Los Angeles Angels Offseason Tracker: Hottest Trade Rumors, Free Agency News

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2013

Los Angeles Angels Offseason Tracker: Hottest Trade Rumors, Free Agency News

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    After spending big in each of the past two offseasons to sign Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton as free agents, the Angels head into the winter in desperate need of pitching and with more questions about their superstar-laden lineup than they have answers for.

    Will GM Jerry Dipoto deal from an area of strength, moving one of his bats to obtain the reinforcements that the team needs for its pitching staff? Will owner Arte Moreno sign off on adding another big contract to the team's already bloated payroll?

    For the answer to those questions and more, keep it right here, as we'll be bringing you the most up-to-the-minute rumblings about the Angels, along with analysis and everything else that comes with it.

    While the post date will always show as November 1, simply click to the next slide to see the latest the rumor mill has to offer about the Angels as they put together their roster for the 2014 season. 

Los Angeles' Free Agents and Done Deals

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    All the juicy rumors and analysis follow, but consider this your one-stop shop for all the comings and goings in Los Angeles this winter, including the status of the team's own free agents.

    Angels Free Agents

    RHP J.C. Gutierrez (Dec. 2: Non-Tendered)

    RHP Tommy Hanson (Dec. 2: Non-Tendered)

    2B/3B Chris Nelson (Dec. 2: Non-Tendered)

    LHP Jason Vargas (Nov. 21: Signed a four-year, $32 million deal with Kansas City)

    RHP Jerome Williams (Dec. 2: Non-Tendered)

    Done Deals

    Nov. 6: Signed RHP Chris Volstad to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training

    Nov. 11: Signed LHP Wade LeBlanc to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training

    Nov. 22: Acquired 3B David Freese and RHP Fernando Salas from St. Louis for OF Peter Bourjos and OF Randal Grichuk (Analysis)

    Nov. 23: Signed RHP Joe Smith to a three-year, $15.75 million deal (Analysis)

    Dec. 5: Signed LHP Clay Rapada to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training

    Dec. 10: Acquired LHP Hector Santiago from Chicago (Analysis) and LHP Tyler Skaggs from Arizona (Analysis), traded OF Mark Trumbo and RHP A.J. Schugel to Arizona 

    Dec. 12: Acquired LHP Brian Moran (Rule 5 Draft pick) from Toronto in exchange for international cap space (Analysis)

    Dec. 18: Signed OF/DH/1B Raul Ibanez to a one-year, $2.75 million deal (Analysis)

    Jan. 1: Signed LHP Mark Mulder to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training

Masahiro Tanaka: Phenom Will Be Posted

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    Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

    Update: Thursday, Dec. 26 at 8:30 a.m. ET

    Tanaka's posting period begins today, giving teams until 5:00 p.m. ET on Jan. 24 to sign the free agent, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.

    If he does not reach an agreement with a MLB team by then, he'll return to Japan for another season.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 10:47 p.m. ET

    The Golden Eagles will grant Tanaka's wish to pitch in the major leagues and post the 25-year-old hurler, with the official announcement set to come on Christmas, according to Patrick Newman from NPB Tracker.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 8:55 p.m. ET

    It looks as if Rakuten is going to give MLB the biggest gift of all this Christmas, according to NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman:

    Nikkan Sports, Sanspo both reporting that Rakuten is set to allow Tanaka to move to the Majors.

    An official announcement is expected within the next 24-to-48 hours.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 6:06 p.m. ET

    Rakuten has made a decision on whether or not to post Tanaka and an announcement should be made in the next day or two, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports Japan, via NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Thursday, Dec. 19 at 10:09 a.m. ET

    Former major league pitcher C.J. Nitkowski, who spent part of his career playing in Asia, cites a solid source as saying that Rakuten's president will make an official announcement on Tanaka's status in "four-to-five days."

    The Golden Eagles are upset over the $20 million cap on posting fees, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, which makes sense, considering that the team was against the new posting agreement between NPB and MLB.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Thursday, Dec. 19 at 8:12 a.m. ET

    Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets that multiple reports out of Japan indicate that Tanaka will not be posted.

    If true, look for the Angels to ramp up their pursuit of Matt Garza or Bronson Arroyo, thought to be the team's two top choices among the free agent pitchers left on the market.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 3:45 p.m. ET

    A GM that has no plans on bidding for Tanaka tells CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that he has "no doubt" that the Japanese phenom will command a contract exceeding $100 million if he's posted.

    Given the Angels recent luck with nine-figure deals, it's hard to imagine owner Arte Moreno signing off on such an investment.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Monday, Dec. 16 at 4:35 p.m. ET

    The first hurdle for teams to sign Masahiro Tanaka has been cleared, as MLB and NPB have announced a new three-year posting agreement, via ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

    Under the terms of the new agreement, the posting fee cannot exceed $20 million, and every team that submits the highest posting bid will have an opportunity to negotiate with the posted player.

    Whether Angels will be in on Tanaka—and whether the Japanese phenom will even be posted—are questions that remain unanswered.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 6:07 p.m. ET

    Rakuten Golden Eagles team president Yozo Tachibana is at the Winter Meetings in Orlando and addressed reporters, including Mark Feinsand from the New York Daily News.

    Ichibana said that the team had made no decision about whether it would post Tanaka, adding that he needed to speak with the pitcher "face-to-face" next week.

    While the Angels have been linked to Tanaka since earlier this offseason, questions continue to linger about whether the team can really contend for his services given their lack of available cash to spend this winter.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Sunday, Dec. 8 at 7:17 p.m. ET

    Whether Masahiro Tanaka is posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles or not may largely be up to him, according to Baseball America's Ben Badler.

    In comments to the Japanese Media, Rakuten's team president, Yozo Tachibana said that if Tanaka wants to be posted so that he can begin his MLB career, the team will likely respect his wishes—but not before putting on a full-court press to try and convince him to stay.

    While the Angels have interest in Tanaka, whether the team will enter into a bidding war for his services with the likes of the Dodgers, Rangers and Yankees, who are all expected to be in on the Japanese phenom, is a legitimate question to ask, given the struggles of the team's recent high-price acquisitions.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Thursday, Dec. 5 at 6:06 p.m. ET

    According to a report by Newsday's David Lennon, Rakuten's president spoke to the media in Japan on Thursday and said that club executives will have internal discussions to see if it makes sense to post Tanaka.

    While it's a good sign that the team hasn't completely ruled out posting Tanaka, his MLB future remains murky with the team owner on record as being against the proposed new posting agreement between NPB and MLB.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 8:15 p.m. ET

    Peter Gammons reports that Tanaka may not be posted after all.

    The Japanese phenom's team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, are said to be so upset with the proposed changes to the posting system that they are leaning towards not posting Tanaka at all, which would make him unavailable to all MLB teams.

    This would remove another option for GM Jerry DiPoto to bolster the team's starting rotation and leave the Angels, like a number of teams, scrambling to sign the remaining quality starters on the market.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Thursday, Nov. 14 at 6:09 p.m. ET

    Mark Feinsand from the New York Daily News says that a source is reporting that negotiations over the posting process are not in danger of falling apart as previously reported.

    Once an agreement is reached, Tanaka will be posted—and the Angels are expected to be in the thick of the ensuing chaos.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Thursday, Nov. 14 at 5:44 p.m. ET

    Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that MLB owners have "serious reservations" about the changes being proposed in a new posting agreement between MLB and Japan's NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball)—and that it's possible that an agreement will not be reached.

    Here's a look at the proposed changes, according to a report in The Japan Times:

    Under the new system, the highest bidding major league team would still be awarded exclusive rights to negotiate with Japanese players, but Japanese teams would receive the fee set as the average figure of the top two bids. Any team which fails to sign the Japanese player during the exclusive negotiating window would be subject to a fine by MLB.

    Without an agreement in place, Japanese players, like Tanaka, will not be eligible to be posted and negotiate with MLB clubs. If that happens, the Angels and every other MLB team will have to find their answers for the rotation elsewhere.

    --End of Update--

    Mike DiGiovana of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels are interested in 24-year-old Masahiro Tanaka, Japan's next big export to MLB.

    DiGiovana quotes Angels GM Jerry DiPoto as saying that the team has scouted Tanaka "multiple times," which makes sense considering the team's need for high-quality arms in the rotation.

    Tanaka finished the 2013 season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles with a 24-0 record, 1.27 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 212 innings of work, striking out 183 batters.

    While he won't come cheap—Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan reports that he's going to cost more than the $51.7 million posting fee that Texas paid to negotiate with Yu Darvish—and there are always risks involved with how a Japanese pitcher's stuff will translate to the big leagues, Tanaka would immediately upgrade Los Angeles' rotation.

Dec. 18: Signed DH/OF/1B Raul Ibanez

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Age: 41

    Bats: L

    2013 Stats: .242/.306/.487, 29 HR, 65 RBI

    Contract Status: One year, $2.75 million (plus incentives)

    The Angels took a step towards replacing the power that they lost in the Mark Trumbo trade by signing veteran slugger Raul Ibanez.

    Ibanez will likely serve as the Angels designated hitter, at least against right-handed pitching, and he gives the Angels an option for a corner outfield spot and at first base, should a need arise to put him in the field.

    While his career numbers against left-handed pitching aren't terrible (.261/.315/.425), he is at his best when facing right-handers, against whom he owns a career .281/.346/.486 slash line and has hit 237 of his 300 career home runs off of.

    In almost 300 at Angels Stadium accumulated over an 18-year career, Ibanez owns a .349/.407/.522 slash line with 29 extra-base hits (10 home runs) and 48 RBI. If Ibanez can produce numbers like he did for the Mariners in 2013, the Angels will have wound up with one of the real bargains of the winter.

Mark Reynolds: Angels Looking at Free Agent Slugger

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 5:03 p.m. ET

    According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, the Angels are interested in signing free agent Mark Reynolds.

    Reynolds, 30, hit .236 with 12 extra-base hits (six home runs), 19 RBI and a .755 OPS over 120 at-bats for the Yankees while filling in at both first base and third base, and hit a combined .220 with 21 home runs and 69 RBI over 504 plate appearances between New York and Cleveland in 2013.

    He strikes out a ton, leading the league in strikeouts four times over a seven-year career, but he also knows how to send the ball over the outfield wall and could help to replace some of the production that the team lost when it traded Mark Trumbo to Arizona.

    Able to play both corner infield spots, Reynolds would serve as insurance for David Freese at third base and Albert Pujols at first base while providing the team with a far more powerful option for the designated hitter spot than anyone currently on the roster.

Dec. 12: Acquired LHP Brian Moran from Toronto (via Seattle)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    It's a bit convoluted as he was acquired via trade but, essentially, the Angels have added 25-year-old Brian Moran to their 40-man roster in the Rule 5 draft from the Mariners at a cost of $50,000.

    He completed his second consecutive season with Triple-A Tacoma in 2013, pitching to a 3.45 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 48 appearances, striking out 85 batters over only 62.2 innings of relief. For his career, he's pitched to a 3.61 ERA and 1.25 WHIP at the minor leagues' highest level.

    A consistent strike-thrower who isn't afraid to attack the plate, MLB.com's Jim Callis says that Moran has a great chance to stick with the Blue Jays, pointing to his minor league success and ability to make batters miss.

    While acquired via trade, the Rule 5 Draft rules still apply: If Moran doesn't spend the entire season on Los Angeles' 25-man roster, he must be offered back to Seattle at half-price ($25,000).

Matt Garza: Free Agent Target

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Update: Thursday, Dec. 12 at 9:01 a.m. ET

    Jeff Fletcher from the Orange County Register says that the Angels don't believe Garza is close to signing, and that the team doesn't expect to sign anyone before the Winter Meetings wrap up later today.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Thursday, Dec. 12 at 8:49 a.m. ET

    Executives expect Matt Garza to sign with a team soon, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, naming the Angels and Diamondbacks as his two most likely landing spots.

    --End of Update--

    Even after acquiring southpaws Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago for Mark Trumbo, the Angels are still actively looking to improve their rotation. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reports that the Angels are among the clubs talking to Matt Garza.

    Teams pursuing the 30-year-old obviously have to be ready to spend, but since they don't have to give up a compensation pick, that makes him more attractive than other pitchers on the market.

    The right-hander went 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA between the Chicago Cubs and the Texas Rangers. When he was thrown into a pennant race, he went 4-5 with a 4.38 ERA in 13 starts with the Rangers.

    In two games at Angel Stadium in 2013, Garza went 0-1 with a 6.08 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP. He allowed 10 hits, including two home runs, in 13.1 innings in Los Angeles.

    He has dealt with elbow, shoulder and lat injuries in recent seasons, which has some teams concerned.

    Garza would fit in well behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson in the rotation.

Dec. 10: Acquired LHP Tyler Skaggs

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Age: 22

    Throws: L

    2013 Stats: 7 GS, 2-3, 5.12 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 38.2 IP, 3.5 BB/9, 8.4 K/9

    Contract Status: Not arbitration eligible until 2017, under team control through 2019

    Few people know Tyler Skaggs as well as Angels GM Jerry DiPoto, who traded for Skaggs when he was with the Diamondbacks in the trade that bought Dan Haren to Los Angeles—and now he’s gotten Skaggs back from his former team for the Angels.

    He best pitch is his curveball, which has tremendous 12-to-6 break, but he also has two other plus pitches in his low-90s fastball and high-70s changeup, which has some fade and plays well off the fastball, which he uses to set up his knee-buckling curve.

    Skaggs also has an excellent pickoff move, something that is always a nice addition to any pitcher’s repertoire.

    He’s struggled in the major leagues thus far, pitching to a 5.43 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 13 starts over the past two seasons, and his minor league numbers last year (6-10 with a 4.60 ERA and 1.51 WHIP) leave much to be desired. Arizona shortened his stride last year, which took some speed off of his fastball and certainly contributed to his awful performance.

    That said, Skaggs remains a highly thought of youngster with significant upside and could be a prime candidate to get back on track with the change of scenery.

Dec. 10: Acquired LHP Hector Santiago

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    Throws: L

    2013 Stats: 34 G (23 GS), 4-9, 3.56 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 149 IP, 4.3 BB/9, 8.3 K/9

    Contract Status: Not arbitration eligible until 2015, under team control through 2017

    He may only have 27 major league starts under his belt, but Hector Santiago is a terrific addition to an Angels rotation that desperately needed an injection of youth, talent and another quality left-handed arm.

    Santiago has steadily improved since making his major league debut with the White Sox in 2011, and has pitched to a 3.30 ERA and 1.37 WHIP with 8.9 K/9 as a starter, numbers that certainly make you believe that his improvement will continue.

    He relies primarily on his fastball and changeup, mixing in a late-breaking curveball, a cut-fastball and, on occasion, a screwball to keep batters off-balance.

    Santiago is tougher on left-handed hitters (.223 BA, .633 OPS) than he is against right-handers (.233 BA, .750 OPS), but hitters in general have had a tough time finding much success against him so far. 

Bronson Arroyo: Free Agent, Angels Have Contacted

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Update: Sunday, Nov. 24 at 9:00 p.m. ET

    ESPN's Jim Bowden says that the Angels are "in" on Arroyo but not close to a deal. With the news from MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez that the team only has about $8 million available to spend at the moment, it's hard to imagine that they'll be able to compete with the other teams interested in Arroyo's services.

    --End of Update--

    Update: Friday, Nov. 22 at 10:25 a.m. ET

    Nick Cafardo from the Boston Globe confirms that the Angels have spoken with Arroyo's agents about possibly adding him to the rotation.

    The Angels have competition for his services, with Minnesota thought to be the veteran's most ardent pursuer.

    --End of Update--

    Monday, Nov. 18 at 4:20 p.m. ET

    Bronson Arroyo told Sirius/XM's Jim Bowden that the Angels are one of a number of teams to have contacted him, though they've yet to extend him an offer at this point.

    The veteran, who turns 37 before Opening Day, has been one of the more reliable starters in baseball over the past nine years, tossing at least 200 innings in all but one season—2011, when he finished one shy of the mark with 199.

    He's coming off of a solid campaign for Cincinnati that saw him go 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, his second consecutive season with a sub-4.00 ERA. Not extended a qualifying offer by the Reds, the Angels would not have to surrender a draft pick if they did wind up signing him.

    Adding Arroyo would give the Angels three quality options atop the rotation, along with Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.

Nov. 23: Los Angeles Angels Sign Joe Smith to a Three-Year Deal

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Right-handed reliever Joe Smith has signed a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman also reported that Smith will make slightly more than $15 million over the three seasons.

    Smith will likely serve as a setup man for the Angels.

    Coming to terms with Smith helps improve the bullpen, which ranked 26th in baseball. The bullpen's 4.12 ERA ranked ahead of only the Seattle Mariners and the Houston Astros in the AL.

    Smith pitched to a 2.29 ERA in 70 games for the Indians in 2013, the fourth time over his seven-year career—and third consecutive season—that he's appeared in at least 70 games

    Since joining the Indians in 2009, Smith has pitched to a 2.76 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, striking out 214 batters over 271 innings of work.

    In the past few days, the Angels have brought in relievers to help the bullpen. They acquired right-handed reliever Fernando Salas from the St. Louis Cardinals on Nov. 22.

Nov. 22: Acquired 3B David Freese and RHP Fernando Salas

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    Bats: R

    2013 Stats: .262/.340/.381, 9 HR, 60 RBI

    Contract Status: Arbitration eligible, under team control through 2015

    While David Freese leaves much to be desired at the hot corner defensively and is coming off of the worst season of his career, the Angels are banking on a change of scenery being the key to getting his career back on track.

    A lifetime .286/.356/.427 hitter, Freese was named the MVP of both the NLCS and World Series in 2011, hitting a combined .397 with five home runs, 21 RBI and an OPS of 1.258 over 18 playoff games.

    He brings with him significant health concerns, playing over 100 games only twice in his five-year career.

    But when he's healthy, as he was in 2012 when he hit .293 with 20 home runs, 79 RBI and an .839 OPS, Freese can be a force in a team's lineup.

    When you consider that the Angels were heading into 2014 with some combination of Grant Green, Andrew Romine and Luis Jimenez at the hot corner, adding Freese is a major upgrade.

    Fernando Salas, 28, is a right-handed reliever who adds depth to the Angels bullpen. A major piece of the Cardinals bullpen in 2011 when the team won the World Series, Salas pitched to a 4.50 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 28 innings of work in 2013.

    Salas has a knack for missing bats, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning over his career, primarily relying on a low-90s fastball, a mid-80s changeup and a low-80s curveball to keep batters off balance.