Angels general manager Billy Eppler is in the final season of his contract, and with the Angels assured of a fifth straight losing season, multiple reports have linked the team to veteran executive Dave Dombrowski as a potential replacement. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal calls the Halos the “most likely” team to make a switch at GM, adding that Dombrowski is the most frequently mentioned replacement option. Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times writes that the “widely held belief” is that the Angels are in for yet another front-office regime change and that the “industry consensus” is that owner Arte Moreno will pursue Dombrowski.
It’s been five years since Eppler took over for Jerry Dipoto, who resigned from his post in the wake of a highly publicized rift with then-manager Mike Scioscia. Los Angeles has yet to return to the postseason or even put together a winning record in that time. Instead of postseason wins built around the game’s best player, Mike Trout, much of the focus has been on the Angels’ perennial struggles to keep an underachieving pitching staff healthy enough to take the mound.
Since Eppler took the helm, the Angels rank 23rd among MLB teams in rotation ERA (4.74), 27th in FIP (4.84) and 29th in overall innings pitched. Angels starters have tallied just 3490 1/3 innings over those five seasons — a mark trailed only by a Rays club that has used openers more aggressively than any team in the Majors. The trade to acquire Dylan Bundy looks superlative at the moment, but most of the other attempts to patch the rotation have fizzled. Free agents Julio Teheran, Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill, Doug Fister and Tim Lincecum didn’t bear fruit. Landing Shohei Ohtani was a clear feather in Eppler’s cap, but Ohtani has been far more impactful at the plate than on the mound thanks to numerous injuries.
From acquiring Andrelton Simmons in his first winter on the job to Bundy this past offseason, Eppler has made his share of strong moves while controlling the Halos’ baseball ops outfit. However, the team is still in need of upgrades both in the rotation and bullpen. The salaries of Trout, Albert Pujols, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton weigh down next year’s payroll already, though the Pujols deal will finally be off the books post-2021. Supplementing the many holes on the roster could prove difficult with $118MM already on the books and a sizable arbitration class. Whether Eppler will make those additions seems cloudy at best.
Hiring Dombrowski or any other experienced front office exec would be something of a departure from the norm, Shaikin points out. The Angels’ past three GMs have all been rookies — Eppler, Dipoto and Tony Reagins — and each had something less than 100 percent autonomy over baseball operations decisions. It is well documented that Moreno spearheaded the team’s acquisitions of Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Vernon Wells, and Shaikin adds that it was Moreno who made the decision to dump Brad Ausmus (Eppler’s chosen skipper) after just one season in order to pursue Joe Maddon.
Dombrowski, of course, knows plenty about putting together win-now rosters with an “at all costs” mentality, as evidenced by a lengthy run of contending Tigers clubs and his quick World Series win with the Red Sox. In both instances, Dombrowski had an owner who was willing to spend money and sacrifice young talent for short-term gains on the trade market. That seems likely to be the position in which the Angels find themselves this winter, as pressure to win will build considerably following a six-year playoff drought.