TEMPE, Ariz. — The Detroit Tigers needed help at shortstop, and the Angels took advantage of that need to fortify their pitching depth.
The Angels acquired left-hander Jose Alvarez from the Tigers on Friday for shortstop Andrew Romine. Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said Alvarez would join the team Sunday and could emerge as a minor league starter or major league swingman.
Dipoto said the trade addressed the "much-discussed" issue of whether the Angels had sufficient depth among starting pitchers. He cited Alvarez, Wade LeBlanc and Matt Shoemaker as options beyond the five starters in the rotation — omitting the name of Joe Blanton, who is set for what appears to be a showcase start Saturday.
Alvarez, 24, went 8-6 with a 2.40 earned-run average in 21 games at triple-A Toledo and 1-5 with a 5.82 ERA in 14 games for the Tigers.
The Angels consider Alvarez a potential back-end starter, with a fastball in the 88-90 mph range and a solid changeup. Baseball America ranked him as the Tigers' No. 21 prospect.
That is a solid return for Romine, whose career slugging percentage is .270. Romine, 28, was out of options and unlikely to make the Angels.
John McDonald, 39, like Romine an excellent defender with a weak bat, appears to have won the backup middle infield job.
Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters that the switch-hitting Romine could be the left-handed batter in a platoon to replace the injured Jose Iglesias.
"I'm pumped," Romine said. "Obviously, it's a great team. You can't argue that. They're going to be going for a world championship every year."
Romine, a fifth-round draft choice in 2007, played for the Angels in parts of the last four seasons. He attended Trabuco Hills High and lives in Lake Forest, and he said the excitement of the Detroit opportunity was tempered by leaving his hometown team, and his friends, in the only organization he has ever known.
He was not startled by the trade, but he was startled by how he found out. Dipoto pulled him off the field during batting practice.
"Jerry ran out on the field," Romine said. "We're like, 'What is Jerry doing on the field?' "
Joe Smith turns 30 on Saturday. For the birthday boy, the winter was lucrative.
As a free agent, Smith said he got offers from the Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies before signing with the Angels, for three years and $15.75 million. Of the four relievers that agreed to free-agent contracts for more than $15 million last winter, only one — Joe Nathan of the Tigers — signed as a closer.
"You can win a game in the sixth or seventh or eighth inning," Smith said. "It's nice to see that kind of stuff."
Smith played for the Cleveland Indians last season, as a setup man for Chris Perez.
Perez, 28, lost his job as closer last September, at the end of a season in which he spent time on the disabled list and pleaded no contest to misdemeanor drug abuse. He had a 4.33 earned-run average but converted 25 of 30 saves.
In 2012, Perez converted 39 of 43 saves. In 2011, he converted 36 of 40.
While Smith signed for almost $16 million with the Angels, Perez signed for $2.3 million with the Dodgers.
Smith said he would not be surprised to see Perez rebound this summer and cash in next winter.
"Last year was a little different for him," Smith said. "Chris Perez is a two-time All-Star. He gets 40 saves a year and blows five. Everybody wants a guy like that at the back end of their bullpen."
Sean Burnett, already a longshot to make the opening day roster as he completed rehabilitation from elbow surgery, was shut down after experiencing arm soreness during a bullpen session Friday.
"There's obviously a little setback right now," Manager Mike Scioscia said.
Burnett, the Angels' $8-million setup man, was limited to 92/3 innings last season because of injury and is projected to start this season on the disabled list.
Twitter: @BillShaikinCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times