"Little bit surprised, but at the same time, I know I was going to be a free agent, and I know we haven't played the way we want to play," Maldonado said. "At the end of the day, it's business. They've got to do whatever is best for the team."
The Angels came into the 2018 season aiming to return to the postseason for the first time since '14, but those aspirations have been felled by a cascade of injuries and inconsistency from the offense and the bullpen. They entered Thursday 15 1/2 games behind the first-place Astros and 10 1/2 games behind the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot, deficits that shrunk their playoff odds to 0.8 percent, according to Fangraphs.
"You can call it what you want to call it," general manager Billy Eppler said. "But I can tell you that you reach points in the season, and we talked about remaining opportunistic here. That's one of the tasks that myself and my front office is charged with: to remain opportunistic and see if there's something that can better the organization. The calculus that we had to weigh was 60 more days of Martin Maldonado and whatever could possibly come after that versus the opportunity to add what we think is an impactful arm."
Maldonado, 31, was a longtime backup for the Brewers before the Angels acquired him in December 2016 and gave him his first opportunity to start. He responded by winning his first Gold Glove Award last season, drawing widespread praise from the coaching staff and his pitchers for his defensive acumen.
"I told Billy and [manager Mike Scioscia], 'Thank you for the opportunity,'" Maldonado said. "It was something I was waiting for for many years in Milwaukee. I'm glad that finally somebody gave me the opportunity to show what I can do."
Maldonado was hitting .233 with a .616 OPS over 78 games this year. He is owed $3.9 million this season and will be eligible for free agency this offseason. Maldonado said he's open to potentially re-signing with the Angels.
"Martin was a huge part of what we know has been a terrific year on the mound," Scioscia said. "Our pitchers are doing a terrific job to keep us in games. He was a huge part of that. He's very intelligent. He prepped every game and worked very hard to be prepared on the field. There's no doubt that Martin had the respect of everybody -- not only the coaching staff, but the players -- and contributed greatly to where we need to be on the defensive side."
Sandoval, 21, is 9-1 with a 2.56 ERA, 97 strikeouts and two saves over 13 starts between Class A Quad Cities and Class A Advanced Buies Creek this year. Earlier this season, he had a streak of 42 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. A native of Mission Viejo, Calif., Sandoval was selected by the Astros in the 11th round of the 2015 Draft. Eppler said Sandoval will report to Class A Advanced Inland Empire.
"Touches 94 mph, throws a solid-average curveball and slider," Eppler said. "Looks like his changeup is a real weapon. Local kid. Chance to move quick. We'll see where it all ends."
The Angels will now fill their void at catcher with rookies Jose Briceno and Francisco Arcia, whose contract was selected from Triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday, at least until veteran backstop Rene Rivera returns from knee surgery in August. Arcia, 28, started behind the plate on Thursday in his MLB debut after spending the first 12 seasons of his career in the Minors. Briceno, 25, is batting .261 with a .690 OPS and two home runs in 18 games with the Halos.
"I think they're both going to get opportunities," Scioscia said. "Both those guys are very bright, much like Martin is. Maybe they don't have the experience he had, obviously, but they are going to get the opportunity to fill that void."
Worth noting • The Blue Jays claimed right-hander Oliver Drake off waivers on Thursday. Drake was designated for assignment on Monday after posting a 5.19 ERA in eight appearances for the Angels this season.
• The Angels announced that right-hander Dayan Diaz has been reinstated from the restricted list and assigned to Class A Advanced Inland Empire. Diaz, who was claimed off waivers from the Astros last September, had been stuck in his native Colombia since Spring Training due to visa issues.