Angels Notes: Maddon, Fletcher, Ward

Angels manager Joe Maddon signed a three-year, $12MM contract when hired over the 2019-20 offseason. Headed into year three, the longtime big league skipper is in a lame duck situation. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports, however, that the contract also contains a $4MM option for next season that would vest if the Angels reach the World Series.

That may not wind up being an especially meaningful provision. After all, if the Angels win the American League pennant, it’d stand to reason owner Arte Moreno and general manager Perry Minasian would want to keep Maddon around on a long-term deal anyhow. Nevertheless, Heyman writes that the team “deferred discussion” on a possible contract extension over this past offseason. The Angels finished below .500 in each of Maddon’s first two seasons at the helm, but they’ve gotten off to an excellent 14-7 start in 2022. The 68-year-old Maddon is amidst his 17th consecutive season as an MLB manager; he has overseen eight playoff teams, including a 2008 AL pennant winner in Tampa Bay and the Cubs’ 2016 World Series team.

In other news out of Anaheim:

  • The Angels activated David Fletcher from the injured list prior to this evening’s win over the White Sox. He returned to the starting lineup, getting the nod at shortstop and hitting a pair of doubles. Fletcher went on the IL on April 12 with a left hip strain and spent a little less than three weeks on the shelf. The 27-year-old was the Angels’ primary second baseman last season, but all five of his starts this year have come at shortstop. Matt Duffy and Tyler Wade have been the top options at the keystone, and both players have gotten off to nice starts. Andrew Velazquez, who saw the bulk of the shortstop time while Fletcher was out, has struggled. The Halos optioned Jack Mayfield to Triple-A Salt Lake to create active roster space for Fletcher, seemingly leaving Duffy and Wade as the second base tandem with Velazquez as utility depth.
  • Taylor Ward has been one of the league’s most surprising performers in the early going. After opening the season on the injured list due to a groin strain, the 28-year-old returned to action on April 16. Ward has tallied 58 plate appearances in the two weeks since then and has gotten off to a blistering .404/.517/.830 start. He’s connected on five home runs and has a massive 19% walk rate, and the Halos have responded by pushing him to the top of the lineup. Ward discussed his hot start with Sam Blum of the Athletic this week, pointing to a more deliberate and selective approach in the batter’s box for his excellent results. Obviously, Ward isn’t going to continue to produce at this otherworldly level, but he quietly had an above-average .250/.332/.438 showing in 65 games last season. Even before his early-season tear, Maddon had declared Ward his primary right fielder. Each of Ward, Mike Trout and Brandon Marsh have hit the ground running, and the Angels have gotten by far the best outfield production of any team in MLB through the season’s first month.

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