Angels general manager Billy Eppler took part in an online Q&A session with fans on Friday, addressing many topics about his team. Here are some of the highlights, with Eppler’s answers compiled by Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register…
- The Angels were linked to Zack Wheeler’s market over the winter, and Eppler filled in some details about the team’s interest, saying “we pursued Wheeler pretty aggressively.” That pursuit included a cross-country trip in November for Eppler, manager Joe Maddon, and team president John Carpino to meet with Wheeler in person. Despite this courtship, Wheeler ended up signing with the Phillies, though the Halos may have faced an uphill battle to sign the right-hander for geographical reasons, as Wheeler wanted to stay on the East Coast and in closer proximity to his wife’s family in New Jersey. Other suitors such as the Twins and White Sox also seemingly fell short of Wheeler’s services for the same reason, as Chicago’s offer was reportedly worth more than the $118MM Wheeler received from Philadelphia.
- Fletcher reported in February that the Angels had yet to begin extension talks with Andrelton Simmons, and Eppler confirmed that the club hadn’t held any negotiations with Simmons and his agents prior to the league shutdown. As per the GM, there had only been “internal discussions” within the front office at the start of Spring Training about a possible new deal for the defensive wizard. Simmons is set to become a free agent in the 2020-21 offseason, and the shortstop would still be eligible for the open market even if the COVID-19 pandemic wipes out the entire 2020 season. Of course, the league-wide transactions freeze also covers extension negotiations, so the Angels and other teams can’t talk contracts with any players during the shutdown.
- Shohei Ohtani threw two bullpen sessions this week, Eppler revealed, including a 15-pitch session on Friday that consisted of only fastballs. Ohtani continues to progress in his recovery from Tommy John surgery and should be ready to pitch when and if the season does get underway. The two-way star was originally slated to return to the mound in mid-May, though since games surely won’t resume by that point, Ohtani likely won’t end up missing any time in the Los Angeles rotation.
- Eppler also provided an update on Griffin Canning, saying that the young righty should start throwing off a mound within 7-10 days. “His throwing program is back to 120 to 150 feet this week, at about 70 to 80 percent intensity,” Eppler said. Canning was sidelined early in Spring Training due to elbow problems, including what the club described at the time as “chronic changes to the UCL and acute joint irritation.” While there was much speculation that Canning would need Tommy John surgery, Canning instead received a platelet-rich plasma injection, as Eppler said that “surgery wasn’t recommended in Griffin’s case…ultimately the different physicians we had him see didn’t recommend it.” The prospect of the season being canceled doesn’t have any bearing on whether Canning would eventually undergo a Tommy John procedure, as Eppler said “we would not proactively subject him to that surgery unless there was new evidence or a new injury that took place.”