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.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.