Matt Shoemaker and Blake Parker, a couple pitchers who found success with the Angels after they were plucked off the scrap heap, have been cut loose as their salaries were about to rise.
The Angels on Friday non-tendered Shoemaker and Parker, who were set to earn around $4.5 million and $3 million, respectively, in arbitration. Both players immediately became free to sign with any team, including the Angels.
The moves clear some space for the Angels to make additional upgrades elsewhere. The Angels were believed to have about $30 million worth of room for players from outside the organization this winter.
“It was a difficult decision to come to,” General Manager Billy Eppler said. “Both of those guys have been contributors to the organization. They are phenomenal guys in the clubhouse as well. … We weigh our qualitative and quantitative evaluations and we weigh that against our needs and the areas we’re going to invest in. The turnout of that calculus led us to the difficult decisions we made today.”
The move with Parker is the more surprising of the two because he had performed well over the past two years and his salary was still in line with what he’d done.
Parker, 33, posted a 2.90 ERA over 138 games and 133-2/3 innings in the past two seasons, at times serving as the closer. He recorded 22 saves in that span.
His numbers, however, declined from 2017 to 2018. His ERA rose from 2.54 to 3.26. His WHIP rose from 0.832 to 1.236. His strikeouts dropped from 11.5 to 9.5 per nine innings. Parker’s average fastball also dropped from 94.0 mph to 92.8 mph.
The Angels claimed Parker on waivers after the 2016 season.
Shoemaker, a 32-year-old non-drafted free agent who reached the majors to stay in 2014, had been vulnerable to a move like this because his increasing service time was causing his salary to rise at a time when injuries were costing him production.
He missed most of the past two seasons with what he believes was one injury. Shoemaker had surgery last July on his forearm, but a second surgery this May revealed he had a split pronator tendon.
Shoemaker insisted that was the issue all along, and it had been resolved.
Returning to the majors at the end of the 2018 season, Shoemaker ended up with a 4.94 ERA in 31 innings. His best years were 2014 (16-4, 3.04 ERA in 136 innings) and 2016 (3.88 ERA in 160 innings). In 2014, he was the runner-up to José Abreu for the American League Rookie of the Year.
Around those high points, though, he had been inconsistent, even getting sent to the minors briefly in 2016.
Aside from the moves with Shoemaker and Parker, the Angels offered arbitration to their other eligible players: Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Cam Bedrosian, José Álvarez, JC Ramírez, Nick Tropeano, Hansel Robles and Tommy La Stella.