Angels Off-Season Gets Off to Great Start

Through much of last season, the Angels, despite eventually compiling the major league’s best won-lost record, were operating on a razor-thing starting staff, and when injuries prematurely ended the season first for Tyler Skaggs and then for Garrett Richards, Mike Scioscia had nowhere to turn, using reliever Cory Rasmus as a three-inning starter over the last month, and had to continue to use C.J. Wilson in key games, not to mention in the post-season. As the off-season and the time for improvement begins, GM Jerry Dipoto began yesterday with a little-noticed but brilliant move, acquiring for a most reasonable price, a young starter who could well be able to step into the team’s 2015 rotation.

Backup catcher Hank Conger, a valuable but expendable member of the Angels, was dealt to Houston for minor league catcher Carlos Perez, who could wind up as Conger's replacement backing up Chris Iannetta, and right handed starter Nick Tropeano. Tropeano is 24, and is coming off a fine season, his first in triple-AAA. Pitching for the Astros Oklahoma City farm club, he appeared in 23 games, starting 20 of them,
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finishing with a 9-5 record, a 3.03 ERA in the hitter-friendly PCL, with a 3.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a sub-1.00 WHIP at 0.987. This followed 3-2/2.36 ERA, 12-7/3.20 ERA, and 7-10/4.11 ERA records over his first three minor league seasons. Despite pedestrian numbers, he is also said to have impressed the Astro’s brass in four late-season major league starts.

With the two starters returning from from major injuries, the Angels’ rotation figures to have a big need for healthy replacements at the beginning of the season. Tropeano might need some more time in triple-AAA, but if he does not make the club, and maybe the rotation, out of spring training, expect to see him sometime during the season. Perez is also 24, and now has over 500 minor league games, including two AAA seasons, behind him, and a .277 career batting average.

In a second deal, Depoto sent one of his own young starters, 24-year-old righty Mark Sappington, to Tampa Bay for lefty swingman Cesar Ramos. Pitching in single A and double A this past season, Sappington went 4-11 with a 6.02 ERA starting and relieving, and he appears to be a couple of years away from any major league opportunity. Ramos is

a local guy who attended Long Beach State and who, at age 30, has spent parts of six seasons in the majors, with a 5-11 record and 3.90 ERA. He was 2-6 with Tampa Bay last season, starting seven times out of 43 appearances. His experience and modicum of success should give him a shot at a spot on the Angels' 2015 staff.

It appears that Arte Moreno’s pocketbook will not be wide open this off-season as it has been in the past three-plus years, and acquiring much-needed pitching depth at a reasonable cost is priority number one, and the organization appears to have gotten off to a good start in that regard.

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