We’re continuing with our “Three Needs” series, in which we take a look at the chief issues to be addressed for clubs that have fallen out of contention. We’ve already focused on the Mariners, Tigers, White Sox, Marlins, Rangers and Pirates. Now we’ll turn to the Angels. Despite the presence of the transcendent Mike Trout, they’ve posted their fifth straight non-playoff season and their fourth sub-.500 campaign in a row during what has been a year filled with adversity.
[Los Angeles Angels Depth Chart]
1. Pour Significant Resources Into The Rotation
Let’s be fair to the Angels right off the bat: Their rotation (and their franchise as a whole) is still reeling from the passing of left-hander Tyler Skaggs back in July. Not only was Skaggs a beloved teammate to those on the club, but he was one of the Angels’ top pitchers. That’s an irreplaceable combination, though the Angels have no choice but to carry on and try to improve their starting staff heading into 2020.
The good news for the Angels is that two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani should return to the mound next year. He threw just over 50 innings as a rookie in 2018 and then couldn’t pitch at all this season as a result of Tommy John surgery. Ohtani recently underwent another procedure – a left knee operation – but it shouldn’t prevent him from rejoining the Angels’ rotation at the beginning of the season. The flamethrowing Ohtani, Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning (who enjoyed a respectable rookie season, albeit one that ended in August because of elbow issues) give the Halos’ starting staff at least a few legitimate reasons for hope heading into 2020. It’s harder to find obvious causes for optimism otherwise, though, evidenced in part by the AL-worst ERA and fWAR Angels starters have recorded this year.
In clear need of starters, the Angels figure to aggressively target help during the offseason. General manager Billy Eppler already spoke on the upcoming free-agent starter market back in August, saying, “I’m sure we’ll be sitting with [free agents] and seeing if something can be worked out.” Furthermore, although the Angels haven’t won any recent high-priced bidding wars for starters, Eppler didn’t close the door on bucking that trend.
So … enter Gerrit Cole? Not necessarily, but the Houston Cy Young candidate, Southern California native and pending free agent looks like a plausible target for the Angels. While the 29-year-old Cole could command $200MM–plus on his upcoming contract, the Angels have shown a willingness to make sizable long-term commitments under owner Arte Moreno (deals for Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Justin Upton spring to mind). And Cole would give the Angels’ injury-laden, underperforming rotation something it desperately needs: a workhorse ace who can provide 200 innings of top-line production.
It doesn’t have to be Cole or bust for the Angels, though he should be the franchise’s No. 1 target going into the offseason. If they can’t get him, though, there will be other worthy starters available in free agency. Stephen Strasburg (if he opts out of his Nationals deal), Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, Dallas Keuchel (whom the Angels pursued last winter), Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson represent several other possibilities. The Angels could also explore a trade(s), but whether Eppler will want to make notable subtractions from a farm system he has focused on improving over the past few years remains to be seen. Either way, the Angels have to perform far better than they did in free agency a year ago, when they spent a combined $20MM on one-year contracts for starters Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill. Those pacts proved to be miserable failures for the team.
2. Upgrade Behind The Plate
The Angels went the one-year deal route to try to bolster their rotation last winter, and they did the same behind the plate. But the $3.35MM guarantee for Jonathan Lucroy went down as yet another regrettable move, as he struggled before the club released him in August. Lucroy, Max Stassi (who needs hip surgery), Anthony Bemboom, Kevan Smith and Dustin Garneau (who, like Lucroy, is out of the organization) have combined for negative-0.4 fWAR this year, making the Angels just one of five teams whose backstops have registered a minus number in that category.
It’s time for the Halos do better at the position. To their credit, the Angels at least made an attempt last offseason, courting the likes of Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos before those two went elsewhere. Grandal will be back on the market this winter, but the Brewer should do a lot better than the one-year, $18MM-plus guarantee he raked in during his previous stay in free agency. Would the Angels make such a commitment? It could depend on how much they dole out on starting help. There’s only so much money to go around, after all.
Free-agent options beyond Grandal are much less enticing. However, the likes of Jason Castro, Travis d’Arnaud and Robinson Chirinos could be upgrades over the catchers the Angels have leaned on this year. And Yankees backup Austin Romine might be a name to watch as a soon-to-be free agent who shouldn’t cost much. Eppler was in New York’s front office for the early stages of Romine’s major league career.
3. Determine Kole Calhoun’s Future
The Angels are facing a tough decision on Calhoun, a career-long Angel who has been with the franchise since it spent an eighth-round pick on him in 2010. Now 31, Calhoun has evolved into a defensive standout who also offers capable offense. He has been solid in both regards this year en route to his fifth season with at least 2.0 fWAR, but that doesn’t mean the Angels will welcome him back in 2020. They could pick up Calhoun’s option for $14MM or buy him out for $1MM. For an Angels team with major issues to address elsewhere, it may be tempting to wave goodbye to Calhoun and spend the $13MM they’d save on him to address other areas of the roster. The club has a potential short-term replacement on hand in Brian Goodwin, who could occupy right field until super prospect Jo Adell is ready for a promotion next season.
#4 Replace Brad Ausmus with Joe Maddon
I agree. But Eppler is looking for a “yes man”, and that’s not Joe.
He’s looking for a competent coach that understands advanced analytics and can manage a clubhouse
Maddon’s act in MLB is wearing a bit thin…how many magic acts can you book in a season to “inspire” your players.
Besides, he complains about everything between the lines and uses that for influence as the game progresses.
If he can’t get the Cubs, who are loaded with talent to win, then the parade has passed him by!
Better to go with another candidate.
Maddon did the magic act with the Cubs one time. So what? Also it was not to inspire the players. Give me a break. It was to have some fun. What is the problem.
So trying to influence the umpires during the game is a bad thing now?
Cubs are not loaded with talent. They have an old starting staff and no bullpen.
They have a solid core of players but that does not equate to a team loaded with talent.
Maddon is not the problem.
Maddon is a problem but not the problem
I agree about Maddon. 30 years being a Halo player / coach. Great way to bring instant winning pedigree to the coaching staff.
Ack to Ausmus, please.
RyÅn W Krol
Because a different manager would’ve just magically created good starting pitching. We all knew their starting pitching was going to be their downfall.
I think the point is start 2020 with a fresh regime. Many of the 2019 events were not the fault of Ausmus, but I think many fans (and I’m guessing players) would like to turn the page on 2019 and start fresh in 2020.
Ryan Krol … and the awful bullpen!
I thought the bullpen was one of our bright spots… it was just over worked.
Here’s hoping Mike Trout has a healthy season in 2020.
I can think of way more than three.
Their rotation is horrible.
Bullpen i horrible
Everyone besides trout and simmons could be replaced…
For having Trout this long they have failed to put any useful talent around him. Kinda depressing tbh
Fletcher is a keeper, he is having an excellent first full year. I also think that in the right deal Simmons should be available with one year left on his contract. He will be expensive to extend or re-sign.
Back end of the bullpen is not horrible.
BP is actually quite good. They’ve been grossly overworked and still posted a respectable campaign
RyÅn W Krol
Bullpen is young and talented and is only worn out by having no starting pitching. I think they only had one blown save through July, but I’d have to fact check that one.
They have the offensive depth they need, especially coming from their farm system. Could use better production from catcher. Simmons had a mediocre season. The keep Trout and Simmons argument is just an old narrative. Their offense has 215 HR’s and that’s with Trout and Ohtani our for the season and Upton hurt most of the season.
They’ve put plenty of useful talent around Trout. Neglecting their farm system earlier in the decade is what got them into this mess and kept them from having depth. Now they’ve quickly rebuilt their farm system and are in a position to where all they really need to do is attack the starting pitching market and get a catcher.
Three needs of the Angels, hitting, defense, and pitching.
a better conditioning staff
What does that even mean?
pitching staff is destroyed every year by injuries.
Ever think it could be our pitchers lack of durability? Maybe the guys we were relying on year after year were/are simply fragile and no amount of “conditioning” was going to prevent them from breaking…
How does a conditioning fix that?
That’s why conditioning is in quotes. I was mocking the idea that it’s our trainers fault that pitchers are fragile
Verlander changed his conditioning regimen and it resuscitated his career. Posterior chain, quads and core. The Angels staff throws with their elbows and shoulders. The Angels training staff is led by someone with a degree from an online degree mill, California University of Pennsylvania, if you can believe that is actually a college name.
Hire a legit guy so you can keep your talent on the field.
I misread what you wrote, sorry about that
no, i dont buy that all Angels pitchers are just magically more likely to get injured then other pitchers. if 3-4 were always injured, then maybe, but this is the entire staff we are talking about. this absolutely falls on the health staff – the trend has gone on way too long.
Considering they can changed the entire medical staff twice since Eppler has been there, not sure it’s their fault
How is the strength and conditioning staff going to help make a difference? Completely lame comment
their entire rotation is injured every single year. None of Heaney, Tropeano, Pena, Ohtani, ever seems to have a full issue-free season.
Felix Hernandez has Angels written all over him. Cy Young winner past his prime?? Yes, please!
Long Duc Dong
What is Rick Ankiel busy
They’re both at Jamie Moyers’s house, working out and waiting on the call.
Need to replace Eppler should be the first thing.
Cole, Ohtani and hope there’s no “dermani?”???
The Angels are in God’s Little Acre (between a rock and a hard place) as much as any team I’ve ever seen. Trout, Simba, Ohtani…..and nada. It’s going to take a LOT of imagination.
Ohtani, Cole, and 3 days of bull!
Actually, 4 days, because Ohtani will pitch once a week, so the Angels will need a 6 man rotation.
those nadas are playing very well!
This organization with zero direction needs only 3 things…? The scoreboard and standings don’t lie PERIOD
It’s the top three.
Not the only three…..
Man I really don’t get the negative sentiment towards the Halos. They’re clearly not a team in pole position but there are a lot of positives to build on and, baseball gods willing, should finally be healthy come opening day. As for the needs…
1) Its obvious that Cole is the grand prize with Strasburg being a close 2nd. But their markets will be robust and, in the event we miss out on either of those two, I think we look towards a mid rotation guy who doesn’t cost a pick (Keuchel/Ryu) and supplement the staff through trade. Jon Gray,Brad Keller, Joe Musgrove are a few who interest me. Every young player sans Jo Adell should be in play. Thaiss/Rengifo/Suarez/Marsh/Adams/Jackson ect.
2) Grandal would be great but C is secondary to SP so he’s only an option if there’s money left over from restocking the staff. I’d be comfortable with Jason Castro or Alex Avila but guys like Austin Barnes & Austin Hedges make some sense as cheap trade candidates. Their cases are even stronger if Max Stassi doesn’t recover from hip surgery and is non-tendered.
3) I love Kole but he doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint. With Goodwin in the mix and Adell and Marsh not far away there’s no logic in paying Calhoun for next year. I’ve read theories about picking up his option to trade him but I don’t see another team paying $14m for 1yr of his production when there are so many cheap OF options
it is nothing but jelousy. trout, ohtani, beautiful girls at gorgeous beaches.
the problem is it seems like the team has been going through the motions for some time now. they stick with the same rotation that is made out of china and think, if everything breaks right, that they can beat Houston and Oakland. you cant win with a staff like that.
How about a new owner?
Artes not perfect but I’d much rather have an owner willing to shell out $400m to keep our superstar player. Ask Cleveland’s opinion on ownership when Lindor walks
Simmons will be traded for pitching. Try to trade Calhoun before it’s time to decide on his option. Might find a flyer on a low level prospect in return. Sign Cole, and another FA starting pitcher. Go into spring training with Cole, the other FA starting pitcher then Canning, Heaney and have Sandoval and Suarez fight for the last starting spot. Sign a catcher who can actually hit the ball. Bring back Kendrick for that bench player, who can help the young players out. Finally fire Asumus and hire Bengi Molina to be the next manager.
I’d keep Calhoun. The $13M net? If a WAR point is $7 million and he performs the way he has all of the last several years except 2018, they get their money’s worth.
it’s just that he becomes redundant once adel comes up. and we need to spend it on pitching.
Kole is a year older than Mike Moustaukas and plays a less desirable position. The contract challenges for Mike (a similar low avg, LH power comp) tells me Calhoun is not a candidate for a high pay day. Yes his fielding ups his WAR, but I’m not sure he will be a huge FA acquisition for many teams. Add to the fact that Moose is again a FA this offseason.
Trade Zack Cozart along with Prospects to Royals for Ian Kennedy. Potentially eat a portion of the $12.667M Cozart is owed.
Trade Prospects for rebound reliever Keone Kela who’ll enter his age 27 season going through ARB a 2nd time & probably cost $4M. ONLY if management believes he can fit in the clubhouse. He could be had on the cheap.
After missing out on Cole when Yankees go nuts in $210M+ area sign Jake Odorizzi & Dallas Keuchel. Don’t worry about the draft pick compensation attached to Jake. If medicals don’t check out on either, fallback options include Tanner Roark, Wade Miley, Cole Hamels, Michael Pineda.
Decline Calhoun’s Option. Look to bridge to Jo Adell with a combination of Brian Goodwin, Hermosillo and a 1 Yr right handed OF option. Avisail Garcia, Cameron Maybin, Corey Dickerson. If Calhoun can’t find multiple Yrs consider a reunion.
Sign a veteran catcher. Jason Castro is the ideal target. Austin Romine, Non-Tender candidate Mike Zunino and others will be available.
La Stella returns but look for a veteran IF option that provides some pop. Howie Kendrick reunion isn’t crazy. 1 Yr type deal.