MLBPA's Clark shares thoughts on luxury tax

Skaggs makes progress; Choi to focus on hitting left-handed

March 12th, 2016

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It was only four months ago that the Angels' front office considered the possibility of extending a $15.8 million qualifying offer to veteran third baseman David Freese, because there was at least a decent chance that he would decline it for the possibility of more money in free agency, which would net the Angels a Draft pick if he signed elsewhere.

On Friday, Freese finally found a team -- and got only $3 million on a one-year contract from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Spring Training:Schedule | Tickets | Information

Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, met with Angels players Saturday morning and later used one word to describe the way this past offseason played out: "Different."

"Historic dollars have been spent," Clark said, "but it was also an offseason where we had a large number of free agents, and one that as a result of how things have shaped up, and apparently continue to shape up, have us engaging the agents in appreciation for how the entire offseason moves."

The Angels currently sit about $3 million below the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, barely avoiding an escalating tax on the overage. The tax is 17.5 percent for first-time offenders, then 30 percent the second time, 40 percent the third time and 50 percent for teams that exceed it at least four consecutive years.

Angels owner Arte Moreno didn't sign a big-name left fielder this offseason largely out of fear that his team would be subject to that escalating tax, particularly because of his belief -- and likely desire -- that the luxury-tax threshold could actually go down under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

MLB, its owners and the MLBPA will spend the year negotiating a new CBA, with the current one set to expire at season's end.

"When you sit down to bargain, you appreciate there are always interests and concerns that one side of the table is going to bring to the discussion," Clark said. "The end game is to hopefully find common ground. There is nothing that would suggest at this point in time that, with an industry that's growing, that going backwards in that regard makes sense."

Skaggs progressing: The Angels tweaked Tyler Skaggs' throwing schedule a bit. The 24-year-old left-hander threw a bullpen Friday, is slated to face hitters in live batting practice Monday, will throw another 'pen Wednesday and would then take part in a simulated game Friday. Skaggs feels more comfortable with the current pace.

Asked if he's OK with starting the season on the disabled list, Skaggs said: "Of course not, but at the same time, that's what it's got to be. ... They want me to be pitching the whole year. They don't want me using up all my innings and then at the end of the year [I'm done]. They know what they're doing."

No more switch-hitting: First baseman Ji-Man Choi, a presumed favorite for the last bench spot, will bat exclusively left-handed the rest of Spring Training. Choi taught himself to bat right-handed last year, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia believes Choi's swing is "much more advanced from the left side."

Choi has a career .404 on-base percentage in the Minor Leagues. From 2012-14, Choi's OPS as a left-handed hitter facing left-handed pitching was .851, .847 and .688.