Angels sign outfielder Gentry to 1-year deal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Angels signed either a fourth outfielder or, potentially, one half of a left-field platoon on Wednesday.
It depends on how the next few days shake out.
Craig Gentry has been given a one-year contract worth about $1 million. Ideally, he'd be the Angels' fourth outfielder. But if they miss out on one of the premier free-agent corner outfielders -- Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon and, to a lesser extent, Chris Davis -- the right-handed-hitting Gentry could pair with a veteran left-handed bat in left field.
Angels general manager Billy Eppler said a left-field platoon is "definitely an option being evaluated."
"It's not going to be the target, but that doesn't mean to say that just one player is going to be the target," Eppler said. "There's some scenarios where you can drop one guy in there for 550 plate appearances, and there's other scenarios where you might have one guy take 300, 400, and then the other guy takes up the other 150 and 200. They're both alive in our world right now."
Gentry, 30, is a .265/.338/.339 hitter in 1,077 plate appearances spread out over seven seasons with the Rangers and A's. The Angels would like to use him in the role previously filled by Collin Cowgill -- pinch-running, coming in for late-game defense and getting the occasional start against left-handers.
Gentry sports a career .720 OPS against lefties, 88 points higher than his mark against righties. He stole 75 bases while playing in 386 games from 2011-14 and is considered an above-average defender at all three outfield spots. But he also spent most of last season in the Minor Leagues, batting .256/.319/.327 in 101 Triple-A games and just .120/.196/.200 in 26 Major League games in Oakland.
He can be a strength off the bench, but not necessarily in a left-field timeshare -- especially not for a position where the Angels received a Major League-worst .592 OPS last season.
The Angels sit somewhere between $15 million and $20 million below the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, seemingly just shy of what the likes of Heyward, Cespedes, Upton and Gordon would command on an average annual value. It remains to be seen whether Angels owner Arte Moreno consents to exceeding the threshold and paying the 17.5 percent tax on the overage, but the Angels can clear additional money if teams are willing to take on at least half of the $20 million owed to C.J. Wilson in 2016.
They haven't yet, but they probably will when more starting pitching comes off the board.
One potential suitor for Wilson is the Rockies, who could take Wilson on in a deal that would send Carlos Gonzalez to the Angels. Gonzalez is 30 years old -- the same age as Cespedes, younger than Gordon -- and is owed a more reasonable $37 million over the next two years.
Gonzalez battled injuries in 2013 and '14 and got off to a rough start in '15. But the left-handed-hitting outfielder went on a tear through the final four months, finishing the season batting .271/.325/.540, with 40 homers and 97 RBIs.
The Rockies want to clear payroll space for 2017, which would be accomplished by flipping Gonzalez for Wilson. And because the average annual values nearly cancel out, the Angels would have additional funds to spend on second and third base.
That would also be the case if they acquire a veteran left-handed hitter who would end up taking the bulk of the at-bats in left field, a scenario that could bring David Murphy back into the fold.
The Angels are keeping an open mind, mainly because a lot of options remain.
"There's a lot of big names in the outfield, no doubt, that would fit on our club," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "There's also a lot of guys that you bring in that can piecemeal it and platoon and give you the production you're looking at. I think there's a lot of different areas that you can become a better team offensively, not necessarily with a big splash and the big free agents. I think, needless to say, we have to improve offensively."