What’s next for the Angels?

36 Comments

So, the Halos added a bit to their payroll today, committing $250 million to Albert Pujols and another $77.5 million to C.J. Wilson. Not clear at the moment is whether is they’ll have to make some tough choices to squeeze both in. After acquiring Vernon Wells, the Angels opened last year with a $141 million payroll, up from $121 million in 2010.

As for the 2012 payroll, the Angels opened today with $106 million committed to 11 players. Pujols and Wilson would add another $40 million to that if their salaries are constant throughout their contracts, but there’s a good chance those deals are backloaded somewhat. So, let’s instead say $32 million, bringing the total to $138 million.

The Angels have five players eligible for arbitration: Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Kendrys Morales and Jerome Williams. Those five should combine to make $17 million-$18 million in 2012, upping the Angels’ payroll to $155 million. Throw in another seven players making barely more than that minimum and that brings the total to $159 million for 2012. Which doesn’t seem like a completely unmanageable total for Arte Moreno. Still, the Angels could scale it back to $145 million-$150 million with a few moves. Such as…

– Non-tendering Morales – This looks like the obvious one. Morales missed most of 2010 and all of last season with a broken ankle, and while there’s some hope he’ll be ready for 2012, there’s no guarantee at all. Also, he happens to play the same position as Pujols. Non-tendering him would shave about $3 million off the payroll.

– Trading Ervin Santana – Teams were calling the Angels about Santana in anticipation of a Wilson signing. He’ll make $11.2 million next year, so he’s the one who would have to go if the Angels want to get back to a $140 million payroll. However, the whole point of signing Wilson was to give the Halos four great starters and the team still lacks starting pitching depth in a big way. I think he stays put.

– Trading Maicer Izturis – Izturis is a nice player, but at $3.8 million, he makes for an awfully expensive utilityman. The Angels could slide Alexi Amarista into his spot next year and save $3.3 million. With so many teams looking for an experienced backup shortstop, they might even get a pretty good prospect in return.

The Angels also have the option of trading Rookie of the Year runner-up Mark Trumbo, but since he’s making the minimum, that wouldn’t do anything for the payroll. If someone offers a quality reliever or a young starter for him, the Angels will surely listen. However, it looks like they intend to keep him as a part-time third baseman/outfielder/DH.

MLB execs go to bat in favor of shrinking minor leagues

Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports published an article this morning in which he quotes several executives of MLB teams, including Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, defending the league’s proposal to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.

We first learned of the idea about a month ago. The proposal was widely panned, even drawing scorn from Congress as more than 100 members of Congress — including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — signed a letter condemning the league. In the time since, MLB has spent considerable time defending itself amid the public scrutiny. MLB also got into a bickering match with Minor League Baseball.

To generally sum up what was said in Brown’s column: the GMs echoed what MLB previously said in defensive of its proposal, which is that cutting 42 minor league teams (mostly in short-season and rookie ball) would free up more money to pay players more and improve their working conditions, including food and travel as well as facility conditions.

It is hypocritical for the league and team executives to express concern for the salaries and the quality of life for minor league players. After all, Major League Baseball spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress in order for language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be amended. Doing so allowed the league to classify minor leaguers as seasonal workers and thus not owed things like a minimum wage and overtime pay, among other worker protections. This all happened because MLB is the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, originated by Aaron Senne and several other former minor league players, alleging that the league violated state and federal minimum wage laws with minor league players.

Shapiro is not a fan of Sanders’ constant harping on the league’s proposal. Shapiro said, “I’m never going to go toe-to-toe with him on domestic policy. But I will go toe-to-toe with Bernie Sanders on professional baseball.” As Brown explains, Shapiro is among those who believes that having a smaller minor league system would allow his organization to offer greater focus to each player remaining within that system. With the increased focus, the team would be better able to develop major league-caliber prospects. As we know, teams love prospects because their salaries are artificially depressed for the first six years of their careers.

One anonymous GM harped on the fact that “minor league baseball is not a moneymaker.” It didn’t sound like he was complaining; rather, simply recognizing how their parent teams view the situation. Another anonymous GM, however, said that the 42 teams are on the chopping block “for a reason.” He added, “I’m guessing that reason isn’t because they had overwhelmingly positive gate turnouts or that their facilities were in good shape. I think that’s been the criteria.”

As I pointed out last month, there are two teams that, at minimum, disprove the shabby-facility talking point. The Lowell Spinners (short-season) have had multiple renovations done in recent years. Team owner Dave Heller called his team’s stadium “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League.” The Quad Cities River Bandits, as another example, have earned awards from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” and finished in third place as recently as two seasons ago for “Best View in the Minors.”

As for attendance, BallparkDigest has the 2019 numbers for all 160 teams here. The four Double-A teams on the chopping block — the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Chattanooga Lookouts, Erie SeaWolves, and Jackson Generals — ranked 91st, 74th, 80th, and 130th, respectively. Only one of those teams is significantly below the 50th percentile. Furthermore, one of the High-A teams on the list, the Frederick Keys, ranked 57th in attendance this past season, close to being in the top one-third of the entire minor league system.

The arguments are obviously facile. We should expect nothing less, however, as these execs do the bidding of their team’s ownership. Their jobs necessitate developing players efficiently and thoroughly. Chopping 42 minor league teams would have the double benefit to them of helping reduce overhead so the owners can report higher profits, as well as making their system run more efficiently (or so they think). So be it if thousands of jobs in towns across the U.S. get slashed in the process. So be it if small towns lose a central focus of their local economies and cultures. So be it if baseball becomes significantly less accessible across the nation.