The Angels declined to extend 2014 contracts to pitchers Jerome Williams, Tommy Hanson and Juan Gutierrez and third baseman Chris Nelson on Monday, moves that trim almost $10 million from next season’s payroll and give the team more flexibility to pursue higher quality starting pitchers via trade or free agency.
First baseman Mark Trumbo, third baseman David Freese and relievers Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and Fernando Salas were tendered 2014 contracts.
Combining the average annual values of contracts, performance bonuses and benefits for players on the 40-man roster, the Angels have about $174 million committed for 2014, leaving them about $15 million of wiggle room under the $189-million luxury tax threshold.
The Angels have expressed an interest in free-agent right-hander Bronson Arroyo, and they have been active in trade discussions, with such pitchers as David Price, John Danks, Felix Doubront, Charlie Morton, Trevor Cahill and Ian Kennedy among possible targets.
Both Hanson and Williams were projected to make $3.9 million next season, but Hanson struggled so much in 2013 he was demoted to triple A in August, and Williams grew too expensive for his role as spot starter and long reliever.
Hanson, 27, spent five weeks of April and May on the bereavement and restricted lists and finished with a 4-3 record and 5.42 earned-run average in 15 games, 13 of them starts. But it wasn’t just the numbers that concerned the Angels. Hanson’s fastball velocity and overall stuff declined, and he struggled to hold runners, who were successful on 21 of 25 stolen-base attempts against him.
Williams, 32, was valuable for 2 1/2 years, moving back and forth between the bullpen and rotation with no complaint and going 19-18 with a 4.46 ERA in 79 games, 46 of them starts. But Williams was inconsistent as a starter, and the Angels deemed $3.9 million too steep a price for a swingman. They could use a lower-priced pitcher such as Chris Volstad, who recently signed a minor league deal, in that role.
“Honestly, this could be a blessing in disguise,” said Larry O’Brien, Williams’ agent. “I believe there are a number of teams that will give him the chance to make 32 starts. Jerome is a horse. He can throw 250 innings. I think he’s going to turn some heads.
“We’ll find a team that’s going to give Jerome the ball every five days.”
Nelson, who hit .221 in 43 games, was projected to make $1 million but became expendable after the Angels acquired Freese from St. Louis. Gutierrez, projected to make $1.1 million, was designated for assignment last week after the Angels signed setup man Joe Smith to a three-year, $15.75-million deal.