Since the Los Angeles Angels drafted University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker in the 10th round of the draft last summer, the assumption has been that the Angels were merely taking a gamble on the talented athlete in case a career in the NFL didn’t pan out.
Locker was seen as a potential first round NFL draft pick this year had he not decided to return for his senior season. He’ll be a Heisman candidate in 2010, and if he continues on his current trend, some project he’ll be the top overall pick in the 2011 draft.
But now it appears the Angels didn’t just pay Locker $300,000 to hold his rights for six years. Locker has already made a low-key appearance at spring training, and now GM Tony Reagins tells the Orange County Register that the quarterback will actually play for an Angels minor league team this season.
“What we’ve tried to do is communicate a schedule that works for both him and the club and there’s certain points that he has to meet,” Reagins said. “He fulfilled his first obligation so far and our expectation is that he will continue to meet them.”
Reagins was vague about the quarterback’s obligations, but Locker, an outfielder who was the Washington State baseball player of the year in 2006, is seen as a strong prospect if he were to dedicate himself to the sport. He played 10 games for a college wood-bat team two summers ago, hitting .273 with a home run.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times writes that Locker’s baseball outing in 2010 will probably be brief like it was in 2008, as Locker has always said he would not let baseball interfere with his football preparations.
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According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.