Source: Angels, Richards agree to $6.425 million deal

Source: Angels, Richards agree to $6.425 million deal

ANAHEIM -- The Angels and starting pitcher Garrett Richards avoided arbitration on Thursday, coming to terms on a $6.425 million contract for 2016, a source told MLB.com.

Richards, who could end up as the Opening Day starter, went 15-12 with a 3.65 ERA in 207 1/3 innings in 2015, his first season removed from major knee surgery. When figures were formally exchanged on Friday, the Angels filed for $5.3 million, and Richards' representative, Fred Wray of Relativity Sports, countered with $7.1 million.

The final figure is $225,000 above the midpoint, but just shy of the $6.8 million projection from MLBTradeRumors.com. With Richards taken care of, right fielder Kole Calhoun -- still four years away from free agency -- stands as the Angels' lone remaining arbitration-eligible player.

Richards won't be a free agent until after the 2018 season and will be paid more than double his $3.2 million salary from 2015. The prior year was Richards' first as a full-time Major League starter, and the 27-year-old right-hander took full advantage, going 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA and an opponents' slugging percentage of just .261 before tearing the patellar tendon of his left knee in Fenway Park on Aug. 20, 2014.

Now, with Jered Weaver coming off his worst season and C.J. Wilson bouncing back from elbow surgery, Richards stands as the Angels' de facto No. 1 starter. The fact he's still entering his prime, throws the hardest average fastball among starting pitchers (95.7 mph) and sports the Majors' highest spin rate on his curveball further cements that belief.

Several big-name starters were available this winter, from David Price to Zack Greinke to Johnny Cueto. But the Angels did not pursue any of them, partly because they see Richards as a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter.

"I believe he is," Angels general manager Billy Eppler said earlier this offseason, when asked if Richards is an ace. "He has the ability to miss bats, he throws strikes with a number of pitches, he can dominate a game, he can absolutely take any offensive threats away -- he has the tools and the ability to do that. He's got youth. And with that youth comes the arrow pointing in the right direction. For him, I think you'll continue to see marked improvement. Because he's young, and that's what young players do -- they improve."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.