The Los Angeles Angels haven't reached the playoffs since 2014, and haven't won a postseason game in a decade. What the Angels have done well in the last few years is change managers. The Angels recently installed Joe Maddon as their new skipper. Maddon is the club's third manager in as many years, following a one-season stint from Brad Ausmus and the conclusion of the Mike Scioscia era.
With Maddon in tow and owner Arte Moreno promising a payroll increase, the question now is if general manager Billy Eppler can deliver a postseason-caliber roster -- or, if the next big change the Angels make will be at GM.
Here's an offseason primer on the Angels.
2020 Payroll Situation
The Angels have fielded an Opening Day payroll exceeding $150 million in six of the last eight seasons. Yet they've never gone as high as $170 million. If they're to make significant upgrades, that will have to change this season based on their current payroll projections.
- Guaranteed contracts (5 players): $115 million (via Cot's Baseball Contracts)
- Arbitration-eligibles (10 players): $22 million (via MLB Trade Rumors projections)
The Angels declined Kole Calhoun's $14 million option on Monday, freeing up extra cash to use in free agency. There's a chance they shed more obligations in the coming weeks, should the Angels decide to trade or non-tender Kevan Smith, Brian Goodwin, and Nick Tropeano. Moving on from those three would free up another $5 million.
Either way, the Angels figure to have at least $130 million on the books. That would seem to give them at least $40 million in wiggle room, with the potential for even more depending on how much Moreno is willing to fork out.
Pitching. Pitching. More pitching.
The Angels had 19 pitchers start at least once and 14 start five or more times in 2019. Sure, some of those were openers and the like, but it's not a great sign when no one on the staff makes more than 18 starts. Indeed, Trevor Cahill was the only pitcher to top the century mark in innings -- and he finished with 102 ⅓ innings, or just seven outs over the threshold.
The Angels could use at least a couple of starters to pair with Andrew Heaney and Shohei Ohtani, as well as perhaps Griffin Canning and Jaime Barria. Depth has been a problem for the Angels, so adding enough support that youngsters Patrick Sandoval and Jose Suarez find themselves spending much of the season in Triple-A should be viewed as a positive.
Eppler has succeeded at finding bullpen help on the cheap, but it probably wouldn't hurt to add another late-inning reliever. Additionally, if the Angels can spare the resources, it would be nice to see them pursue an upgrade behind the plate and perhaps another starting-caliber infielder to slot in at second or third base -- or wherever David Fletcher isn't playing. Oh, and maybe a stand-in outfielder until Jo Adell is ready for primetime.
The Angels have two of the better outfield prospects in baseball, in Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh. Adell, at least, is going nowhere. Marsh would seem unlikely to be dealt, too, barring the Angels finding a controllable mid-rotation (or better) starter to their liking.
Beyond that pair, the Angels system is full of project types. There's Jordyn Adams, Jahmai Jones, Jeremiah Jackson, and so on. Because of the risk factor, it would appear improbable that anyone else in the system could headline a deal for a mid-rotation starter or better unless there were outstanding circumstances at play -- e.g. it was essentially a salary dump.
So far as big-league trade candidates go, the Angels figure to revisit moving Cam Bedrosian, which would free up another $3 million or so in savings. He's believed to have been available in the past.
The Angels enter the winter as the favorites to land Gerrit Cole, the top available starting pitcher.
Cole has a presumed predilection for playing on the west coast, and the Angels have the need and -- if Moreno is true to his word -- the means to make a staggering offer. David Price currently holds the record for the richest free-agent contract signed by a pitcher, at $217 million, and it's likely that Cole and agent Scott Boras want to top that mark. In other words, the Angels will likely have to pay Cole an average annual value exceeding $30 million to land their ace.
Another expectation around the league is that the Angels will look to sign a second veteran starter to pair with Cole at the top of their rotation. That could mean Dallas Keuchel or Madison Bumgarner; it could also mean Jake Odorizzi or Kyle Gibson. The specific names are less important here than the intent -- that being to improve the rotation through free agency.
For an outside-the-box solution, the Angels could try trading for Boston Red Sox left-hander David Price. League sources believe the Red Sox will attempt to move Price to free up budget space -- and that contenders, fringe and otherwise, will have interest in acquiring him.
As for behind the plate, the Angels could reunite Cole with Robinson Chirinos if they're willing to live with his substandard defense. Travis d'Arnaud, Alex Avila, and Yan Gomes are some of the other top backstops who will be available. Yasmani Grandal would be the dream addition, but if the Angels are serious about adding Cole and another high-salaried veteran to their rotation, then Moreno might not be so charitable also splurging on a catcher, too.
The Angels are embarking on a pivotal offseason, and need to go all out in order to avoid wasting more of Mike Trout's prime. Fortunately it appears the team is cognizant of that -- and is expected to make at least one major splash at the top of the market. It's to be seen if the Angels' plan comes to fruition, but if so this could be a much-improved unit come springtime.