According to Ken Rosenthal, LaTroy Hawkins is close to signing with the Angels. The Brewers showed late interest in bringing the right-hander back on Wednesday, but it appears Hawkins had no shortage of suitors at the winter meetings.
There aren’t any terms floating around quite yet, but Adam McCalvy reports that the deal will be for one year. The Angels would be Hawkins’ 9th team in 18 big league seasons. (UPDATE: Hawkins will make $3 million in 2012, actually less than what he earned with the Brewers in 2011).
Hawkins was signed on the same day the Brewers signed Randy Wolf back in 2009. There were quite a few people who didn’t like the fact that the Brewers gave him two years and $7.5 million, and after the first season of the deal, it appeared the critics were right. Just about anything would have been a disappointment after his 2009 season with the Astros, when he posted a 2.13 ERA (despite a 3.97 FIP). For Hawkins and the Brewers, though, 2010 was almost a total disaster.
His first few outings as a Brewer were lights-out, allowing just one hit and striking out 6 in 4.1 innings. Then came a disastrous outing against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in which Ken Macha left Hawkins in for 39 pitches. He allowed four runs, blew the lead, and was never really the same after that. He finished the month of April, but his velocity was clearly down, and after another brutal outing on May 6 (this time in Los Angeles), Hawkins was shut down with shoulder problems. He came back for five more outings between July 30 and August 10, but then was shut down for the remainder of the season. He finished 2010 with an 8.44 ERA in just 16 innings.
Hawkins started the 2011 season on the disabled list and gave up a run on three hits in his first appearance of the season. After that outing, though, Hawkins had an incredible run of good results — 22 straight appearances without giving up a run, from April 25 to July 1. He wasn’t striking many people out (that would be a theme all year, as his K/9 dropped from 6.39 in that 2009 season with Houston to 5.21 in 2011), but he was putting up zeroes and bridging the gap from the starters to John Axford. He also showed a knack for inducing groundballs, with a 61.7% groundball rate that was his highest since 2007.
The apparent lack of interest in Hawkins up until this week seemed a little odd, but at the same time, you can’t blame the Brewers for looking to go in a different direction. Like 2009, Hawkins is coming off a season in which the ERA makes him look quite a bit better than he really was. As he creeps closer to 40, the velocity will continue to drop — while he was hitting 94 on the gun with Houston, he was averaging the low 90s by the end of his Brewers tenure, relying more on finesse and painting corners to get by. That may work in the National League, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he gets hit hard in his return to the American League.
Hawkins’ first season with the Brewers had many comparing him to the disastrous David Riske signing. Injuries torpedoed the Riske deal before it even really got the chance to begin, but unlike Riske, Hawkins was able to work his way back into being a valuable member of the bullpen. Can he do it for the Angels? I have my doubts, but he’s proven us wrong before.