Angels' offseason wish list down to a starting pitcher
With other needs addressed, Halos eye cost-effective options to round out rotation
Third base has been addressed, the bullpen has been shored up, cost-controlled pitching has been added and the Mark Trumbo void has been filled.
Now, less than a week away from Christmas, the Angels' offseason shopping list is down to just one item: A free-agent starting pitcher.
The Angels agreed to terms on a one-year, $2.75 million, incentive-laden contract with 41-year-old designated hitter Raul Ibanez on Wednesday and are expected to venture into the free-agent market to round out a staff that currently includes Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs.
When Ibanez is officially in the books -- he's slated to take his physical at some point next week -- the Angels will have roughly $15 million to spend on a starting pitcher before hitting the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million, and that's plenty given the names that are left and the desires that they have.
They still aren't expected to go after anyone tied to Draft pick compensation, thus eliminating Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. They'd love to get their hands on A.J. Burnett, but he's unlikely to want to pitch on the West Coast. And though they covet Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese right-hander remains a long shot because: 1. He may not get posted, and, 2. If he is, every team that puts in the maximum bid of $20 million can negotiate with him, making it difficult for an Angels team that wants to stay below the luxury tax and has Mike Trout's big payday looming.
So, with Santana and Jimenez out of the question, Burnett hardly an option and Tanaka still a pipe dream, who's left?
Here's a look at some of the Angels' top candidates:
Matt Garza: He has been priority No. 1 for the Angels since Jason Vargas slipped from their grasp, agreeing to a four-year, $32 million contract with the Royals. The Angels weren't willing to go four years with Vargas. They probably would for Garza, but perhaps no more than that. He's 30 years old, has been solid over the last six years -- 3.76 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and an average of 175 innings -- and isn't tied to Draft pick compensation. But there are some red flags, too. Garza had a 4.38 ERA with the Rangers down the stretch last year, and he's been on the disabled list each of the last three seasons due to arm-related injuries.
Bronson Arroyo: He's six years older than Garza and isn't as good, but Arroyo would come cheaper and is about as durable as they come. Over the last nine years, Arroyo has pitched at least 200 innings eight times -- eight! -- and ranks third in the Majors with 1,895 2/3 innings over that span, trailing only CC Sabathia and Dan Haren. Since 2006, while pitching mostly at the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park, Arroyo has compiled a 4.05 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP despite easily leading the Majors in homers allowed (252) and striking out only 5.9 batters per nine innings. He's a better version of Joe Blanton, essentially, which is why the Angels aren't willing to overpay.
Jason Hammel: The Angels haven't really been linked to Hammel but could turn to him if Garza and Arroyo (and Tanaka) sign elsewhere. On Hammel, they'd be buying low, preferably on an incentive-laden contract. The 31-year-old right-hander missed seven weeks with a flexor strain in his pitching elbow with the Orioles last year and finished with a 4.97 ERA, a 1.46 WHIP and a 2.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But he throws pretty hard (he had an average fastball velocity of 92.7 mph last year) and was solid despite knee surgery in 2012, posting a 3.43 ERA in 20 starts.
Chris Capuano: The 35-year-old lefty spent 40 days on the disabled list with groin and left shoulder injuries with the Dodgers last year, finishing the season with a 4.26 ERA, a career-high 10.6 hits per nine innings, the lowest strikeout rate since his shortened rookie season (6.9) and a lost September. Strangely, though, the Tommy John product's average fastball velocity was the highest of his career, jumping from 86.7 mph to 88.4 mph from one year to the next. The Dodgers declined their half of an $8 million mutual option with Capuano at season's end, giving him a $1 million buyout.
Paul Maholm: He doesn't strike many people out (5.8 per nine innings in his career) and doesn't throw very hard (average fastball velocity of 87.5 mph last year), but the 31-year-old left-hander gets a lot of ground balls. He has a career ground-ball percentage of .521 and has been pretty durable, averaging 181 innings per season since 2006. Last year, though, Maholm was limited to 153 innings with a wrist sprain and elbow inflammation. His ERA jumped to 4.41 -- it was 3.66 the previous two years -- and the Braves replaced him in the rotation with Freddy Garcia for the playoffs. The American League may not be very friendly to someone like Maholm.
Scott Baker: The 32-year-old right-hander had a 3.98 ERA with the Twins from 2007-11, then spent 15 months recovering from Tommy John surgery -- from April 2012 to July 2013. He was missing a couple ticks off his fastball upon returning, too. With more time, though, you figure Baker will regain his low-90s fastball. He posted a 5.46 ERA in eight rehab starts in the Cubs' system, then a 3.60 ERA in three Major League starts in September. He's another arm who makes sense on an incentive-laden deal.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.