The Angels signed reliever Joe Smith to a three-year, $15.75 million deal on Saturday, just a day after adding third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas in a trade for Peter Bourjos and prospect Randal Grichuk. As a result, the Angels have about $8 million left before hitting the $189 million luxury tax threshold, according to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez.
The Angels still need to bolster their starting rotation behind Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Garrett Richards. Gonzalez suggests the Angels may solve that by making another trade involving second baseman Howie Kendrick, shortstop Erick Aybar, and/or first baseman-slash-DH Mark Trumbo. The Cardinals were reportedly interested in Aybar in the Bourjos deal, but they didn’t want to both take on his remaining salary and give up a quality pitcher such as Shelby Miller.
As they stand right now, the Angels have Tommy Hanson and Jerome Williams at the back end of the rotation, but both could be non-tendered. Joe Blanton is under contract for $7.5 million but he lost his spot in the rotation last July and it doesn’t seem like the Angels are in any rush to move him back in from the bullpen.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.