but held opposing hitters to a 1.106 WHIP, and his ERA was accurate because of a 3.76 FIP.

Adams has high rates across the board.

There’s not much else to share other than the possibility that there must be something going on with Guerra that isn’t being disclosed at this time.

We’ll see.

Most of the Angels’ bullpen isn’t up for grabs any way, so Adams isn’t guaranteed anything, and Guerra can easily win his spot back.

Angels Sign Yusmeiro Petit

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The bullpen situation has been the one thing on everyone’s minds despite the insane offseason the Angels have had. The club signed Yusmeiro Petit to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Should he make the squad, the deal comes with a $2.25 million dollar base salary with an additional $1.25 million in incentives.

Petit was once a big part of the success of the Giants, working both out of the bullpen and the rotation at times. In 2014, he set a record, retiring 46 consecutive batters out of the pen.

In 2016, Petit worked out of the Nationals’ bullpen, posting a 4.50 ERA with a 7.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, and a 41.5 percent ground-ball rate in 62 innings. He also made one start and was stellar until August, when something gave way and allowed half his runs for the season in the final two months. It was probably a fluke, and the Halos may have stolen this one.

Angels Sign Dustin Ackley

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UPDATE, February 7: Terms are $2.25 million, and $1.4MM in incentives if he makes the club.

So it’s that time of the offseason again, where teams start stocking up on minor league deals with the hope of getting a valuable performance for cheap and perhaps being a key piece or trade bait during the season. Well, the Angels signing Dustin Ackley may not quite be that, but as a depth move the former number 2 pick by the Seattle Mariners will serve as an emergency option at first base, second base and the outfield corners, as he’s invited to Spring Training with a chance to make the Opening Day roster.

That’s highly unlikely with a career batting line of .241/.304/.367, a 91 OPS+, and only hitting .148/.243/.148 in 2016. But stranger things have happened. Ackley does have a pretty good glove.

However, the part that really stands out with the Halos… He’s a Boras client!

Wieters anyone?