General manager Jerry Dipoto said Tuesday that he was operating with no preconceived notions and is exploring all options in his quest to upgrade his starting pitching.
Angels hitters who would bring the greatest returns are first baseman Mark Trumbo, second baseman Howie Kendrick and shortstop Erick Aybar.
Kendrick, on the surface, would appear the most likely to go. His trade value probably is the highest: Nearly half of the major league teams face uncertainty at second base, and the Angels are relatively deep at the position.
For starters, the Angels could try Grant Green at second. They also have two second basemen coming — Taylor Lindsey, the 37th overall pick in 2010, and Alex Yarbrough, their fourth-rounder in 2012.
Then again, Kendrick is an excellent player.
“He can really hit and is probably an undervalued defender,” Dipoto said.
He also is signed for a combined $18.85 million over the next two seasons, an attractive price. However, he does have limited no-trade protection that allows him to block deals to 12 clubs in 2013 and six in ’14.
Trumbo, on the other hand, is just starting to make bigger money. He is eligible for arbitration for the first time this season and projects to earn $4.7 million, according to Matt Swartz of MLBTradeRumors.com.
The money isn’t an issue for the Angels. The loss of Trumbo’s power would be. As Dipoto put it, “30-100 guys aren’t growing on trees,” referring to players who hit 30 homers and produce 100 RBI.
Consider the past two seasons.
Albert Pujols has given the Angels 47 homers and 169 RBI in 1,113 plate appearances. Trumbo has given them 66 homers and 195 RBI in 1,264 plate appearances — and he handily outproduced Angels newcomer Josh Hamilton in both categories last season.
True, Trumbo has only a .299 career on-base percentage and has faded in the second half of each of the past two seasons. But what other Angels player will hit for power in the event that Pujols and/or Hamilton miss time with injuries? Trumbo, who turns 28 on Jan. 16, played in 159 games last season. Hamilton appeared in 151, Pujols 99.
Finally, there is Aybar, who is signed at salaries of $8.5 million in each of the next three seasons. The St. Louis Cardinals, seeking a shortstop, could entice the Angels with a young starting pitcher. The Angels then would need to find a shortstop — not easy to do in today’s market.
Dipoto, talking about his options, said, “You can’t corner yourself off.” He is considering all options, as well as free agents such as his own Jason Vargas.
The Angels are going to get pitching, some way, somehow.
Philly faces dilemma with Brown
The Phillies, after signing free-agent outfielder Marlon Byrd to a two-year, $16 million contract, are still looking for one more outfielder – a reserve who could protect them against injury and provide above-average defense.
The real question, though, is whether the Phils would trade Domonic Brown and open a spot for another corner outfielder who would arrive via free agency or trade.
The Phillies dismiss such talk, saying they value Brown and that he is the type of player they want to build around. Brown, 26, is still a year away from arbitration, and last season he broke out with an .818 OPS while leading the club with 27 homers and 83 RBIs.
Others in the industry, however, say the Phillies are indeed willing to move Brown, citing his below-average defense as one factor. Brown last season was minus-22 in left field according to John Dewan’s plus-minus rankings on BillJamesOnline. In other words, he made 22 plays below the number an average left fielder would make, according to the video scouts at Baseball Info Solutions.
It seems unlikely that the Phillies would trade Brown to clear a spot for a more expensive outfielder such as free agent Nelson Cruz, especially when they already have $122.5 million committed to eight players. But with virtually every club seeking power, perhaps the Phillies could trade Brown to address other needs.
Cy Young on the block
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi on Tuesday that the team intends for left-hander Drew Smyly to be in its rotation next season — the strongest indication yet that Detroit will trade right-hander Max Scherzer or righty Rick Porcello.
A number of executives continue to view a Scherzer deal as far-fetched, but one thing is certain: The Tigers will not struggle to generate interest for the likely American League Cy Young winner.
Count the Diamondbacks among the clubs that plan to take a shot at Scherzer, according to major league sources. The D-backs — like another interested club, the Nationals — know that they could part with less for Scherzer, who is only one year away from free agency, than for Rays lefty David Price, who is under club control for two more years.
Any club that acquires Scherzer this offseason also could extend him a qualifying offer next winter to assure draft-pick compensation — and ease the sting of the prospects lost.
The Tigers, meanwhile, remain interested in signing a free-agent closer. They are considering not only Joe Nathan but also Brian Wilson for that spot, according to major league sources.
Yankees: Desperately seeking Tanaka
Yankees GM Brian Cashman said on Tuesday that he wants to add 400 innings to the team’s rotation. One look at the team’s depth chart, and it’s easy to understand why.
Left-hander CC Sabathia and righty Ivan Nova are the only certain members of the rotation, with David Phelps, Adam Warren and Michael Pineda among the other possibilities. Meanwhile, David Robertson, Preston Claiborne, Cesar Cabral and Shawn Kelley appear the only certainties in the bullpen.
“Plenty of room at the inn,” one Yankees official said.
Well, the Yankees would like to reserve one room for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. And because the posting fee for Tanaka will not count against the luxury tax, Tanaka appeals more to clubs with tax concerns — the Dodgers would be another — than he does to other teams. Only his average annual salary would count against the $189 million threshold.
The Diamondbacks also could bid on Tanaka, but are pessimistic about their chances. They’ve had three scouts watch Tanaka, and Rick Short, one of their area scouts, was Tanaka’s teammate with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Overstating the windfall
Like many others, I’ve written that teams will have more money to spend this offseason because of the increase in annual national television revenue from $25 million to $52 million, starting in 2014.
Those numbers, however, are misleading; baseball does not distribute that money to teams in gross amounts, according to major league sources.
Instead, the sport redirects some of the revenue to everything from Major League Baseball Advanced Media to the players’ pension plan to expenses for the league offices in New York.
Teams actually received about $20 million per season under the old deal, not $25 million, the source said. The new number has yet to be determined, but it will be less than $52 million.
Regardless, teams have more money to spend.
Just not as much as has been reported.
Around the horn
• The White Sox are still awaiting word on whether free-agent first baseman Paul Konerko wants to return next season, according to GM Rick Hahn.
The team’s recent signing of Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract would not necessarily preclude a deal for Konerko, even with Adam Dunn remaining the designated hitter.
Both Abreu and Konerko are right-handed hitters, but the White Sox might want to break in Abreu slowly, use Konerko only sparingly and sit Dunn against left-handers.
In other words, there should be room for all three.
• There is a dearth of quality third basemen on the free-agent market — Juan Uribe is the best available — but Giants GM Brian Sabean indicated that he is extremely unlikely to trade third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
“You’d have to pay a king’s ransom,” Sabean said. “We’re not looking to move him. We can’t replace the offense.”
Sabean also said that “a lot of mutual interest” remains between the Giants and free-agent left-hander Javier Lopez, who pitched in relief for the team’s World Series champions in 2010 and ’12.
• Multiple teams have expressed interest in Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia, prompting the Jays to explore the free-agent catching market for a possible replacement, sources say.
The Jays have contacted all of the free-agent catchers but have yet to make an offer, one source said. The team’s top priority is upgrading its rotation, but the Jays ideally would like to get something for Arencibia and sign someone else.
Arencibia, who turns 28 on Jan. 5, batted .194 with a .592 OPS last season, albeit with 21 homers. He is projected to earn $2.8 million in arbitration next season according to Matt Swartz of MLBTradeRumors.com.
• Corey Hart’s agents at CAA tweeted a link to a video Tuesday showing the free-agent first baseman/outfielder performing a series of agility drills in and around a ladder laying flat on the ground.
Hart, who will be 32 next season, did not play at all in 2013 while recovering from surgery on his right knee. Some clubs are skeptical that he will be fit enough to play outfield in ’14. The video likely was intended to alleviate those concerns.
• So, which is the real Ubaldo Jimenez? The guy who produced a 4.56 ERA before the All-Star break or the one who had a 1.82 after it?
The Indians gave pitching coach Mickey Callaway a considerable amount of credit for Jimenez’s turnaround, and one executive said that Jimenez will require the same type of attention with his next team.
“He better have a good pitching coach,” the exec said.