Angels GM doesn’t regret leaving Mike Trout in minors for 20 games

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I wondered yesterday whether not calling up Mike Trout until April 28 cost the Angels a playoff spot and while it’s obviously impossible to say for certain the numbers certainly suggest that it could have.

Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com asked general manager Jerry Dipoto that very question last night, and he downplayed any regret about the delayed call-up and also explained the Angels’ thought process with Trout:

I don’t know how much sooner we could’ve called him up. I mean, Mike had no spring training at all. Essentially, if you look at spring training, even the game portion of spring training is a month-long exercise. We didn’t even give him that long. He had enough time to go down and get his timing, hit .420-something and then pop up and be the best player around. I have not lost sleep thinking about that, about the idea that we didn’t call him up soon enough.

Dipoto is referring to the fact that Trout missed much of spring training with the flu and a minor shoulder injury, which is a factor I included in yesterday’s post. However, it’s worth noting that Trout was healthy enough to immediately hit .403 in 20 games against Triple-A pitching once the real games started.

Ultimately when a team misses the playoffs by 2-3 games there are a dozen things you can point to as “reasons” why and for the Angels this season Trout is merely one of them, but when arguably the best all-around player in baseball spent the first 20 games of the season in the minor leagues and the team that missed the playoffs by 2-3 games got off to a 6-14 start without him … well, it’s natural to wonder about that specific reason.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.