The easiest way to summarize the Los Angeles Angels' season is by noting that they entered Monday's trade deadline intent on selling rather than buying. The Angels, who made winter headlines by hiring Joe Maddon and signing Anthony Rendon, seem certain to miss a sixth consecutive postseason -- that despite pandemic-fueled changes, in the shortened season and expanded playoff field, that appeared favorable to their situation entering the summer.
It's fair to call the Angels baseball's most disappointing team, just as it's fair to wonder what comes next. Below, we've laid out three subplots worth watching between now and Opening Day 2021.
Will the Angels change GMs?
Unfortunately for current general manager Billy Eppler, this one seems like a foregone conclusion. He entered the year in a lame-duck situation, with his contract set to expire at season's end. Shy of the Angels making a miracle run to the postseason, owner Arte Moreno seems likely to install another point guard.
Speculation inside the industry has centered on two veteran executives with championship credentials: Dave Dombrowski and Jeff Luhnow. Dombrowski has been connected to Nashville's big-league efforts since being fired by the Boston Red Sox last September, while Luhnow is technically suspended until the playoffs end for his part in the Houston Astros' cheating scandal. Both have won a World Series title within the past three years.
Perhaps those rumors prove to hold more smoke than fire, but appointing either would align with Maddon's hiring, if only in the sense that they would be a flashy, high-profile addition.
How much can they count on Ohtani, Adell?
The Angels have two of the best players in the sport, in Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon; they have a well-regarded skipper; and they could have a seasoned executive calling the shots. In addition to all that, they might have two of the game's brightest youngsters, in Shohei Ohtani and Jo Adell, provided they can answer some looming questions about their games.
With Ohtani, the concern is his ability to stay healthy. Next year will mark his fourth full professional season in the United States, and he's made a total of 12 starts on the mound because of Tommy John surgery and other arm trouble. The two-way star has been able to help out the Angels as an above-average hitter, but they signed him with the belief that he would become a foundational part of their rotation, too. At some point, he's either going to have to prove he can, or, perhaps, consider shifting to a one-way role that would cut into his overall value.
Adell, meanwhile, has struggled during his initial exposure to the majors. He's hit the ball harder than the league-average, but he's also punched out in more than 40 percent of his plate appearances in part because of his propensity to swing-and-miss within the zone. It hasn't helped matters that he's appeared lost at times on defense, either. There's no sense giving up on Adell, or anything like that; he just might require more of a learning curve than expected.
If either or both can get on track for the 2021 season, that would go a long way in improving the Angels' forecast.
Other pressing matters
The unpleasant truth for the Angels is that, no matter who is calling the shots, and no matter what they receive from Ohtani and Adell, they'll have to overhaul the roster.
In the immediate future, they'll need starters at catcher and shortstop, as Andrelton Simmons is slated for free agency. Obviously they'll require pitchers, too. Just as concerning is what the Angels do over the next several years. Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Hansel Robles, and Cam Bedrosian will each qualify for the open market after the 2021 season.
If there's good news for Los Angeles, it's that more budget room should be available. Albert Pujols' contract comes off the books after the 2021 season, with Justin Upton's following the next winter. That should free up more than $50 million on an annual basis.
What the Angels do with that wiggle room, among other course-altering decisions, is to be seen.