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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A BYRD OUT OF HAND, AND OTHER RUMORS
- As an anonymous commenter noted on my most recent post, it appears that the Angels had an opportunity to secure Paul Byrd to a one-year deal, and missed out. Per today's LA Times:
Byrd, who went 12-11 with a 3.74 earned-run average and pitched superbly in the American League championship series, said in late September that he was so happy with the Angels he would return under a one-year contract, and his agent, Bo McKinnis, traveled to Anaheim in an attempt to reach a deal with General Manager Bill Stoneman before the season ended.

"They were not interested [at the time] in getting anything done," Byrd said.
At the end of the negotiations, Stoneman pretty much matched Cleveland's two-year, $14M with a third-year option offer -- but also gave Byrd a deadline. Uncomfortable with being forced into a decision, The Wyrd went in another direction.

Why was a deadline imposed, reportedly? Because the Angels didn't want to miss out on Hector Carrasco.

If this works out, and Carrasco is a capable fifth starter or valuable reliever, this will be a big feather in Stoneman's camp. But given their track records, and the fact that we would likely still have Byrd had Stoneman acted in November, it is a gamble.

- Via Rob, Ken Rosenthal alleges the Angels are looking into a deal with Tampa Bay for center fielder Joey Gathright and catcher Toby Hall.

I suspect that such a deal might not really get going until the Bengie Molina situation is settled. With the Mets trading for Paul LoDuca (marking the second time in his career LoDuca has replaced Mike Piazza -- interestingly, the only three teams the two players have ever been with are Chavez Ravine, the Florida Marlins, and the New York Mets, and they all played on those teams in that order), the market for Bengie and Ramon Hernandez has shrunk just a bit. The Angels are expected to offer Bengie arbitration tomorrow; if Bengie accepts, we'll have him for one more year while Jeff Mathis gets one more year to mature in AAA.

Bill Stoneman is on record as saying that he thinks Mathis is ready, which would make his pursuit of Toby Hall somewhat curious. Hall is in his arbitration years, and it looks like he has two left. He's actually an okay, if not thrilling, choice to keep the position warm for Mathis; his career OPS+ is 80 (Bengie's career mark is 84), he has thrown out a solid 38.5% of basestealers in his career, and he'd likely be paid somewhere in the $2M-$4M range.

Joey Gathright ... gee, I don't know. He's well-regarded because he's faster than blazes, but he hasn't really come around as a hitter yet. His AVG/OBP/SLG line in 275 career major league plate appearances is 271/316/340, for an OPS+ of 72. That lack of power is no illusion, as his highest slugging percentage in the minors was .407 in AAA last year. He drew walks in the minors at a higher rate than his major league play so far, but his lack of power indicates to me that pitchers will challenge him more and more as they learn his bat can't really impose major damage.

As befits a guy with speed, Gathright has had solid defensive numbers in his short major league time. I guess the high concept here is Gary Pettis, if Gathright can re-find the walks. Pettis was a marvelous defensive player who kept his offense above water with a lot of walks and great stolen base rates. Gathright might develop into such a player, which wouldn't be bad.

Still, there's a reason he won't be taking a job away from Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, or Jonny Gomes. A Gathright-Hall package is not gonna be worth a collection of our top prospects.

- Also via Rob, there's an AP report that says the Angels are talking to Jeff Weaver. Weaver is a league-average pitcher, and if he eats a lot of innings, that's worth something, though certainly not as much as he's made in the past (in excess of $9M last season). Maybe the Angels want him to smoke out with Jered on airplane flights.

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