Seeing that the Angels had lost 6 of their last 8 games entering Friday night’s contest with the Oakland Athletics, GM Tony Reagins felt that the Halos needed to shake it up a bit.
Starting pitching has been the Angels’ weak link of late, and if the Halos couldn’t pull anybody up from within, then a deal had to be made.
Friday night, that deal was made.
The Angels looked to the American League East division for hurlers who had cleared waivers, and found that Tampa Bay Rays’ lefty Scott Kazmir had cleared waivers, which prompted the front office to pull the trigger on landing a quality arm.
The Halos were able to bring in Kazmir in exchange for minor league pitching prospect Alex Torres, infielder Matt Sweeney, and right-hander Jordan Walden.
The 25-year-old Kazmir, who was a 1st round draft pick (#15 overall) of the New York Mets back in 2004, was shipped to the Rays with Joselo Diaz (back when they were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays) in 2006 in exchange for pitchers Victor Zambrano and Bartolomé Fortunado.
In 2006, Kazmir was tabbed as the Opening Day starter for Tampa Bay, becoming the youngest Opening Day starter (22 years, 2 months, 10 days old) since Dwight Gooden was the starter for the New York Mets in the 1986 opener.
Kazmir led the American League in strikeouts in 2007 with 239 punchouts.
In his Tampa Bay career, Kazmir compiled a respectable 55-45 record to go along with a 3.92 ERA (prior to an injury-plagued 2009 season, he had an ERA of 3.50 or lower in each of the 3 previous seasons).
At one point during his high school career, Kazmir threw 4 consecutive no-hitters (yes, that’s right, 4 straight no-hitters). After allowing a hit in his bid for his 5th no-hitter, he’d finish the game, and then throw 2 more no-hitters in his next 2 starts (add it all up, and you get 6 no-hitters in a span of 7 outings… that’s pretty good if you ask me).
In his senior year of high school, Kazmir set a Texas high school record formerly set by current Red Sox ace Josh Beckett by striking out an incredible 175 batters in 75 innings… that’s over 2 batters per inning (about 2.33 per inning to be exact)! He verbally committed to the University of Texas, a college baseball powerhouse before opting to go to the pros.
Kazmir was elected to the American League All-Star in both 2006 and 2008 (helped lead Rays to World Series in ’08).
He is in the 1st year of a 3-year deal, so this is no Mark Teixeira 1 1/2 month rental that we came to see last year, folks.
As long as he can be a dependable middle-of-the-rotation guy, I don’t think there’s anything else that we as Angel fans can ask of him. He was not brought in to be any “savior” of sorts, but to be a quality arm to compliment the rest of the Angels’ struggling yet promising rotation (he’s even been rumored to have been brought in as a bullpen arm, but I’d confidently put my money on him having a spot in the starting rotation).
Not only do I welcome the addition of Kazmir as a fantastic short-term addition, but to have him inked for the 2 following years as well seems like a steal of a deal at the present time… I mean he’s only 25, he’s yet to even hit his prime!
For the Rays, it gives them salary cap relief for the upcoming few years, but for the Angels it guarantees them of a pitcher that they know will be under their control for the next couple of seasons (considering John Lackey will get plenty of money thrown at him this offseason due to his contract being up following the end of this season).
Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing what Mr. Kazmir can do for the Halos, so let’s all welcome in the newest member of the Los Angeles Angels… welcome aboard Scott!
It was an offseason that began with plenty of Angel fans hoping and praying that the front office could ink 1st baseman Mark Teixeira to a long-term deal, and somehow find a way to bring back their star closer Francisco Rodriguez, despite GM Tony Reagins saying the front office had “turned the page” on him. They were 2 of the 4 hottest commodities on the free agent market to go along with C.C. Sabathia and Manny Ramirez.
Fans were hoping that (for once), the Angels would open up the wallet and spend the money they needed to improve… but when it was all said and done, the Angels roped in none of the big-namers.
Teixeira got 8 years, $180 million from the Yankees.
C.C. Sabathia got 7 years, $161 million from the Yankees.
K-Rod got 3 years, $37 million from the Mets.
Manny got 2 years, $45 million from the Dodgers.
Some Angel fans were down because they felt that by not forking out the doe for one of the aforementioned A-list free agents, the Angels lacked that powerful punch in the middle of the lineup and at the back end of the bullpen.
But as they say, hindsight is always 20/20.
By not signing re-signing Teixeira or K-Rod, the Angels now had roughly $31 million of unspent money that they could choose to throw at other free agents out on the market.
Looking back, Tony Reagins spent wisely.
On December 19th of 2008, the Halos kept outfielder Juan Rivera in the mix by signing him to a 3 year, $12.75 million deal ($3.25 million spent for ’09).
On New Years Eve of ’08, the Angels went in a new direction for closing out ballgames by getting former Colorado Rockies closer and a California native in Brian Fuentes. Fuentes received a 2-year deal worth $17.5 million deal (total of $11.75 million spent for ’09).
On February 12th of 2009, Bobby Abreu was signed to sport the Angel red as he was inked to a 1-year deal worth $5 million plus incentives. In 2008, Abreu had a $16 million salary, and the Angels were able to get a guy who hit nearly .300, scored 100 runs, drove in 100 runs, and hit 20 home runs for $11 million dollars less than he earned in that $16 million 2008 season. Nice bargain, I’d say (total of $16.75 million spent for ’09).
Frankie has been dominant this year for the Mets and his ridiculous 1.85 ERA reflects that, but Fuentes has converted a higher percentage of his saves to date, has a lower walks to innings pitched ratio, has a lower hits to innings pitched ratio, strikes out more per inning and walks less per inning compared to Rodriguez’s numbers. Fuentes’ 28 saves leads the majors. As of now, looks like they made the right move here.
So the “vaunted power hitter” may not be in the lineup, but I’d say Abreu and Rivera have done a darn good job of performing for nearly a combined salary that is $13 million less than that of Teixeira’s alone. Abreu currently has the most RBI in all of the MLB since June 1st and Rivera has been the most consistent hitter this year for the Angels outside of the presently sidelined Torii Hunter. Abreu’s presence in the lineup also has helped leadoff man Chone Figgins‘ on-base percentage rise drastically, so the impact of Bobby in the lineup goes far deeper than the numbers.
And those were just the offseason additions.
Let’s not forget to mention the guys who are already on the team who are far and away outperforming their current pay.
Let’s start with Jered Weaver, who has gone 10-3 with a 3.48 ERA this year, has undoubtedly been the ace of the staff since day 1. Entering this year, Jered hadn’t pitched a complete game (a span of 77 starts). He’s thrown 3 complete games this year, including 1 shutout (coming in a span of 8 starts). Opposing batters are hitting a mere .231 against him, and he’s been striking out a career-best 7.77 batters per 9 innings pitched.
So what do you think he’s earning? $4 million? $5 million? $6 million? More? I mean, his agent is Scott Boras after all.
Try $465,000. Yeah, not even 1/2 of a million dollars for those numbers (Robb Quinlan makes close to 2 1/2 times the amount of what Jered makes… try that one on for size).
How about Kendry Morales, he’s put together quite a season in his first year as a starter for the Halos over at 1st base. He was coming in with some massive shoes to fill after Teixeira bounced for the Yanks, but he has no doubt held his own.
The switch-hitting “K-Mo” has posted a .291 batting average, slugged 17 home runs (tied for team-high with Torii Hunter), driven in 52 runs, and has slugged at a .547 mark, good for 2nd best on the team. He’s also in the midst of a career-high 18-game hitting streak, and has provided some pop from the 1st base position that the Angels haven’t seen in a long, long time.
Kendry’s making $1.1 million this year, a.k.a. about $20 million less than Teixeira. Not too big of a drop-off from player to player in my opinion. He’s on pace to hit 32 home runs and post 97 RBI at this rate, a pretty good value by any standards.
Crafty veteran Darren Oliver has the team’s best ERA with a 2.88 mark, and has a 4-0 record, all for $3.67 million.
Mike Napoli, one of the Angels’ two catchers in Mike Scioscia’s platoon system, has the 4th most home runs on the team with 11, despite having roughly 2/3 the at-bats that the regular starters get. He’s also 4th on the team in terms of his on-base percentage (.376) and his slugging percentage (.502). And it’s been Nap Time for the low, low price of $2 million!
But wait, there’s more!
The two shortstops have been providing some value of their own.
With a 2009 salary of $1.1 million, Maicer Izturis has hit .303, with 28 RBI and a .359 OBP, all while playing exceptional defense at both shortstop and 2nd base when called upon.
Erick Aybar has hit .299 with 32 RBI and a .347 on-base percentage, also while playing some career-best defense over at shortstop. He’s earning $465,000 for the 2009 season.
And last, but certainly not least (except for amount of height among Angel players) is Chone Figgins. Chone is hitting a team-best .310, with a .395 OBP, 108 hits, an American League-leading 72 runs scored, and 27 stolen bases. And he’s been “Gettin’ Figgy Wit It” for roughly $5.8 million, earning him his first All-Star invitation of his career.
Heck, Torii Hunter is earning $18 million for this season, and even he’s outperformed his season’s contract (given that much money, that’s really saying something).
Now, it’s time to have a little more fun. Time for some more number-crunching.
*All salaries rounded to the nearest 100,000
2 players departed: Rodriguez, Teixeira = $30.9 million for 2009
3 players arrived: Fuentes, Abreu, Rivera = $16.6 million for 2009.
Getting more production for just under half the price.
And if you reeeeeeally wanted to know…
10 players: Fuentes, Figgins, Abreu, Rivera, Weaver, Morales, Oliver, Napoli, Aybar, Izturis = $32 million for 2009
You get the point.
I just thought I had to throw that last one in there to really drive home the value/productivity point.
“Less is more” seems to be a fitting slogan for the Angels (but then again, they’re getting more production from more players… oh, I’m just confusing myself).
On second thought, I’ll leave it up to someone else to think of a slogan for the ’09 Halos.
In the meantime, I’ll just let the numbers do the talking.
It may be too early to tell at this point, but so far, the Angels kept their most productive 1st baseman that they had, even though he was sitting behind Casey Kotchman and Mark Teixeira for the duration of the season.
As Angel fans remember, the Halos acquired the talented and powerful switch-hitting Mark Teixeira from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for then-Angel 1st baseman Casey Kotchman and a pitcher in Steve Marek. First-year GM Tony Reagins did what Bill Stoneman never did, which was make a big mid-season offensive splash. I thought this was going to be the move that would put the Angels over the top and win a World Championship. As it turns out, the Angels would win 100 games for the 1st time in the franchise’s history, and secure the best overall record in the majors, only to get bounced in the 1st round by the Red Sox… again.
Make no mistake about it, Tex put up great numbers in his breif stay as a Halo, before he bounced for the pinstripes… and a $180 million contract.
In 54 games as an Angel, Teixeira hit .358 (69-193) with 13 home runs, 43 RBI, 14 doubles, 39 runs scored, 32 walks, and 23 strikeouts.
Now let’s compute this out to what those numbers would have looked like if he had played all 162 games with the Angels at that pace.
Teixeira has averaged 569 at-bats in his 6 full MLB seasons, which equates to stats of:
That’s a damn productive year, a type of year that the Angels hadn’t had outside of Vladimir Guerrero in quite some time.
Casey Kotchman didn’t exactly fare to well in the end of the ’08 season with the Braves.
In 43 games, Kotch hit .237 (36-152) with 2 home runs, 20 RBI, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 18 runs scored, 18 walks, and 16 strikeouts.
If Kotchman had 569 at-bats in a season at that rate, he would’ve put up numbers that look like this:
.237 avg./7 home runs/75 RBI/15 doubles/67 runs scored/67 walks/60 strikeouts
Just a little bit of a difference between Tex and Kotch last year.
But enough about then, let’s focus on the here and now.
Tex has been struggling mightily with the bat since he’s put on the Yankee pinstripes.
Kotchman is hitting for a higher average, but has only driven in 4 runs in 25 games.
And then there’s Kendry Morales, the 25-year-old switch-hitting 1st baseman who the Angels have coveted for years, who finally gets his chance in ’09 with Kotchman and Teixeira out of town. The Cuban native was nothing but raw talent when the Angels signed him to a 6-year deal back on December 1st of 2005. Morales had many troubles getting out of the Dominican Republic initially, facing problems with needing a passport to gain citizenship after deferring to the Dominican Republic back in August of ’05. After developing his game and waiting in the wings for his chance to come, when Mark Teixeira signed that fat old 9-year, $180 million contract with the Yankees, Morales was instantly pinned as the Opening Day starter at 1st base. After a decently slow start, Morales has picked it up since and has been rolling of late.
Here’s a little side-by-side comparison of what the 3 1st baseman have done so far this year entering today:
Kotchman is the top man in 4 categories (batting average, on-base perecentage, doubles, and fewest strikeouts).
Teixeira is tops in terms of walks.
Morales has the best stats in the other 6 categories (slugging percentage, home runs, runs batted in, triples, extra-base hits, and runs).
The Angels took a few steps back in terms of defensive production they’re getting out of their 1st baseman, considering the fact that Teixeira was a 2-time Gold Glover back in ’05 and ’06 with the Rangers, and Kotchman is currently one of the soundest defensive 1st basemen in all of the MLB. Morales’ biggest weakness is no doubt his defense. He only has 1 error on the year, whereas Kotchman and Teixeira are yet to make an error, but what you can’t point out is the amount of potential extra-base hits that Kotch and Tex are knocking down and turning in to outs that Morales just doesn’t have the ability to do.
On the bright side, there’s no doubt that he’s been the superior offensive player compared to the other two. He has more home runs and RBI than Kotchman and Teixeira have combined.
Morales is the youngest of the three at the ripe age of 25, and has an incredibly high ceiling in terms of potential to be reached. You are hard-pressed to find switch-hitters who hit for power consistently, and Morales has the capability to become Mark Teixeira-esque, but without as good of an eye at the plate. Morales is a free-swinger, which is what the Angels lineup is full of.
If Morales can be a productive #6 hitter, with guys like Howie Kendrick, Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter hitting 2-3-4-5 in front of him (when all are healthy), he’ll have plenty of RBI opportunities.
The future has a lot in store for KMo, and I truly believe that he could become one of the most productive offensive first baseman in the game in only a matter of years.
So far in the early goings of this 2009 season, hats off to Tony Reagins and company; they picked the most productive and least expensive player of the 3 to be their everyday 1st baseman: Kendry Morales.
Not to mention the fact that they are saving about $19 million dollars this year alone in comparison of Teixeira’s ’09 salary and Morales’ 2009 salary.
Keep it up, Kendry, don’t make me and the whole Halo front office for that matter, look stupid for thinking that they made the right choice, both present and long-term.
This kid’s gonna be something special, make no mistake about it.