Another week of the off-season, another week of Angels free agency rumors. CJ Wilson news? We got it. Updates on the reliever market? Sure do. All kinds of back-up catchers signing deals? Them too, with some Ramon Hernandez speculation peppered in. Come get some fresh Hot Stove League rumors!
Is Wilson daydreaming of a big payday in the OC?
- I still think the Phillies ruined the price curve for the closer market when they went crazy and signed Jonathan Papelbon, but at least some sanity is now coming to the reliever market with news that the new collective bargaining agreement will make it so that Type A free agent relievers will no longer require teams to give up their first-round pick this off-season. That won't help the price come down on Heath Bell or Ryan Madson, but at least you aren't forfeiting a high pick AND making a risky investment. What I anticipate will now happen is that all the teams in need of a closer (Red Sox, Mets, Marlins, etc.) will jump into action on Bell, Madson, Cordero, Francisco, Nathan and K-Rod since they aren't being held back by draft pick concerns anymore. I doubt the Angels will be one of those teams, but it should put them in nice position to grab a good reliever once the dust settles from the rush.
- So much for my dream of the Halos signing Jose Molina to serve as a back-up to Conger. In fact, so many back-up catcher types have been scooped up off the market this week, that there isn't much left to grab which is both exciting and terrifying. It is exciting because a number of teams have no addressed their catching position and done so without showing any serious interest in the one starting-caliber backstop, Ramon Hernandez. He could end up falling into the Angels' lap at this rate. What is more concerning is that with a dearth of veterans to add to the roster, the Angels could be stuck with Conger and Wilson and, I hate to say it, maybe Mathis too. Dipoto would be nuts not to non-tender Mathis, but if there is concern about catching depth on the roster, they might not have much of a choice.
- The great C.J. Wilson courtship/charade should climax as soon as today. He's in town to visit the Angels (or just in town because he lives there anyway and figured he'd swing by Angel Stadium to kill a few hours). There is a chance he could be a Halo by the end of the day, but I doubt it, not with his agent recently leaking his lofty contract demands (6 years, $120 million) and the Winter Meetings still to come. However, it seems like a good bet that the Angels will at least make an "informal" offer to him during the visit. That should at least give us an idea of how serious they are about landing him. If they do make an offer, they have first mover advantage, which combined with Wilson's SoCal roots, could result in a surprising signing that will leave a lot of teams bent out of shape that they never got a chance to make their own pitch to best starting pitcher on the market.
- Now, don't get me wrong when I say this because I do like Wilson and think he is good, but I hope the Angels don't sign him. My concern is this, the Rangers and their fans all seem a little too willing to let C.J. walk away. Let me see, a loudmouth pitcher with a questionable attitude just at the end of his physical prime and hoping for a big free agent payday yet his own team and fans don't want him anymore. Who does that remind you of? Oh dear God, he's John Lackey version 2.0!!!!!!!!!! Run away, Jerry Dipoto, run away as fast and far as your legs will carry you.
- One final factor that could be in the Angels favor when it comes to getting C.J. Wilson is that Yu Darvish keeps playing footsie with the idea of getting posted (or maybe his team is resisting, whatever). A lot of people consider him even better than Wilson, so one has to think a number of teams are trying to stay in a holding pattern on Wilson until Darvish decides whether or not to make the leap. The Halos have shown ZERO interest in Darvish, so they've been free to pursue Wilson unencumbered. The longer Darvish plays hard to get, the better the odds are that Wilson just takes the money from the one team that has actually shown him legitimate interest.
- What will be curious to see is what the Angels will do if/when Wilson signs elsewhere or turns down the Angels best offer. They've already been linked to Hiroki Kuroda, but he isn't an easy get either. The big point here is that Dipoto seems to be earmarking the bulk of his spending cash for a free agent starting pitcher. But if Wilson and Kuroda both pass, what will he do with that money? Will he use it on a high-end relief arm? Will it go towards offensive upgrades? Will he use it to take on salary in a trade? Will he just sit on the cash and roll it over until the trade deadline or next off-season? I have no answers for those questions. Part of it is being unfamiliar with Dipoto, the other part is that he has been so singularly focused on Wilson the last week or two that we have little idea who else he is dying to bring in besides a few mid-tier relievers that he has kicked the tires on.
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