Angels Open Winter Meetings by Signing a Pitcher

Monday’s first full day of baseball’s annual Winter Meetings is in the books and it was one of activity. The Angels came into the meetings needing pitching and the landscape changed throughout Monday afternoon. Signing free agent Gerrit Cole is still their first priority and clubs are expected to submit formal offers within the next couple days. Rumors swirled Monday that Cole is looking to sign this week, but those are unconfirmed reports. 

The Cole sweepstakes were enhanced with the Nationals’ signing of Stephen Strasburg to a seven-year contract worth $245 million. Strasburg, a San Diego native, had met with the Angels and was looked at in some ways as a back-up plan if Cole signed elsewhere. Now, with Strasburg not available as an option, the urgency to land Cole has increased considerably. The Yankees and Angels are the clear front-runners for Cole and the team that doesn’t sign him has one less option to look at signing. Also, the projected contract it will take to land Cole has increased substantially with the record signing by Strasburg. 

Madison Bumgarner is now the next best starter behind Cole and could be viewed as a target for Angels if Cole signs elsewhere. While Gerrit Cole remains a priority, the Angels need to continue talking with the reps of other free agent starters this week. Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rick Porcello, and Dallas Keuchel lead the list of the next best in available starting pitchers. While we wait to see where Cole decides to sign, the Angels and their fans will continue to ponder alternative options. 

The Angels did reportedly sign a left-handed pitcher in Hoby Milner to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training Monday. Milner, 28, has pitched 55 career games in relief over the past three seasons with the Phillies and Rays. Milner owns a 3.40 career ERA across 42.1 career innings with the majority occurring during his 2017 rookie season with Philadelphia. Last season Milner spent the majority of the season at Triple-A Durham pitching 50 games with a 3.06 ERA for the Bulls striking out 89 hitters in 61.2 innings. Milner pitched only fou games for the Rays last season. Milner is not a hard-throwing pitcher who has success with control and change-up. The Angels will give him a look in spring training but he should be viewed as organizational depth. 

Joe Maddon was in San Diego and doing the rounds with the media on Monday. Two things were clear in his interviews. He also wants Gerrit Cole leading the Angels’ pitching staff, and he sees a distinct need for the addition of a veteran catcher to the club. Several veteran catchers are available, including former Angel Martin Maldonado as well as Robinson Chirinos, Jason Castro, Russell Martin, Yan Gomes, Welington Castillo and Matt Wieters. Several other one-time Angels catchers, such as Rene Rivera, Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Iannetta, are also available as free agents. 

The Angels made a curious transaction late Monday night when they outrighted right-handed pitcher Jose Rodriguez off the major-league roster. Rodriguez is a 24-year old pitcher signed out of Venezuela by the Angels as a teenager who made his MLB debut last year. Rodriguez pitched well in nine appearances, including one start, last year. Rodriguez struggled with control but still finished his first MLB campaign with 2.75 ERA across 19.2 innings. Rodriguez has been a starter throughout the majority of his minor league career and last season was used more out of the bullpen. Rodriguez is a promising young pitcher that will likely garner interest from other MLB teams. This move opens up a spot on the Angels’ 40-man roster for a new player yet to be announced. It wouldn’t make sense to make this move prior to Thursday’s Rule 5 draft unless an acquisition was imminent. 

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