Angels have been “coincidentally” making personnel choices around players’ incentive bonuses

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An interesting news item slipped through our fingers last week, as Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times wrote about the curious way in which the Angels have handled pitchers Bud Norris and Jesse Chavez recently.

Norris gets a $500,000 bonus if he reaches 60 relief appearances. Norris was at 56 relief appearances. The Angels needed a spot starter on September 15, so they chose Norris rather than Chavez or Yusmeiro Petit, who had both started for the team previously. Norris pitched in relief four days later, then made another spot start this past Saturday. With six games left, Norris is three relief appearances shy of reaching his bonus. Given the rate at which he’s been used in September — only five times, twice as a starter — that seems pretty unlikely.

Chavez would earn a $250,000 bonus if he reaches 22 starts and another $250,000 at 24 starts. To date, the right-hander has made 21 starts, all coming prior to the month of August. As mentioned, the Angels chose Norris over him to start on both September 15 and 23.

Manager Mike Scioscia denied having any idea about Norris and Chavez’s contract incentives. “In my position as manager, I’m not privy to those contract things, and for good reason,” he said.

GM Billy Eppler said, “It’s just a coincidence,” and added that the decisions were made because Scioscia likes to have “maneuverable pieces” in the bullpen.

Norris declined to comment on the situation. Chavez said he wasn’t bothered by the choices the team made. I, however, am bothered by it on their behalf and think it’s a bit more than a “coincidence” that Eppler and Scioscia made personnel decisions that just so happened to benefit the team financially. Hopefully, the players’ union is also bothered by it and can get the ball rolling on ending contract incentives that teams can simply manage around.