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Angels clear arb slate with deals for Freese, Jepsen

Angels clear arb slate with deals for Freese, Jepsen play video for 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.

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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