Angels could surpass luxury tax threshold to add a big bat

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The Angels would love to upgrade their offense this winter, but the problem is that they are already around $22 million shy of the $189 luxury tax threshold for 2016. Does this rule out the pursuit of a high-profile free agent? Not necessarily.

After Angels owner Arte Moreno indicated in October that he’d be willing to go over the luxury tax threshold if the right player comes along, new Angels general manager Billy Eppler said something similar today to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

“It feels fluid,” new General Manager Billy Eppler said Thursday, when asked his understanding of Moreno’s position on the luxury tax threshold. “Things will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

“There are scenarios where you can see it being reasonable, and there are scenarios where you can see it not being worth it. Undetermined is probably the best way to put it.”

The Angels haven’t been hit with the luxury tax since 2004, but Moreno has been reluctant to go there ever since. If they were to surpass it in 2016, they’d be taxed 17.5 percent of any overage. The Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, and Giants were all hit with the luxury tax penalty for the 2015 season.

With an obvious need in their outfield, the Angels have been connected to big names like Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Davis, Justin Upton, and Alex Gordon. Any of them would be good fits, but they obviously are going to be costly. Barring a trade, it’s going to be a challenge to avoid $189 million in 2016. But hey, what’s a few extra million if it means pushing closer to a return to the postseason?

Pujols hits 701st career home run, connects for Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS — Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 701st home run, connecting Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pujols launched a slider from former teammate Johan Oviedo over the Big Mac Land sign in left field at Busch Stadium. The solo drive in the fourth inning made it 1-all.

Pujols faced Oviedo for the first time and made the 24-year-old righty the 456th different pitcher he’s homered against.

The St. Louis star hadn’t homered in a week since hitting No. 699 and 700 at Dodger Stadium last Friday. Pujols had gone 10 at-bats without a home run after two starts and one pinch-hit appearance.

The Busch Stadium crowd gave the 42-year-old Pujols a long standing ovation before he came out of the Cardinals dugout to tip his cap for a curtain call.

Pujols hit his 22nd home run this season for the NL Central champion Cardinals.

Pujols is fourth on the career home run list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).