Angels ink veteran Jennings to Minors deal

Lefty reliever coming off a solid campaign with Brewers

February 16th, 2019

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels added a veteran lefty reliever, as officially signed a Minor League deal on Saturday and joined the club for workouts at the club's Spring Training complex. Jennings will earn $1 million, plus incentives, if he makes the club.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Jennings, 31, is coming off a solid campaign with the Brewers, as he posted a 3.22 ERA with 45 strikeouts, 23 walks and six homers allowed in 64 1/3 innings. But he was non-tendered this offseason -- and didn't find a home until signing with the Angels, who were in the market for a lefty reliever. He flew in from in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday, and said he's excited about his new opportunity.

"It was definitely tough, in that respect, not knowing where you're going, not being able to find places to live," Jennings said. "As [a baseball player], you live this life, you kind of have to roll with the unexpected a little bit -- and it's no different this year. You just want to get somewhere and get with a team and get to know people -- not be the guy that comes in a week or two late. I'm glad it's just a couple days."

Jennings admitted it was tough being non-tendered, as he hoped to remain with the Brewers and possibly even sign a multi-year deal. But he said this offseason has been tough for players, much like last year, and he was told he wasn't likely to sign with a club until January or February.

"You try to not have your head in the clouds too much," Jennings said. "Obviously, I'm a little biased [toward] myself. I thought I'd have job, if not maybe a multi-year [contract]. You really want to be somewhere for multiple years, to know where you're going."

Jennings, though, has an opportunity to make the team -- as the Angels are short on left-handed relievers, with prospect the only lefty reliever on the 40-man roster. Jennings isn't a hard thrower, as his fastball averaged 91.1 mph last year, but he is adept at getting ground balls. His career ground-ball rate is 55.4 percent -- and it was even higher last year at 56.1 percent. The MLB average was 43.2 percent in 2018.

He is also tough on lefties, as they posted just a .226/.266/.304 line against him in 125 plate appearances last year. In his seven-year career with the White Sox, Marlins, Rays and Brewers, lefties have hit .251/.323/.342 against him, while righties have batted .263/.343/.397. He has a career 2.96 ERA in 344 innings.

"When you are evaluating a player in free agency or in a trade, you're looking for value," Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. "There is a lot of value in velocity, but there is value in other areas. You don't necessarily have to throw hard."

Jennings said he's been throwing bullpens so far this offseason to get ready for Spring Training, but admitted it can be tricky pitching indoors in Iowa. He recently faced high school baseball players and joked that's when he realized he needed to get out of there.

"I had a lot of motivation this offseason," Jennings said. "I've always kept my same lifting routine. The only setback, I would say, is being indoors the whole time. Not getting outdoors puts you behind the eight ball a little bit. But I had a good trainer there to help push [me] along in conditioning. I'm glad to be here and thankful for the opportunity."