Angel in the Outfield: Hamilton Signs for $125 Million

Courtesy: USA Today
Courtesy: USA Today

According to ESPN Dallas, free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton signed a five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday. Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels was apparently upset that he wasn’t able to match the offer, but the team could have been more aggressive, rather than waiting to see the maximum contract another team was willing to pay the five-time All-Star, rather than regretting now.

After yet another offseason with a huge, offensive acquisition, this following the Albert Pujols signing last year, the Angels have reloaded for the 2013 season. After losing starting pitcher Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Angels are now able to keep some attention on their roster, as the Dodgers continue to spend big bucks.

Hamilton brings a tremendous amount of ability with him, and while it is easy for some to question the length and commitment due to his prior drug use, the fact remains that some team was going to pay him $25 million per year, so why not the Angels? They were able to explain paying Pujols $30 million in the final year of his contract (age 41), so they should be able to do the same thing here, discussing marketing and TV contracts and all of the forms of revenue streams that Hamilton will increase.

So, what do the Angels do next? Hamilton and Pujols are just as scary as the 3-4 punch that Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder provide in Detroit, but the Angels have something more to offer. Mike Trout. And, you can’t forget that the team still has solid production coming from DH Kendrys Morales, outfielder Mark Trumbo, and occasional outbursts from lesser hitters like second baseman Howie Kendrick and shortstop Erick Aybar.

The Angels can’t be done this offseason, though. With outfielders Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos on the roster, a trade seems very likely, as the team could acquire upgrades elsewhere.

Alberto Callaspo is currently their third baseman. Trumbo has played third base for 63 innings, making four errors and posting a .714 fielding percentage. The upgrade will not involve a switch of positions for the slugger. Could the team ultimately look to deal Trumbo in a package to San Diego for Chase Headley? Headley would be a huge upgrade and another dynamic addition to the lineup.

If not a third baseman, should the Angels upgrade their starting rotation? They have added Tommy Hanson in a deal with Atlanta, while signing Joe Blanton via free agency. With Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson at the top of the rotation, could the Halos look to upgrade from Brad Mills in the fifth spot of the rotation? Maybe a deal with Cleveland for Justin Masterson or Ubaldo Jimenez makes some sense, or the team could take on someone more established by signing Kyle Lohse, Jair Jurrjens, Shaun Marcum, or Anibal Sanchez, since they apparently have the money.

Hamilton1Regardless, Josh Hamilton provides a star quality that is worthy of Los Angeles. While the Rangers pondered Greinke, a Los Angeles team jumped in. While the Rangers pondered on Hamilton, a Los Angeles team jumped in. The Rangers will need to jump at a deal for Justin Upton at this point, and they’ll probably have to cave in and deal Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar to make it happen. Otherwise, the team will be left with giving loads of cash to Nick Swisher, Cody Ross, or Michael Bourn to be able to compete with the Angels going forward.

Where are all of the east coast bias whiners now? The gold rush is once again going on out west, and the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels are making free agency in baseball a two coast battle, and a battle that they appear willing to spend billions to win.


Top Non-Tendered Talent

WilsonNovember 30 is the last day to offer a contract to arbitration-eligible players, and if team’s are uninterested in doing so, they are non-tendered, allowing those players to hit free agency. There are several names that hit free agency yesterday that could help out your favorite team. Let’s take a look at those top, new free agents.

Brian Wilson, RHP

Wilson is just 30 years old and was one of the top closers in baseball from 2008 to 2011, compiling 163 saves over four seasons. In late 2011, Wilson started having elbow issues, then he made just two appearances in 2012 due to Tommy John surgery. He is expected to be ready to go in spring training, but he may have to settle for a one-year deal, similar to Ryan Madson with the Angels, to show he is fully recovered and capable of regaining form.

Jair Jurrjens, RHP

Jurrjens will only be 27 years old on Opening Day in 2013 and he already has 53 wins and 750 innings under his belt; however, it’s the wins and innings he doesn’t have that are the concern with him. He made $5.5 million in 2012 in his second year of arbitration, and the Braves let him go after they were unable to trade him, and with good reason, his shoulder was a great concern. Jurrjens shoulder issues could be overblown, as they started in August of 2007, but then in 2008 and 2009, Jurrjens went 27-20 with a 3.10 ERA over 403.1 innings. He had issues with tightness and inflammation, once again, in February of 2010, but it was his knee issues, which needed surgery, that caused him to miss starts. Jurrjens rebounded to a 13-6 record and 2.96 ERA in 2011, only to miss more starts due to his knee. If Jurrjens can prove to teams that it is his knee that was of concern and not his shoulder, I don’t see why he shouldn’t have a line of teams knocking at his door while you’re reading this.

Rafael Perez, LHP

He’s breathing and he is left-handed, but more than that, Perez has been a very, very effective relief pitcher for a number of seasons. Perez had one really, really bad season, 2009, when he posted a 7.31 ERA over 54 games and 48 innings, but if you look at the rest of his career, Perez has a 3.01 ERA over 284 games and 281 innings. He missed 146 games due to a shoulder ailment, which he didn’t have surgery on until late September, so team’s may be hesitant to guarantee him much. An incentive-laden, one-year contract would be a good way for the lefty to get a job quickly.

reynoldsMark Reynolds, 1B/3B

Reynolds is an American League team’s dream. He can handle third base or first base, but not really play either well, while providing an incredible amount of right-handed power to the lineup. He also will frustrate teams with his tremendous number of strikeouts, while posting a batting average near the Mendoza-line every season. He is what he is, as Reynolds has been this player since 2007. Reynolds doesn’t even turn 30 years old unti August of 2013 and he has compiled 181 home runs and a career .807 OPS in his six seasons. He has also struck out in 32.6 percent of his career at-bats. With his ability to sit in the middle of an order to provide power as a first baseman, third baseman, or designated hitter, Reynolds will interest several clubs.

Brandon Snyder, 1B/OF

Snyder was non-tendered by the Texas Rangers and the 26-year-old could be very valuable for the right team. He just turned 26 and Snyder only has 98 career at-bats, but he posted a .275/.331/.431 line over six seasons in the minors. He has more doubles power than home run power, having hit 14 in 2011 in Triple-A as a career high, but he would be a solid, affordable platoon partner for a club.

Geovany Soto, Catcher

Soto will be turning 30 in January and he will be very popular in coming days. After hitting .264/.370/.466 with 73 doubles and 51 home runs from 2008 to 2010, Soto has hit just .214/.297/.381 with 38 doubles and 28 home runs the last two seasons. Soto had shoulder surgery in September of 2010, so the fall in productivity could be related. Soto wasn’t ever above average behind the plate, but teams seem to be picking on his arm the last two seasons, stealing 150 bases while getting caught just 57 times (28 percent, which is league average). He’ll have plenty of suitors as a young, power hitting catcher.

Mike Pelfrey, RHP

Pelfrey will be 29 years old in January and he is about as average as it gets as a starting pitcher. He’s had a couple of seasons with an ERA around 3.70 and a few hovering around 5.00. Pelfrey has statistical averages that put him at around 200 innings per season with an ERA of 4.36, so he would be a solid filler in the back-end of a rotation. The 6’7″ right-hander had Tommy John surgery in May of 2012, so he will probably be getting an incentive-based, one-year contract to show that he has recovered. He may not be ready for the start of the season due to the 12 to 18 month recovery time for the elbow surgery.

Tom Gorzelanny, LHP

After posting a 2.88 ERA for the Nationals in 2012, it was surprising to see Gorzelanny’s name on the non-tender list. It is possible that his experience as a starter in his career would drive up his arbitration costs, although he made just one start in 2012, after making $3 million for Washington last season. Gorzelanny has proven himself as a valuable left-handed reliever, posting a 3.32 ERA over 82 games and 114 innings, with a 1.25 WHIP. When you look at those numbers, you can see why teams would jump at the opportunity to sign the 30-year-old southpaw; however, if a team is looking at him as a starter, they may want to look at his 4.61 ERA over 111 starts and 621 innings, with a 1.48 WHIP. Gorzelanny would do better for himself if he locks himself in as a solid, left-handed relief pitcher, and teams should only view him as such.

Ben Francisco, OF

Francisco is a platoon outfielder, and he has been that player for his entire career to every team that he has played for, outside of the Cleveland Indians. Unfortunately, he really isn’t a platoon player. Francisco has a career .260/.324/.430 line against right-handers and a .252/.329/.414 line against left-handers. Francisco, at 31, is nothing more than a 25th man. He can play left and right field and he can provide a little bit of pop, a little bit of speed, and a little bit of patience at the plate. He keeps getting chances and he keeps getting platoon roles, but I’m not sure that he is any better than what some minor league free agent types could do if given around 200 at-bats per season. Teams may still be interested in him, though, for whatever reason.

StewartIan Stewart, 3B

Stewart turns just 28 in April, which is shocking considering it feels like he has been around forever, having received his first taste of the majors in 2007. Stewart was once one of the most promising, having been rated as high as No. 4 by Baseball America, prior to the 2005 season. That sort of thing happens when a guy hits 30 home runs as a 19-year-old in Low-A. Stewart has even had some success at the big league level, as he hit 53 home runs and drove in 172 runs between 2008 and 2010. Stewart’s .246/.346/.454 line over that time wasn’t fantastic, but the Rockies gave up on him in 2011 after he posted a .156/.243/.221 line. He didn’t do much better for the Chicago Cubs in 2012, but he had wrist issues, which he had surgery on in July of 2012, which dated back to August of 2011, when Stewart was in Triple-A with the Rockies. Still very young, a healthy Stewart deserves another opportunity. He has proven capable of hitting major league pitching in the past and he will be very affordable. It’s unfortunate that he may become a career backup due to one miserable season and some injuries.

Shocking Spring #’s

Below are some guys who have impressed or have been absolutely miserable.  There are familiar names and there are some surprises.  Can it carry over if they’re doing well?  Will it carry over if they’re doing poorly?  Only time will tell, but it’s nice to dream that:

Melky Cabrera is a future Hall of Famer

.410/.425/.769, 5 2B, 3 HR, and 9 RBI

Cabrera hit .468/.471/.742 last spring, then he went on to have a career year, posting a .305/.339/.470 slash with 44 2B, 5 3B, 18 HR, 87 RBI, and 20 SB.  He is now in San Francisco instead of Kansas City, but he could use the spacious gaps to post similar numbers this season.

The Tigers have two stars and they aren’t Cabrera and Fielder

Delmon Young: .472/.487/1.000, 4 2B, 5 HR, 19 RBI

Ryan Raburn: .462/.464/1.308, 2 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 18 RBI

Raburn looks like he shouldn’t have to share second base with Ramon Santiago.  He’s always had excellent power, so this is something that should continue…as long as he keeps making contact, which is where his problem has always been.

Young is also raking, the same thing he has done since joining Detroit.  Keep in mind that Young scored 28 runs, ripped 5 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, and drove in 32 runs in just 40 games when he arrived in Western Windsor Canada last season.  If he cuts down on his strikeouts, Young, too, could develop into a star…the one everyone thought he was going to be several years ago.

Short people can play baseball

Colin Cowgill: .419/.469/.605, 4 2B, 2 3B, 4 SB

It is still a crowded A’s outfield, and the 5’9″ University of Kentucky product will have trouble finding playing time because of it.  With Coco Crisp in left, Yoenis Cespedes in center, and Josh Reddick in right, Cowgill will battle Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes for backup outfield time and occasional starts at DH.  Cowgill may never get a serious shot due to his size, and that would be a short-coming…pun intended…by the organizations that continue to overlook him.

He Cain lead the league in OPS

Lorenzo Cain: .500/.553/.971, 7 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBI

With Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, and Mike Moustakas becoming the elite players that everyone anticipated them becoming, what would make the Royals really happy?  How about ANYONE from the Zack Greinke trade working out for them!?  Cain won’t be killing any of his brothers, but he could destroy some pitching and become one of the best center fielders in baseball in his rookie season.

Francisco Liriano is good again

2.77 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, .143 BAA, 18/2 K/BB in 13 IP

Dude can pitch when the Twins let him pitch in the Dominican Winter League…which they didn’t let him do prior to an absolutely disgusting 2011.

The most dominant pitcher this spring won’t have a job when camp breaks…sorry about your luck Wade LeBlanc

0.61 ERA, 0.41 WHIP, .083 BAA, 15/2 K/BB in 14 2/3 IP

Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, and Carlos Zambrano will be ahead of him, but LeBlanc should get a shot at some point between Johnson and Sanchez shoulder woes and a Zambrano breakdown.

The Suckers

Jair Jurrjens: 10.13 ERA, 2.63 WHIP, .403 BAA, 8/10 K/BB in 13 1/3 IP

Jurrjens would do better just sitting a ball on a tee.  The only guys who aren’t hitting against him are the ball boys, and his ugly K/BB ratio is concerning, as are his consistent shoulder woes.  Stay away.

Mike Pelfrey: 14.90 ERA, 2.69 WHIP, .426 BAA, 4/6 K/BB in 9 2/3 IP

Not even Pelfrey’s ears can hold the ball back this spring.  It looks like his two pitch arsenal is finally not working, but no one saw that coming…except Ray Charles.

Raul Ibanez: .059/.111/.088, 2 for 34 with 0 XBH and 2 RBI

Wonder why he was still available when the Yankees finally signed him?  Oh…I know.  He’s old and can’t hit a fastball.  Andruw Jones will get a lot of at bats at DH in 2012.

Freddie Freeman: .174/.191/.171, 8 for 46, 0 XBH, and 3 RBI

Freeman had some issues with a knee dislocation earlier in the spring, so he may get a small pass for that; however, the Braves need him to have it in high gear when things really get going, as he is one of their key bats.

Jason Heyward: .208/.236/.358, 11 for 53, 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 16 K!

So much for refining his swing.  Heyward has picked up where he left off in 2011.  There is still time for him to get it going, but if both Freeman AND Heyward are hitting like this in April, the Braves will be alongside the Mets in the NL East basement.