“Ridiculously premature” no more: Phillies sign Carlos Zambrano

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Over the weekend there was a report from the Dominican Republic that the Phillies had signed Carlos Zambrano. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. denied the report, calling it “ridiculously premature.”

And today the Phillies announced that they’ve signed Zambrano to a minor-league contract. So yeah, next time Amaro calls something “ridiculously premature” that’s just code for “will happen within a week.”

Obviously the Phillies can use rotation help with Roy Halladay out indefinitely and John Lannan also on the disabled list, but Zambrano is pretty close to the bottom of the barrel at this point. He’s still just 31 years old, but in addition to being, well, let’s call it a “strong personality” he also hasn’t been any good for several years.

Last season Zambrano had a 4.49 ERA and ugly 95/75 K/BB ratio in 132 innings for the Marlins, including a 6.60 ERA and more walks (46) than strikeouts (39) in his final 59 innings. And in 2011 he had a 4.82 ERA in 146 innings for the Cubs. Obviously the Phillies believe he at least has more upside than other fill-in options, but even that’s based a whole lot more on his past than his present and it’s been a while since the headaches didn’t outweigh the performance.

But hey, we’ll certainly take the extra material for blogging. For now Zambrano will report to extended spring training.

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has opted out of the remainder of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.

The Angels announced the four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop’s decision Tuesday before they faced the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (24-31) is still technically in the playoff race with five games left in the regular season, and Simmons clearly caught the Angels by surprise, although the club said it respected his decision.

The 31-year-old Simmons, who can be a free agent this winter, is finishing his fifth year with the Angels. After spraining his ankle in late July and missing 22 games, Simmons is currently batting .297 with 10 RBIs while playing his usual stellar defense, albeit with four errors in 30 games.

“At this time, I feel this is the best decision for me and my family,” Simmons said in a statement. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged he was caught by surprise when general manager Billy Eppler told him about Simmons’ decision Monday night after Simmons went 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the Angels’ home finale. Maddon texted Simmons, but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed this guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big fan. This guy is a good baseball player, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, too. It’s just unfortunate. He’s really a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

Simmons is a favorite of Angels fans for his defensive wizardry, and owner Arte Moreno has described Simmons as perhaps his favorite player to watch on the roster. Simmons has batted .281 with 36 homers and 281 RBIs during his five seasons with Los Angeles, and he won the Gold Glove in 2017 and 2018.

“He’s a thinking kind of a player, and I’ve enjoyed him a lot,” Maddon said.

Simmons will be a free agent this winter, and the Angels have an obvious replacement for him in David Fletcher, who has a .374 on-base percentage while regularly hitting leadoff for the Angels during his breakout major league season. Fletcher has been playing second base since Simmons’ return from injury.

But the Angels haven’t publicly closed the door on Simmons’ return, and he could be given a qualifying offer. Maddon has repeatedly said he would like Simmons to return in 2021 if possible.

The Angels haven’t had a winning season during Simmons’ five years in Anaheim, although Simmons said last week he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of team success. Simmons played his first four major league seasons in Atlanta, and he hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2013.

Simmons also said he hadn’t been involved in any recent contract talks with the Angels, but he had enjoyed playing for the club. When asked if he wanted to return to the Halos, Simmons said he would have to “plead the fifth.”