Although those within the industry remain optimistic that Major League Baseball will play a modified 2020 season despite the spread of COVID-19, that hasn't and won't stop teams from implementing additional cost-cutting measures. On Saturday, league sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CBS Sports that the Los Angeles Angels will be trimming their scouting department heading into June, echoing what Ken Rosenthal had reported on The Athletic on Friday evening.
The Angels, who possess the 10th pick in the draft, will be furloughing their area scouts after they issue payment on May 31. Scouting director Matt Swanson will then have to run the team's draft on June 10 and 11 without being able to seek input from those scouts. On June 15, the Angels will pay their crosscheckers before furloughing them as well. Afterward, the Angels will be operating with just their department heads remaining, leaving them with essentially one-person staffs.
The Angels' cuts are said to include international scouts, some of whom who make half of what their domestic peers earn in a given year. (Scouts, it should be noted, are almost always working on one-year deals that barely make a dent in a team's payroll.)
A typical scouting department is set up like a pyramid. The director may have the fancy title and the final say in the draft process, but the area scouts are almost always the first and most frequent to see a player. The crosscheckers play a pivotal role, too, by providing a second opinion on potential targets. The Angels are not only robbing themselves of that infrastructure, but of the intimate knowledge possessed by those scouts and crosscheckers (to say nothing of morale and loyalty).
The Angels' bottom-up approach clashes with how most of the league is operating, where high-ranking executives are taking pay reductions to prevent job loss. Predictably, other teams are stunned by the Angels' moves. A veteran member of another club's scouting department asked, rhetorically, "How are the crosscheckers supposed to care [about the draft] when they're gone the next day?"
The Angels front office was already believed to be on shaky ground entering the year. General manager Billy Eppler, whose contract expires later this year, has not delivered more than 80 wins in a season since taking over after the 2015 campaign. Owner Arte Moreno permitted Eppler to hire manager Joe Maddon and sign free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon over the winter en route to a franchise record $180 million payroll, according to Cot's Contracts.
Back in early April, CBS Sports was the first to report on potential summer furloughs for scouts.