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Angels clear arb slate with deals for Freese, Jepsen

Angels clear arb slate with deals for Freese, Jepsen

ANAHEIM -- The Angels avoided arbitration with their final two eligible players on Friday, agreeing on a $5.05 million contract with third baseman David Freese and a $1,462,500 contract with reliever Kevin Jepsen.

Those figures represent the midpoints between what the player and the club filed on Jan. 17. Freese submitted a request for $6 million, and the Angels countered with $4.1 million; Jepsen filed for $1,625,000, and the Angels countered with $1.3 million.

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Freese, who made $3.15 million last season and is two seasons away from free agency, is coming off a down year with the Cardinals that saw his slash line go from .293/.372/.467 in 2012 to .262/.340/.381 in 2013. Based on Ultimate Zone Rating, he went from 2.1 to minus-16.5, last among qualified third basemen.

Freese strained his back during Spring Training, finished April batting only .163 and then posted only a .526 OPS in the postseason. The Angels are banking on a bounceback season after acquiring him and reliever Fernando Salas in exchange for center fielder Peter Bourjos and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk.

Jepsen, who made just over $1.18 million last year and is three years from free agency, didn't pitch in September after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. The 29-year-old right-hander appeared in 45 games, with a 4.50 ERA and 1.53 WHIP, and now will have to fight for a role as a middle reliever in a crowded bullpen.

The Angels tendered Jepsen -- who is out of options -- a contract in December because he has a big arm, which he displayed while posting a 3.02 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 2012. But he currently projects behind Ernesto Frieri, Joe Smith, Sean Burnett, Dane De La Rosa and Michael Kohn in the bullpen pecking order.

Frieri ($3.8 million) and Salas ($870,000) avoided arbitration a couple of weeks ago, just before both sides had to exchange figures. The last time the Angels went to a hearing with a player was in 2011, when they were successful in their case against Jered Weaver -- and then they signed the ace right-hander to a five-year, $85 million extension six months later.

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.

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