Angels Sign 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.”
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