November 2007

This ‘N That

Angels owner Arte Moreno told reporters at Wednesday’s Torii Hunter/Jon Garland press conference that the Mitchell Report will specifically name players linked to performance-enhancing drugs.  This tends to add a bit more credence to my theory that Moreno had advance knowledge of Gary Matthews Jr.’s name being in the report and may be planning to suspend Matthews or even attempt to abort the contract.

Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times wrote:

Moreno described himself as a "squeaky wheel" who has urged the commissioner’s office to be "proactive in cleaning up" the sport of performance-enhancing drugs and said that "anyone who tries to cheat the system shouldn’t be in baseball." He implied that he welcomed the Mitchell report as another step in that process.

"If you’ve got dirty laundry, get it out there and get rid of it," he said, adding that if anyone is to blame for baseball’s failure to take an aggressive stance on steroids and other substances before implementing a tougher testing program, "I blame the owners for not sticking up for too many years for what’s right."

As I wrote earlier, this could devolve into a players’ strike if MLB attempts to fire en masse the named players (which might get certain teams out of bloated contracts with the named players).  But Newhan wrote:

Moreno said he does not know if Selig will discipline players who are named in the Mitchell report and insisted that there was "zero relationship" between the possibility that Matthews, a center fielder who will now move to a corner outfield position, could be suspended and the acquisition of Hunter, a Gold Glove center fielder.

Moreno also complained that the Marlins are playing the Angels and Dodgers against each other for Miguel Cabrera’s services.  Well, duh.  That’s what any good GM would do — use a petulant owner’s impatience against him.  That’s how Scott Boras extracted a 10-year $250 million contract out of Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks for Alex Rodriguez.

The Miami Herald reports that the Angels tried twice to acquire Cabrera but were unsuccessful. Marlins’ president Larry Benifest took the high road. “We do not comment on trades or trade rumors,”” he told the paper.

I won’t write another long screed lecturing about the consequences of flushing all the talent in the farm system for one player, wiping out the entire next generation of affordable talent and also losing all organizational depth in the hope that the one player doesn’t get hurt. But I think Moreno’s awakening to the reality that the Marlins won’t just give him what he wants should make him think twice about this deal.

Another trade rumor has the Angels inquiring about Twins’ ace Johan Santana, who’s a free agent after 2008. One problem is that Santana has a full no-trade clause.

And I keep seeing rumors popping up about Matthews being traded. As I’ve written before, Matthews has a full no-trade clause through 2009. And no, contrary to speculation by some on the fan boards, Matthews won’t waive the clause if we ask nice. He’s building a house in Newport Beach. Why would he want to walk away from that?!

The outfield roulette is a one-year arrangement until Garret Anderson’s contract expires after 2008. Matthews is going nowhere. Unless MLB tries to discipline him, that is …

This article is copyright © 2007 Stephen C. Smith DBA FutureAngels.com. It may not be reprinted elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author. To obtain permission, e-mail Stephen at home@futureangels.com.

Better Late Than Never

Ten days after The Newberg Report broke the story, and nine days after the Dallas Morning News published an article confirming it, the Orange County Register reports that the Angels lost Warner Madrigal due to a paperwork mistake.

The article has new details on how the Angels missed the contract deadline.

Chris Resop on His Former Teammates


Chris Resop

The Angels acquired reliever Chris Resop last winter from the Florida Marlins in exchange for Kevin Gregg. Just as Chris reached the major leagues this year with Anaheim, a sore elbow shut him down. He underwent surgery to have chips removed from his elbow. At season’s end, the Angels tried to move him through waivers from the 40-man roster to the Triple-A Salt Lake roster, and he was claimed by the Atlanta Braves.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter Juan C. Rodriguez caught up with Chris and asked him his opinion of his former teammates mentioned as potential targets in a Florida Marlins trade. It’s an interesting read.

Firestorm II

Here we go again …

Many local stations provide live streaming coverage on-line of their firestorm coverage. Here are some links to sites where you can watch:

KCBS Channel 2/KCAL Channel 9

KNBC Channel 4

KABC Channel 7

KTTV Channel 11/KCOP Channel 13

2007 Top 10 Prospects Report


Brandon Wood tops the FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report for the third straight year.

The 2007 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report is now on-line. Click Here to read the report.

You’ll have to read the article for the full analysis. The ranking from bottom to top:

  • 10. Chris Pettit OF
  • 9. Sean Rodriguez IF-OF
  • 8. Nick Green RHP
  • 7. Bobby Wilson C
  • 6. Terry Evans OF
  • 5. Hank Conger C
  • 4. Sean O’Sullivan RHP
  • 3. Jordan Walden RHP
  • 2. Nick Adenhart RHP
  • 1. Brandon Wood 3B-SS

This article is copyright © 2007 Stephen C. Smith DBA FutureAngels.com. It may not be reprinted elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author. To obtain permission, e-mail Stephen at home@futureangels.com.

Angels Sign Torii Hunter


Torii Hunter
Photo Credit: MLB Pressbox

My first thought when I heard the Angels had signed Torii Hunter was the same first thought I had when the Angels traded Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland. “Maybe NOW people will figure out not to believe trade rumors.”

That’s twice this week the press and the self-declared Internet experts totally missed what’s really going on in the Angels front office.

My second thought was, “Gary Matthews Jr. is gonna get suspended.”

As is commonly known, Matthews was reportedly involved in ordering human growth hormone when he was with the Texas Rangers in 2004. After two weeks of public pressure inflicted by Angels owner Arte Moreno, Matthews finally issued a statement that he had never taken HGH — but never said whether he had ordered it.

Meanwhile, we await the release of the Mitchell Report which will name names, and Moreno might try to use the findings as an excuse to void Matthews’ contract under Section 7(b)(1) of Article 3 of the Uniform Player’s Contract. As reported by Sports Illustrated, the section empowers a team to void a contract if a player fails, refuses or neglects to “conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or to keep himself in first-class physical condition or to obey the Club’s training rules.”

If the owners try that tactic, expect the players’ union to push back hard, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a court order or even worse a player walkout.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Tony Reagins denied all that in yesterday’s press conference, although Hunter said the Angels offer came out of nowhere in the last couple days which hints at a panicked reaction to developments elsewhere.

Or it could be exactly as Scioscia and Reagins claim, which is also quite possible.

Garret Anderson is a free agent after 2008. The Angels have a $14 million option to extend his contract through 2009, but that seems unlikely unless he has a career year at age 36. Garret is a 10-5 man — ten years in the majors, the last five with his current club — so he can’t be traded without his consent.

Matthews will be in the second year of his five-year deal. He has a full no-trade clause through 2009, so he’s going nowhere too. Despite all the griping by some fans about his contract, Matthews was paid only $6 million in 2007 and will get $9 million in 2008. (Source: Cot’s Baseball Contracts.) Most of the money is in the back end of the contract, when he has a limited no-trade clause (he can block a trade to four clubs). Another mitigating circumstance is that Matthews injured his left shoulder diving for a ball in spring training, which affected his hitting from the right side of the plate (against left-handed pitchers). If you look at his 2007 splits, the switch-hitting Matthews’ AVG/OBP/SLG against right-handed pitchers were .275/.342/.455, while against lefties they were .175/.263/.300.

So assuming that MLB isn’t going to try to perp-walk Matthews out the door, it may be the Angels intend to rotate Anderson and Vlad Guerrero through the DH slot, with Matthews playing all three outfield positions as required — which he’s done throughout his career.

In 2009, with Anderson departed or reduced to a part-time role with a more modest contract (as did Tim Salmon in his last year), Matthews might become the full-time LF.

My third thought was, “Crud, I need to rewrite Terry Evans’ Top 10 report.”

Nope, Terry isn’t going anywhere for the time being, but when I do my annual FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report one factor I weigh is proximity to a major-league roster. I figured the Angels can afford to move either Reggie Willits or Nathan Haynes, two similar outfielders with speed and little pop, to make room for Evans who hits for power and can play all three outfield positions. Adding Hunter certainly deepens the outfield depth — let’s not forget Juan Rivera should be healthy for 2008 — so barring a trade this probably pushes Evans back to another year in Triple-A (which he could probably use).

Speaking of Evans, in writing his analysis last night I found a rather bizarre stat, but you’ll have to wait to read it until the report is on-line. Heh heh heh …

And my final thought was, “Well, there goes a good hour or two of my Thanksgiving morning writing a blog entry.”

This article is copyright © 2007 Stephen C. Smith DBA FutureAngels.com. It may not be reprinted elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author. To obtain permission, e-mail Stephen at home@futureangels.com.

Angels Trade Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland


Jon Garland
Photo Credit: MLB Pressbox

My first thought when I heard the Angels had traded Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland was, “Maybe NOW people will figure out not to believe trade rumors.”

The media have been falling all over themselves reporting Cabrera trade rumors, but those were about Florida Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera. That trade has yet to happen, and perhaps never will.

As I’ve written many times, baseball general managers don’t spend their days telling beat writers about their trade discussions. Yet fan boards run rampant with hysteria every time some story is printed claiming a trade is imminent. This trade is just further proof that GMs don’t engage in pillow talk with reporters.

My second thought was, “Thank goodness they didn’t trade any prospects.”

As I wrote in my October 9 blog, Orlando Cabrera will be a free agent after 2008 so the Angels might move Brandon Wood back to shortstop as his eventual replacement. This trade opens that possibility one year earlier.

For all the hubbub about Wood moving to third base in 2007, in fact he played 34 games at shortstop for Salt Lake this year in addition to his 74 appearances at third. Just as Cal Ripken moved between SS and 3B during his career, Wood is capable of the same versatility. Mike Schmidt in his 1971 Triple-A season played 2B for 76 games, 3B for 52 games and SS for 5 games. Some fans question why a player isn’t locked into one position. The reason is that it increases the player’s versatility, giving him an opportunity to make the majors at more than one position. Remember that Howie Kendrick reached the majors in 2006 not as a second baseman, but as an emergency first baseman. Howie never played that position in the minors, but in 2006 he was at 1B for 44 games and his native 2B for 28 games.

Moving Cabrera opened the door as well for Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar. Izturis filled in at third base and second base when Chone Figgins and Howie Kendrick were injured, but in his minor league days he played a lot of shortstop too. Aybar has been considered a top prospect for some time and also played a utility role this year, but as I’ve written over the years in the FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects reports his style of play is quite reckless, leading to mental errors and injuries.

Let’s not forget Dallas McPherson, who began his rehab in September from his latest back surgery. McPherson homered in his first rehab game at Tempe on September 22, but that’s a long way from the big leagues. He’ll need at-bats in 2008, which probably means he starts the year at Salt Lake, but a healthy McPherson at 3B and an emerging Wood at SS easily add 30 HR to the lineup, and in 2009 maybe 50 HR between them. If Dallas isn’t ready to go, Wood can play 3B with Izturis or Aybar at SS.

Where does Chone Figgins play? I covered that in the October 9 blog. Just as with Cabrera, I think Chone’s value will never be higher, so I’d look to move him in the right deal.

Of course, all the speculation is that the Garland trade is a pre-cursor to another deal, packaging some of the above with Nick Adenhart or Ervin Santana or some of the above names to Florida for Miguel Cabrera.

I hope not.

As I wrote on November 10, the Angels can add 50 HR internally in 2008 just by staying reasonably healthy. Flushing the farm for Miguel Cabrera may please the instant gratification crowd and give the press something new to write about, but the internal options are a lot cheaper and in the long run just as productive.

In the aforementioned October 9 blog, I wrote that I felt the Angels’ priority should be to add a veteran pitcher, maybe a guy like Curt Schilling. He went back to Boston, but Garland at 28 is entering his prime. He’s not an ace, but he’ll make a decent back-of-the-rotation starter. Add him to a rotation that includes Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey, Jered Weaver, and Joe Saunders, and that’s an impressive corps. Garland will be a free agent after 2008, but he’s a SoCal native so the Angels may hope to sign him to an extension.

In the October 9 blog, I also wrote that I thought the Angels needed to restructure their bullpen, starting with a trade of Francisco Rodriguez (who’s also a free agent after 2008). Acquiring Garland allows the Angels to move Ervin Santana to the bullpen. I still think Ervin’s destiny is to become a dominant starting pitcher, but for now maybe he needs to rebuild his confidence by working relief. In two regular-season relief appearances, Ervin worked four no-hit shutout innings, striking out seven and walking two. Hardly a reasonable sample, but it’s a reason for optimism. If effective, he’d add some badly needed bullpen depth.

My third thought was, “The Angels finally got their man.”

Rumor had it during the December 2001 winter meetings that Angels GM Bill Stoneman and White Sox GM Ken Williams had tentatively agreed on a trade that would send Erstad to Chicago for Garland, outfielder Chris Singleton, and two unnamed minor leaguers. According to the rumor, Disney ownership nixed the deal, possibly because Erstad was a marketable commodity. Stoneman never confirmed the deal, and the Angels’ version of the tale was that no trade is ever complete until ownership approves it, which is just as true today under Arte Moreno as it was six years ago under Disney.

In any case, Garland has remained on the Angels’ radar for years. A year from now, if he’d remained in Chicago, maybe he would have become a free agent and they would have pursued him on the open market. This trade gives them Garland one year earlier and the inside track on an extension.

And my final thought was, “Well, this will blow the Warner Madrigal flub off the map.”

This article is copyright © 2007 Stephen C. Smith DBA FutureAngels.com. It may not be reprinted elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author. To obtain permission, e-mail Stephen at home@futureangels.com.

Whither Warner Madrigal?


Warner Madrigal

The Newberg Report blog is reporting that the Texas Rangers have signed Warner Madrigal as a minor-league free agent. Jamey cites a press release on the Texas Rangers site which would seem to validate his report.

This is rather odd, since the Angels issued a press release on November 6 reporting that Madrigal had been added to the 40-man roster. And that came shortly after Baseball America reported on November 2 that Madrigal had been let go by the Angels as a six-year minor league free agent.

As of this writing, if you go to the Angels’ official site at MLB.com and click on the 40-man roster, Madrigal is listed with the Angels. But if you click on his name, it shows him as a Texas Ranger.


UPDATE 12:15 PM PST — At the same link as above, Jamey Newberg now suggests the Angels lost Warner Madrigal because they failed to do their paperwork properly. Jamey believes the Angels’ front office sent paperwork to MLB adding Madrigal to the 40-man roster on November 6, not realizing that Madrigal had already taken his six-year minor league free agency on October 28.

Jamey wrote, "I wouldn’t be very happy about this if I were an Angels fan."

Well, I’m not happy, if his theory is true.

It would reflect poorly on the recently promoted Tony Reagins and Abe Flores if this did indeed fall through the cracks.

I just wrote yesterday Madrigal’s review for the forthcoming FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects list. Madrigal was going to rank #9.

Since Warner has gone bye-bye, here’s what I wrote. (If this was a TV show, it would be a deleted scene.)


9. Warner Madrigal RHP
Bats: Right Throws: Right 6’0" 200 lbs. DOB: 3/21/1984
Cedar Rapids (Low-A): 5-4 2.07 ERA, 75:23 K:BB,
AVG/OBP/SLG: .199/.274/.284, 1.10 WHIP (61.0 IP)

Baseball America in their 2004 Prospect Handbook ranked outfielder Warner Madrigal as the Angels’ #16 prospect. “He physically resembles Albert Belle,” wrote analyst Josh Boyd, “and his swing has similar length and power.” Madrigal hit .369 for Rookie-A Provo in 2003 with a .581 SLG, but any projections of future greatness were tempered by his overaggressiveness at the plate and a series of injuries that eventually put an end to his hitting career. He had surgery to remove the hook of his hamate bone below his left wrist after an injury in the first game of the 2004 season, and didn’t return to Cedar Rapids until August.

Madrigal always had a power arm, so after he broke his right hand in May 2006 the Angels returned him to minor league camp and converted him into a relief pitcher. So far, that seems to have been the right move. He entered 2007 with a plus fastball in the upper 90s, a decent slider and changeup. MiLB.com analyst Jonathan Mayo wrote in October 2006 that Madrigal was also working on a splitter.

Kernels manager Ever Magallanes told me in a May 2007 interview that Warner sometimes got overexcited in certain situations, but his second-half numbers would seem to suggest he’s made strides in pitching under pressure. Pre All-Star Game, Madrigal had a 3.64 ERA and .256 AVG. Post All-Star Game, those numbers dropped to 0.57 and .129. His SO:BB ratio improved from 31:17 (29.2 IP) to 44:6 (31.1 IP). And here’s an even scarier split — his home ERA was 2.93, while on the road it was 1.19.

The next step will be High-A Rancho Cucamonga, in the hitter-friendly California League. If he’s successful there, the temptation will be to move him quickly, but let’s remember that he’s only been pitching since mid-2006. He needs innings, and with those innings will come the opportunity to experiment and gain more confidence. Madrigal didn’t go to the fall instructional league but did pitch for the second straight winter with Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. At higher levels, he’ll start to see batters who’ve been in the big leagues and will be far more patient. How he adjusts will determine how soon, if ever, he arrives in Anaheim.


UPDATE 6:00 AM PST November 19, 2007Today’s Dallas Morning News reports that the Angels missed a filing deadline to protect Warner Madrigal because the deadline changed:

The Rangers signed RHP Warner Madrigal, 23, and added him to the 40-man roster Sunday.

The Angels signed the Dominican as an outfielder in 2001. He started pitching late in 2006.

A story on the Angels’ Web site this month reported Madrigal was placed on their 40-man roster. But he was declared a free agent in late October because the deadline regarding signing players changed this off-season.

Texas officials checked into Madrigal’s status and got him signed. Daniels said Madrigal was someone the Rangers would have considered picking in the Rule 5 draft. But by signing him now, Madrigal still has options the Rangers can use to get him more experience in the minors.

"He throws his fastball in the mid 90s, has a hard slider and pounds the strike zone," Daniels said. "Our scouts really like him."


This article is copyright © 2007 Stephen C. Smith DBA FutureAngels.com. It may not be reprinted elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author. To obtain permission, e-mail Stephen at home@futureangels.com.

The Minor League Game of the Week


Nick Adenhart took a no-hitter into the 6th inning of his Double-A debut April 7 at Frisco.

April 7, 2007 … Nick Adenhart squares off against major leaguer Eric Gagne as the Arkansas Travelers visit the Frisco RoughRiders.

Eric Gagne?!

The former Dodgers closer and free agent signed a deal during the winter with the Texas Rangers. Still recovering from a 2006 herniated disc injury, and not far beyond recovery from “Tommy John” surgery, Gagne needed more work so the Rangers assigned him on rehab to their Double-A affiliate in Frisco, Texas, a Dallas-Ft. Woth suburb.

Gagne pitched only the first inning, and gave up a solo homer to shortstop Sean Rodriguez.

Later in the season, Texas would trade him to the Boston Red Sox.

Adenhart, meanwhile, was ranked the Angels’ top pitching prospect entering the 2007 season. At age 20, he was one of the youngest starting pitchers in the Texas League. His debut was outstanding, taking a no-hitter into the 6th inning.

Nick’s name now comes up in trade talks, most recently in rumors about Florida third baseman Miguel Cabrera.

The annual FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report will be on-line by the end of the month. As you might suspect, he’ll be the top-rated pitcher, assuming he isn’t traded. More about Nick in that article.

The official box score shows it was 43 degrees at game time. The Midwest and much of the nation was in the midst of a cold snap at the time.

The Travs’ Phil Elson calls the game. Phil is a very talented young broadcaster. I’ve said many times he’ll be a big-league broadcaster one day. This webcast is the direct feed between Phil and the station, so you’ll hear him talking to the engineer between innings instead of the radiocast commercials.

Click Here to listen to the game. You need Windows Media Player.

Looking Back at the Future


March 30, 2002 — Alfredo Amezaga asked me to take a photo of him with Adam Kennedy when he was at Angel Stadium to receive an award before an exhibition game.

November is the time of year when I write the annual FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects list. This year’s report should be on-line by the end of the month, unless the Angels do something foolish like trade Brandon Wood and Nick Adenhart to Florida in a deal for Miguel Cabrera, in which case I start from scratch …

While you’re waiting for the report (or for your nails to dry), I thought you might like to look at past years’ reports:

I think the lists for the most part have withstood the test of time, when you take context into consideration. As I wrote every year, the reports were only a snapshot in time. No one can foresee an unpredictable injury, or series of injuries. Brian Specht, for example, was considered a top prospect but injuries slowly robbed him of his talent. Dallas McPherson’s back injuries haven’t finished him yet, but how many of us would go through all he’s suffered to keep chasing that dream?

It’s also important to realize that a list of prospects is not a list of future major leaguers; an organization thin in prospects may not have any real future big leaguers, but the list just projects who are the ten best talents. So my reports in the early years, written when the organization’s talent depth was rather thin, may list guys who never amounted to anything.

I once asked Tom Kotchman how long it would take to judge a draft. He said you start to get an idea after three years, but you may have to go out as far as five or seven years, if not longer. Looking at these reports, you realize the jury is still out on decisions made long ago. We’re still waiting to see whether Jeff Mathis fulfills his potential, and he was drafted in June 2001.

And then there are guys you’ve forgotten long ago who are still playing professionally. I had infielder Alfredo Amezaga #10 on the 2001 list, projecting him as a utility player. Alfredo is now an infelder/outfielder for the Florida Marlins, sorta their version of Chone Figgins, although his AVG/OBP/SLG in 2007 of .263/.324/.358 won’t make anyone forget A-Rod.

Anyway, enjoy a romp through the past, and I’ll get to work on the future.

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