With little payroll maneuverability, Angels may have to trade to bolster rotation

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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.

Rays stadium project dead, team stuck in Tropicana Field until 2027

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LAS VEGAS — Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg appeared at the Winter Meetings a few minutes ago and said that the project which was intended to result in a new ballpark for the team in Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa has fallen apart. No new ballpark will be built and the three-year window granted to the team by the City of St. Petersburg to negotiate for a new ballpark will come to a close without any deal. The Tampa Bay Rays appear to be stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027.

Sternberg’s statement came mere hours after it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred sent a sternly-worded letter to Hillsborough County officials, blasting the framework for the deal for the new stadium in Ybor City, saying it lacked specifics and criticized “the actual level commitment” from the public side. It’s not unreasonable to read that as the Commissioner’s dissatisfaction with how much public money the County was pledging to complete the project.

In his comments this morning Sternberg noted that the Rays had worked “for ten years” to get a new stadium and that they’d continue to try to work to that end, but the team’s options are extremely limited. The Rays are party to what has been described as an iron-clad lease for Tropicana Field, lasting through 2027. Until three years ago the Rays were  prohibited from even talking to anyone about building a new ballpark outside of St. Petersburg. In December 2015 St. Pete granted the team a window to negotiate with Hillsborough County which Sternberg called “very generous.” It is now closing, however, and Sternberg said that there are no plans to ask St. Petersburg officials for a new one.

Which means that the Rays are likely stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027. While Sternberg talked of being creative and searching for any and all available options, he likewise said that “we need to figure out where the 2028 season will be played.”