Earlier this week the Los Angeles Angels made their latest move in what has been a quietly active offseason. . Harvey, who once appeared destined for a nine-figure payday this offseason, will earn $11 million in 2019.
Including Harvey, the Angels have added five players with MLB experience to their 40-man roster this offseason, though none of those moves stand out as an impact addition. Harvey might be the biggest addition, in fact. Here's the list:
- Nov. 21: Acquired LHP Dillon Peters in a minor trade with the Marlins.
- Nov. 29: Acquired IF Tommy La Stella in a minor trade with the Cubs.
- Dec. 6: Acquired RHP Luis Garcia from the Phillies for LHP Jose Alvarez.
- Dec. 15: Signed 1B Justin Bour to a one-year contract worth $2.5 million.
- Dec. 18: Signed RHP Matt Harvey to a one-year contract worth $11 million.
Peters, La Stella, Bour, and Harvey are little more than depth additions at this point and the Garcia for Alvarez swap was a bullpen shuffle move. One good but not great reliever for another good but not great reliever. Sometimes you strike gold with a deal like that. More often than not both sides wind up shrugging their shoulders a whole lot.
With all due respect to the guys the Angels have added, this has very much been a "we tried" offseason for GM Billy Eppler and his staff. It's good to see they went after Corbin and Eovaldi and those guys, but they didn't add any of them, and the roster is weaker for it. And with Mike Trout only two years away from free agency, adding depth pieces and reclamation projects probably isn't good enough to capitalize on what is now a shrinking window.
I suppose the good news is the Angels haven't lost any significant players from this past season. They will presumably have full seasons of Zack Cozart, Jaime Barria, and Felix Pena in 2019, so that's good. And hey, we shouldn't discount their apparent willingness to spend. They may've missed out on Corbin and Eovaldi and Ramos, but what if they land, say, Jed Lowrie and Dallas Keuchel? There's still lots of offseason to go.
At the moment FanGraphs projects the Angels as a true talent 83-79 roster, which is not a whole lot better than the 80-82 record they posted in 2018. And, truth be told, it might take 95 wins to claim a wild card spot in 2019. The American League is very top and bottom heavy. There are the superpowers (Astros, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees) and the rebuilders (Mariners, Orioles, Tigers, White Sox, etc.) and not a whole lot in-between. The Angels are part of the in-between.
Squint your eyes and you can see the Angels making the leap from a win total in the mid-80s to a win total in the low-to-mid-90s. Harvey improves as he gets further away from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, Andrew Heaney and/or Tyler Skaggs take that next step, Kole Calhoun goes back to the pre-2017 version of himself, late-career Albert Pujols has his role reduced ... any of those things can happen and add to the win total.
Any team can play that game though. All 30 clubs can look at their roster, envision some best case scenarios playing out, and start dreaming about a postseason run. When you have to count on so many things going right to envision October baseball, it's a problem. Baseball is a game of failure and relying on too many "ifs" ends in disappointment more often than not. The Angels have an advantage over most other teams because they have Trout. The rest of the roster is still lacking.
As an impartial observer, I want to see the Angels do well. I want to see Trout get to the postseason again and I want to see the fun as heck Shohei Ohtani drive homers over the left-center field wall in October. It makes me anxious that, for the seventh time in eight full MLB seasons, Trout could be 162-and-done again in 2019. It really does. La Stella and Bour and Harvey are nice complementary players who can help a contending team. Right now though, they're all the Halos have added this offseason.
I'm sure the Angels will make Trout a godfather contract offer at some point before he's due to become a free agent. He might literally be the best player ever and you don't let that guy get away. Until then, the Angels have to figure out how to strengthen the roster around Trout (and Ohtani), and so far this winter they haven't done much. Are the Halos improved? Yeah, probably. Enough to be a serious postseason contender next year? I don't see it yet.