Results tagged ‘ Hot Stove ’

Bring Me an Old Lefty and a Young Lefty?

The Angels made move number two today and signed another left handed pitcher – respected reliever and successful occasional closer Scott Downs. Downs is lights out and I am very pleased with this unexpected deal. Downs is 35 but doesn’t seem to be slowing down any – with an ERA well under 3 and a lower WHIP than and the same pitcher’s batting average as Felix Hernandez – and even improved over his 2009 season. The Angels could use another lefty and a senior presence in the Bullpen, especially one who could be another viable closer if it turns out that Fernando Rodney’s 2010 season was not an aberration. This second deal was a fantastic precursor to a really big third deal, right? Right?

Ah, but there’s the rub. When he announced this deal, Angles GM Tony Reagins said “I believe we are where we need to be at this point,” and “This is not the precursor to another deal.” In the Bullpen, right? We’re right where we need to be and don’t need another deal in the Bullpen, right? Tony? Mike? Anybody? Because, really, I don’t think we’re right where we need to be as a team. We need another bat…a big one…and a filler or two for some of the defensive holes I’ve been mentioning…

When I initially heard the Scott Downs announcement, before I read the article, I thought that signing Downs and declaring the bullpen complete instead of going after Soriano might actually be genius. It could add another strong reliever and potential closer to the Bullpen with enough of a savings to give the Angels more leeway to make a realistic – read, insane! – bid for Adrian Beltre, who could shore up the more than sketchy third base situation I mentioned in my last post. Oh, and Beltre can hit the ball too, just a little bit. Another strong possibility Tony Reagins should be considering with this signing is trading one of our coveted young relievers for a strong bat not currently on the free agent’s list. But it doesn’t sound like Tony is considering either option.

I realize that the off season is far from over. The Hot Stove is still bubbling away. What GMs say to the press and what they are actually planning to do may bear little if any resemblance to one another. So I am far from panicking at this point, but let’s just say Tony’s quotes aren’t doing a whole lot to make me feel good either.

And I Was Having Such a Nice Evening Too…

When the Nationals upset everyone’s plans by landing Jayson Werth, unexpectedly and so very, very early, I was worried this would happen. When the Red Sox signed Adrian Gonzalez I was somewhat relieved but still concerned. And, wouldn’t you know it, golly gosh darn it all to heck in a forking hand basket and other similarly lengthy strings of appropriate-for-the-family-show-that-is-MLBlogs swearing, the goram Red Sox went and signed Carl Crawford. Grrrrrr…er…I mean, well played Mr. Epstein. Well played. The Sox are going to be tough again this year. No, on second thought, grrrrrrrrrrr really covered it better.

Well then, moving right along. Mike Scioscia and Tony Reagins met with the press on separate occasions yesterday afternoon and my original plan for the evening was to blog about their – unsurprisingly similar – comments. Gotta love Hot Stove…and, actually I do. I’m just not particularly in love with it tonight. Although typically noncommittal, both Scioscia and Reagins did say that bumping up the Angels offense is the primary goal for the off season. Reagins indicated that this could be accomplished by either trades or free agency acquisitions or a combination of the two. When the subject of the Angels trying to land Crawford came up, he was evasive but didn’t outright say no the way he did with questions about the Angels making an offer to Cliff Lee. He later tantalizing said that signing one great free agent or signing two very good ones could be similarly beneficial.

Scioscia and Reagins said that the Angels would be perfectly comfortable heading into the 2011 season with third base as it stands now – manned by a platoon of primarily Maicer Izturis backed by Alberto Callaspo and Brandon Wood. I completely disagree with being comfortable with the third base situation, incidentally. Maicer really is the Rally Monkey. When he plays, he makes things happen, at the plate, in the field and on the base paths. It’s just the “when he plays” part that is the difficulty. He is plagued by injuries that leave him on the DL for significant stretches two and three times a season. Callaspo made some great plays for the Angels and had some fantastic plate appearances but his glove and his bat are inconsistent. And Brandon Wood? I am sure you already know all about his well publicized issues. I wish it were different, really I do. If only his major league success matched his heart and his desire, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. But that just isn’t the case and he hasn’t worked out in spectacular fashion. But I digress…

Reading between the lines of all of these comments, which is always dangerous, I believe that signing Crawford and keeping the three-way third base platoon was Plan A. With Plan A off the table, I believe that signing Adrian Beltre and possibly one other person and sticking with an Abreu, Bourjos and Hunter outfield is Plan B. Lyle Spencer, MLB.com’s Angels beat reporter, seemed to be leading us toward these conclusions, though I’m hardly certain that’s any less dangerous than just reading between the lines for myself. But it’s fun to speculate and it’s not like they’re going to give us any more information to go on until the deal, whatever it is, is done.

Come on Mr. Reagins. Make a move please, a really good one…a move the player accepts even. Let’s not have all of the off season surprises coming at the Angels expense, shall we. Impatient? Who, me?

My, That Was Unexpected

The Nationals signed Jayson Werth for a $126 million dollars over 7 years deal! On the day before the Winter Meetings begin! Holy out of the blue Hot Stove developments, Batman!

There I was, enjoying a leisurely late Sunday afternoon – the last game wrapped up at 3:30 this morning, don’t judge, LOL – putting the house back together from the evening’s festivities when I decided to quickly check out the Hot Stove blog to see if there happened to be any new pre-Winter Meeting rumors. It was unlikely, right, but I needed a distraction from the dishes. Boy was I in for a surprise.

The Nationals signing Jayson Werth potentially changes everything for the Angels. Everyone who had their sights set on Werth will now train them on Carl Crawford instead. Christmas certainly came early for the Crawford family – his price just went way up. This is also potentially an early present for Adrian Beltre and several of the other highly sought free agents. With so many teams’ Plan A off the table before the meetings even start, there is plenty of time for offers and counter offers on Plans B through D and so on. And the farther apart each deal happens, the harder it gets to sneak a contract signing in under the radar before five or six other teams dive into the fray. I don’t even remember the Nationals being mentioned in the list of Werth suitors. The Nationals GM is the new player transaction ninja, I think.

I wonder how this news went down as everyone arrived at the winter meetings today? Welcome to the Swan and Dolphin Resort. We hope you had a nice flight. Here is your meeting packet including your room reservations, the week’s iteniary, and agendas for tomorrow’s meetings. And oh, by the way, you might want to spend the next few hours fleshing out plans D through N because, while you were in the air, the Nationals just started the dominoes rolling in a completely different direction. Have a pleasant stay. I’m sure that isn’t how it actually happened, but the mental image amused me. In this day and age, all of the GMs probably knew the second the trade became official via electronic alert, a courtesy text or, you know, Twitter.

Oh yeah, and the White Sox signed Adam Dunn late Thursday and resigned A.J. Pierzynski on Friday, the Cardinals signed Lance Berkman on Saturday, the Yankees resigned Derek Jeter on Saturday and the Red Sox nearly lost out on their deal with the Padres for Adrian Gonzales Saturday only to lock it in today, which hopefully will take a little bit of the edge off of their quest for Crawford and/or to resign Beltre. That last development was announced a mere three hours ago. Has this been an inordinately busy early Hot Stove weekend or what? I can’t wait to see what news the next few days bring.

Angels Watched Pot Begins to Boil

The Angels first real move of the hot stove season was signing left handed pitcher Hisanori Takahashi, formerly of the Mets. After last year’s trades and free agency losses, we definitely needed a lefty. A quick skim of the roster yields one long string of Rs and Scott Kazmir and Kaz is more of a big question mark than an L we can count on. Which Kaz will take the mound?

I admit I know little to nothing about Takahashi. I know a lot more about American League players these days than National League players, for obvious reasons, and I have not been paying a lot of attention the Mets for the last several years. His stats look okay. Ten years as a successful pitcher on three championship teams with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, Matsui’s old team followed by a year with the Mets. It looks like he was great against lefties last year for the Mets – no homeruns, a .217 average and a .270 slugging average – with less impressive stats against righties. He was 10-6 last year with the better part of that record (6-2) coming as a reliever. Is this because he’s more effective as a reliever or more indicative of the fact that he was playing for the Mets, the Angels, of course, being in a unique position to understand what an unsuccessful team can do to a good pitcher’s record? I don’t know. Win record is an important but murky stat and I have never seen the guy pitch. But I am intrigued to find out.

He seemed like a much better deal at the $5.5 million for 2 years that was previously, unofficially, announced than the $8 million reported later on Friday. Terry Smith interviewed L.A. Times Sports reporter Mike Digiovanna during Friday’s Angels Tonight broadcast and DiGiovanna predicts that at that salary the Angels actually want Takahashi for the 5th starter position. That brings up all kinds of interesting possibilities, like moving Kaz to the bullpen where he might be able to rebuild his confidence and stamina – and hopefully regain his control in the process. Better for Kaz, better for the Angels. Of course, I did notice that in the press release, the front office kept hyping Takahashi’s stats against lefties over righties and, as previously mentioned, he has a much better record as a reliever. To me, this screams reliever. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Tony Reagins made it clear that he thinks this is good for the Angels first move this offseason. That “first move” line was one of the best parts actually. The fans all know that the Angels front office does not comment on potential trades and signings until they are official and we know they are trying to work some offseason magic for us, but it’s nice of them to throw us a bone and confirm this assumption from time to time.

It was funny to see the Angels name listed among the offers for Mariano Rivera. The front office had to know that was never going to happen. And would it have even worked out if it did happen? Rivera’s considerable prowess vs. the Angels curse with high priced closers – which one would prevail or would they cancel each other out? But I do understand making an offer. It’s like buying a lottery ticket when the jackpot is up to $100 million or so. You don’t actually expect to win but you’d feel awfully foolish if you didn’t at least try. Then again, when you shell out $5 bucks or so for a lottery ticket it doesn’t drive the price of lottery tickets up for everyone else prompting the lottery commission to retaliate. Oy, this could get expensive, more so than originally planned I think.

* * * * *

While I wait for more news on that front, it’s time for my favorite way to while away the offseason. No Saturday night baseball? No problem, time to have folks over for a game night of the board and build your own board variety. I will defend my Catan title with fierce trade negotiations. Bwa ha ha. All your brick and wood are belong to me.

Hot and Cold Stove

As much as I would like to be posting this evening with stellar Angels signing/trade news, there is still no real news to report. Granted, the reports of all the guys we’re supposedly in talks with are coming faster and faster on each others’ heels – Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre, even Rafael Soriano. Yes please. Yes please. And, hey, if we can afford him too and he doesn’t succumb to the usual Angels closer curse – well, he had career seasons for the two years before Tony signed him, I just don’t know what happened – yes please to him too. Why not. If you’re going to dream, dream big. And those are just the reports we have a reason to take seriously. Depending on who you’re reading, supposedly, we’re also talking to Jayson Werth, A.J. Pierzynski (because we really need another catcher), and Cliff Lee, among others. Heck, if you looked hard enough, someone probably has a “hot tip from an MLB insider” that Tony Reagins is in talks with Big Foot as a potential 3rd base option… Although…he probably swings a pretty big bat wouldn’t you think? Anyone know what his stats are against lefties?

None of this is to say that Hot Stove hasn’t been interesting so far…for a variety of definitions of interesting. I am very happy for the Dodgers. The Dodgers are kind of like an amiable ex-boyfriend for me. We weren’t right for one another but we parted ways on good terms and I always wish them well…except during the Freeway Series, of course. I was worried that in the middle of the ongoing divorce proceedings between Mommy Dearest and the king of all deadbeat baseball dads, the Dodgers would be left out of the trading season all together. Quite the contrary, they have been very busy so far. I think Uribe will be a great addition to the team, at 2nd for now with today’s trading of Theriot and with great options down the road for short and/or 3rd if Furcael spends another season on and off the DL and/or when Casey Blake’s contract is up. He wasn’t cheap, but it’s not like there are any great bargains out there this year.

I was surprised the Tigers were able to pounce so quickly on Victor Martinez, I expected that one to be more drawn out. They wanted another big bat and they certainly got one. I am interested to see what if any moves they make later in the off season.

I am perplexed at the way the Yankees are dealing with Derek Jeter. Of course they were going to negotiate. Players always want more than teams want to pay – this is true of employers and employees everywhere. But does anyone honestly believe that the Yankees want to let Derek Jeter go any more than he wants to leave? So what happened here and who thought the front office arguing this out in the media would be a good idea? The front office comments sound childish and pouty. Yankee fans don’t like it. Non Yankees baseball fans don’t seem to like it much either and it can’t be good for team morale. They will probably settle for the same amount they would have settled for without all of this upheaval so what was the upside here? Obviously bad PR decisions catch my attention.

The courting of Cliff Lee, on the other hand, amuses me to no end, partially because of how coy many of the suitors are trying to be and partially the degree to which the media are being anything but. Cliff Lee watch day 27! Breaking news: Cliff Lee signs…up for DirecTv. It’s definitely my own imp of the perverse, but if I were Cliff Lee I wouldn’t be able to resist messing with folks at this point. You know, show up at the grocery store in a D-backs ball cap or something. I predict the Rangers will make a strong offer but that Lee will be in Yankee’s pinstripes next year.

The Hot Stove Telephone Hour

Ho hum, no big Thanksgiving announcements. Not that I was really expecting anything this soon, but hey, a girl can dream. Between the few bits of real news we have seen, the tantalizing but vague hints of information we get from unnamed sources, the endless fan speculation and the dissonant chorus and counter melody of all of us bloggers shouting sign him, he’ll take us back to the playoffs and no, don’t sign him, he’s an overpaid two season wonder, this all starts to sound like some sort of bizarre Hot Stove Bye, Bye Birdie…with Tony Reagins as Harvey Johnson to me:

What’s the story? Has anyone signed?
I heard the contract got inked?
Did he really sign?

Hello Mr. Crawford, this is Tony Reagins. Is Carl home?

The contract’s not inked?
What do you mean, are they crazy?
I was hoping he would!

Hello Mrs. Beltre, this is Tony Reagins. May I speak to Andre please?

They’ll be Angels forever!
I hope it won’t last.
Hey have you heard any news?

And I am right in there with every other Angels fan, reading every scrap of information I can get, speculating, hoping, worrying, whining, contributing my own little voice to the noise. Oh well, apparently we aren’t going to get another huge late November Torii Hunter level announcement this year…or are we? *crosses fingers*

Well, for the rest of today I have a decidedly less metaphorical hot stove in mind: Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, roasted butternut squash, cranberry relish and a corn bread dressing with sausage, apples and cranberries for 10, oh my! Not that I am complaining. I love the cooking and the entertaining and so does my husband. No, like the Time Warp’s pelvic thrust, it’s the dishes that really drive you insane.

I wish everyone in the blogosphere a Happy Thanksgiving!
Have fun, enjoy families and friends and try not to operate any heavy machinery in a tryptophan haze ;)

Finally! Some Angles news! Well, sort of…

The Angels declined to offer Hideki Matsui arbitration. Based on hints and rumors from the end of the season, this is hardly surprising. Looking at Matsui’s final 2010 season numbers, he finished pretty close to his 2009 stats. He definitely performed. But the way things worked out, his hot streaks came at the beginning of the season, when things were still hopeful and at the end of the season when it was too late to matter. It’s not his fault that he slumped in the middle of the season right alongside everyone else on the team. But when the DH position is batting near the Mendoza line for the month of May, and the primary DH is a recent acquisition purchased largely for his clutch bat, he’s going to draw a lot of fan ire. Matsui is a heck of a ballplayer, a classy guy and seems like a great teammate. He could go on to have another great, difference making, MVP year next year but after a year where he performed but his performances didn’t really make a difference, it’s probably time for a clean break for all concerned. Again, Matsui is not the only guy on the team who failed to make a difference – the whole team pretty much earned that “distinction” this year. He’s just the new guy the front office brought in specifically to make a difference, who failed to do so. Bad timing all around. Clean cup, move down…

Except, declining to offer Matsui arbitration doesn’t actually mean anything other than that the Angels don’t want to pay that salary to have Matsui on the team next season. I don’t think they’re going to, but the Angels could always try to sign him back for less money as a free agent. My point is simply that at this odd time of year even the news is neither new information nor particularly informative, and the rumors and gossip become real news.

Case in point, suddenly an unnamed major league source saying that Tony Reagins may be in serious talks with Carl Crawford is huge news. In my previous existence in the mortgage industry, there was a time I could have looked at a similarly vague reference to mortgage banking and told you with a reasonable degree of certainty who the unnamed source worked for, if the leak was strategic or unplanned, what the intent of the message was and the degree to which it was or was not BS. I truly envy those of you who have the background and inside track to be able to discern that here.

Oh well, back to the hints, speculations and random gossip. Sometimes there is big solid Angels news in November or early December, so here’s hoping!

The 12th Day of Hot Stove…or so

In honor of this season of rumors, waiting and hoping – and of Christmas music played so early and often in the stores that it’s already stuck in my head – I subject you all to the following:

On the 12th day of Hot Stove, my GM gave to me:

12 Wild Rumors

11 Hours of Water Cooler Gossip

10 Non Committal Interviews

9 Calls to Carl Crawford

8 Bloggers Blogging

7 Arbitrations Settled

6 Hot Bats

5 Future Rings!

4 Calls to Cliff Lee

3 Relief Pitchers

2 Golden Gloves

And A Closer That Can Get the Job Done!

My apologies to Old English minstrels, or something like that.

This is meant to be more baseball (or perhaps more American League?) generic than Angels specific…and was intended to drive the refrain from my head, where it has been stuck since I made up the first and last lines several days ago…but, if I can give a few of you a chuckle or two, then I am happy. :)

I Do Not Covet Cliff Lee for the Angels

The coveting of Cliff Lee has been an understandable thing on many blogs so I just thought I’d put that out there. I’m not saying that he’s not an amazing pitcher. Though I will not praise him to the positively silly degree that the post season announcers did, he is definitely one of the best pitchers currently in baseball. He is one of these pitchers, and seemingly one of those teammates, who would be an asset to any team’s starting rotation.

But asset though he may be, unless we all somehow walk through the backstop into a magical baseball wonderland where players are always treated fairly even without a contract, umpires have the perfect angle to make the call on every play and Cliff Lee is willing to come to the Angels and *poof* just take over Scott Kazmir’s contract while Kaz begins an epic Tolkein-esque quest in search of his lost slider, I don’t want him for the Angels. Our starting rotation was one of our strengths this season – once you ignore the aberration that was April and, unfortunately Kaz’ difficulties. If everyone stays healthy in 2011 -and the Angels don’t make any abysmally stupid decisions regarding Weaver’s arbitration – we will have two aces in Weaver and Haren and two additional excellent starters in Pineiro and Santana (Be the good Santana please! You are not a Star Trek movie. We don’t need even and odd number rules about you.). If Kaz is able to work things out in the offseason – and I really hope he is but I’m not holding my breath – then we’ll have a great 5th starter too. If not we do have a few options that keep this from being a catastrophic need.

What the Angels need is Kendry back healthy and ready to play at the level to which we have all become accustomed – and to all reports so far, he’s looking like his old self, yay! We need another outfielder and a third baseman, and we need them both to have big or, barring that, consistent bats. The minor league call ups in the Angels’ bullpen were really something special this year and helped shore up our reliever woes at lot towards the end of the season, but an additional, reliable reliever with some veteran status wouldn’t hurt and then there is the closing situation. Myself, I like Walden for the position. I think he showed some promise there in September. But if those who know far more than I disagree and Rodney isn’t performing any better, then this will need to be addressed as well.

This is the Angels real needs list and it’s long and expensive, so I am glad Tony Reagins hasn’t been making any trips to Arkansas this fall and doesn’t appear to have any planned for the future. Angels fans often joke that Tony is some sort of trade and player acquisition ninja, that you’ll rarely, if ever, see one of his deals coming until it’s negotiated, signed and everyone involved is ready for the press conference. Torii Hunter. Del Taco. Need I say more? So I suppose anything is possible. But I certainly hope this one is as far off the radar as it appears to be. Lee is wonderful, but leave him to the Yankees and Rangers to duke it out over. They have a lot less holes to shore up in the off season than the Angels do.

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