Angels send Downs to Braves for righty Rasmus
Club calls up left-hander Maronde to fill bullpen void
ARLINGTON -- Michael Kohn has three mentors in his professional life, and now all of them are departed Angels: Scot Shields, Torii Hunter and Scott Downs.
The last one left on Monday morning, sent to the Braves in a one-for-one deal for Minor League reliever Cory Rasmus two days before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Kohn found out from the team hotel in Dallas, shot Downs a text message and met him downstairs just as he was out the door to board a flight headed to Atlanta.
"I gave him a big hug, wished him luck and told him, 'Thank you,'" Kohn said from the visiting clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark.
"It's sad to see him go, but it's to a team that's obviously in first place right now. Downsy is a 12-year veteran and I don't think he has a playoff appearance in his life, so it's good for him to have that opportunity."
Out of first place by 13 games and in desperate need of pitching in the upper levels of their Minor League system, the Angels pulled the trigger on the 37-year-old lefty reliever who will be a free agent at season's end. At this point, it made little sense to hold onto Downs and miss out on an opportunity to add even a fringe prospect.
"I think we're going to miss him as much in the clubhouse as we will on the field," Angels assistant general manager Matt Klentak said of Downs. "He's done everything we've asked him to do for the last two and a half years, and he's a pro. We're excited for him for the opportunity, but it's a tough loss for the Angels."
Rasmus, a 25-year-old right-handed reliever, isn't a top prospect, but he's had a nice year in Triple-A, posting a 1.72 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 14 saves in 36 2/3 innings. He'll report to Triple-A Salt Lake, and he is probably already the best pitcher at the Angels' affiliate. Downs' roster spot was filled by lefty reliever Nick Maronde, who was called up from Double-A Arkansas.
A first-round Draft pick out of high school in Alabama in 2006, Rasmus -- brother of Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus -- has compiled a 3.61 ERA in 143 career appearances (35 starts) through seven years in the Braves' system.
His fastball sits at 92-94 mph and his out pitch is a swing-and-miss changeup, which helped him post an 11.8 strikeouts-per-nine rate in 2013. Rasmus also appeared in three Major League games in 2013, giving up six runs in 6 2/3 innings.
"He's got a good arm, and that's first and foremost," Klentak said. "He's not far away from contributing to the big leagues, has had a very strong track record of performance in the Minor Leagues. He adds organizational depth for us, but it's organizational depth that's big league ready."
Downs, 37, was in the final season of a three-year, $15 million contract he signed with the Angels in December 2010. He was appealing to several contending teams seeking bullpen help, with a 1.84 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 43 appearances this year, and the first-place Braves wanted a veteran lefty in their 'pen.
Downs, mainly a groundball pitcher, had been one of the American League's most effective lefties over the last seven years, posting a 2.30 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP while averaging 63 appearances per season from 2007-12.
On this year's bullpen, he had taken on a leadership role with the likes of Kohn, Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri.
"He had either been through it all or seen it," Jepsen said. "There wasn't a whole lot that he hadn't seen before. It's definitely hard to see a guy like that go, but at the same time, I'm happy for him. He's played so many years and never been on a team that's won their division or gone to the playoffs or anything like that. I definitely think he deserves it."
The Angels could afford to part ways with Downs. Injured lefty reliever Sean Burnett is signed through next season, with a 2015 club option, and the 23-year-old Maronde -- who posted a 3.91 ERA in Double-A despite a very rough start to the season -- is waiting in the wings.
At 48-55 and in fourth place in the AL West heading into Monday's series opener from Rangers Ballpark, the Angels need to start planning for 2014 and beyond. They're expected to dangle position players in hopes of attaining cost-controlled starting pitching -- middle infielders Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar have been made available, according to reports -- but a deal of that nature may have to wait until the offseason.
Downs ultimately wanted to stay, to find some way to make the uphill climb with the Angels and hopefully work out an extension in the offseason.
But he figured that was far-fetched.
"I've been through this before," said Downs. "I can't control what's going on on the other side. The only thing I can control is what I do out on the field to help this team win. That's the only thing I want to do. That's the only thing I'm going to worry about."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.