12/2/2013 9:53 A.M. ET
Angels could free up payroll with non-tenders
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- With two starting pitchers still needed, and a payroll that's already dangerously close to the luxury-tax threshold, Monday's non-tender deadline is far more than a formality for the Angels.
It may add about $10 million to their budget.
That's why up to half of their eight arbitration-eligible players perceivably has a solid chance of being non-tendered before Monday's 8:59 p.m. PT deadline. That list includes starting pitchers Jerome Williams and Tommy Hanson, reliever Kevin Jepsen and third baseman Chris Nelson. And their combined 2014 salaries, using arbitration projections calculated by MLBTradeRumors.com, is $10.2 million.
Designated hitter Mark Trumbo, closer Ernesto Frieri, new third baseman David Freese and new reliever Fernando Salas are expected to be tendered contracts -- while Hanson and Nelson seem like locks to join the free-agent pool.
Hanson, projected to make $3.9 million, was acquired from the Braves for Jordan Walden last November and struggled mightily in his first exposure to the American League. His stuff continued to erode, he had a hard time holding runners, and by Aug. 7, upon his demotion to Triple-A Salt Lake, Hanson had a 5.59 ERA and an opponents' OPS of .838.
Nelson -- claimed off waivers in mid-May -- is only slated to make $1 million as a first-year arbitration-eligible player, but he batted only .219/.283/.365 while playing every day in August, missed the last month of the season with a hamstring injury and has no role now that Freese is on board.
Williams and Jepsen, both of whom have a solid history with the Angels, could be victims of circumstance.
Since being acquired from independent ball in June 2011, Williams has provided the Angels with some valuable flexibility as an innings-eating reliever and part-time starter, posting a 4.46 ERA in 79 appearances (46 starts).
In a vacuum, they probably wouldn't think twice about paying Williams his projected arbitration salary -- $3.9 million -- to return in the same role. But in a world where Joe Blanton will be making $7.5 million and with no place on the staff, Williams' presence may be a luxury the Angels can no longer pay for.
Then there's Jepsen, the 29-year-old hard-throwing right-hander who's slated to make $1.4 million and may still have some upside left. Jepsen has been hit-and-miss since his first full season in 2009, posting ERAs of 4.94, 3.97, 7.62 (in only 16 appearances), 3.02 and 4.50, respectively.
With Joe Smith signed to a three-year, $15.75 million contract last week, joining a bullpen that already has lefty Sean Burnett and an assortment of power right-handers -- Michael Kohn, Dane De La Rosa, Frieri and Salas, among others -- Jepsen is suddenly expendable.
Non-tendered players join the free-agent market, but the Angels can still explore smaller contracts with those they let go and they probably would if Williams and Jepsen are among them.
But they need to free up as much money as possible for starting pitching, a major offseason focus that has gone unaddressed with one week left before the Winter Meetings.
And the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million, where teams are taxed 17.5 percent for exceeding it, is expected to be the Angels' spending limit.
The Collective Balance Tax Payroll is calculated as the average annual value of all 40-man-roster contracts plus the typical $15 million budgeted for benefits, performance bonuses, Minor League callups, etc.
If you add the 10 Angels players already under contract -- Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Blanton, Smith, Chris Iannetta and Burnett -- plus the $15 million and $18.6 million they owe the Yankees for the final season of Vernon Wells' deal, the Angels are already at about $154 million for the CBT payroll.
Then there are the projected arbitration salaries for Trumbo ($4.7 million), Freese ($4.4 million), Frieri ($3.4 million) and Salas ($700,000), putting them slightly over $167 million. If Williams, Hanson, Jepsen and Nelson were also tendered contracts, that figure would be at about $177.5 million. And if you add the rest of the 40-man-roster contracts, they'd be just below $189 million if everyone makes the 2014 minimum of $500,000.
So, by the end of Monday's non-tender deadline, the Angels will have somewhere between roughly $9 million and $500,000 in payroll flexibility.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.