For the fifth straight season, the Los Angeles Angels did not make the postseason. Thus, the game’s best player, Mike Trout, missed out on another chance to play in October.
The unfathomable loss of Tyler Skaggs left the Angels heartbroken and hurt off the field, and without their most reliable pitcher on the field. Questions will follow the team into the offseason, as an investigation continues on Skaggs’ death, and how these illegal drugs came about./
Injuries decimated the 2019 Angels, as the Angels were without Andrelton Simmons, Justin Upton, Shohei Ohtani, Tommy La Stella, among many others for large portions of the season. The pitching staff was especially ravaged, as the Angels only had one pitcher who threw for more than 100 innings.
After his first season at the helm, Brad Ausmus was fired as manager the day after the regular season ended. In place of Ausmus, the Angels will turn to Joe Maddon, who spent the first 3 decades with the Angels organization. Maddon, who won the 2016 World Series with the Chicago Cubs, will look to blend some of his old-school baseball techniques along with new-age analytics.
Fortunately for the Angels, their five free agent flops from a season ago were all on one year deals, and are all free agents. In addition Kole Calhoun’s option has been declined, leaving the payroll about $45 million lighter than it was last season. General Manager Billy Eppler has his sights set on pitching for the offseason, as the lineup looks pretty set.
Looking ahead to 2020, the Angels have five guaranteed contracts:
- Mike Trout- 36 million
- Albert Pujols– 29 million
- Justin Upton- 21 million
- Andrelton Simmons- 15 million
- Zack Cozart– 12.66 million
In addition to the guaranteed contracts, the Angels have nine players available for arbitration. The salaries are estimates from MLB trade rumors:
- Andrew Heaney– 5 million
- Hansel Robles– 4 million
- Tommy La Stella- 2.9 million
- Cam Bedrosian– 2.8 million
- Brian Goodwin– 2.1 million
- Kevan Smith– 1.3 million
- Noe Ramirez– 1 million
- Max Stassi– 800K
- Keynan Middleton– 800K
The Angels are likely to bring most of these players back for 2020 season. Max Stassi or Kevan Smith could be non-tendered if the Angels look to upgrade the catching position. Smith seems more likely to go, due to the fact that Stassi is younger and a pitch framing extraordinaire, a priority Eppler has focused on.
Pre-arbitration players who look likely to make the Opening Day roster:
- David Fletcher
- Shohei Ohtani
- Ty Buttrey
- Griffin Canning
- Justin Anderson
- Luis Rengifo
- Keynan Middleton
- Matt Thaiss
The Angels enter the 2020 offseason without a true ace in the rotation. Shohei Ohtani was dominant through his 10 starts in 2018, posting a 3.31 ERA, but is expected to be on an innings limit as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. With money to spend, Eppler looks to set his sights on one of the top two targets on the pitching market.
#1 Sign a true ace
The biggest free agent on the market, Cole looks to be in a prime position to surpass David Price’s record contract for a pitcher with the Red Sox. Cole, who grew up in Southern California and attended UCLA, seems like he would be a prime fit for an Angels rotation in need of an ace. Over the past 3 seasons, Cole holds a 47-22 record, a 3.20 ERA, and has pitched over 200 innings in each of these seasons.
Cole is a noted Scott Boras client, whom Angels owner Arte Moreno has a questionable relationship with the renowned agent. Prior to the Angels signing Matt Harvey last offseason, the last Boras client the Angles agreed to terms with was Jered Weaver. In order to land Cole, Moreno and Boras will have to put past disagreements behind them to reach a deal.
The reigning World Series MVP opted out of the remaining 4 year/100 million dollar deal to test the open market. It appears Strasburg could be likely to return to Washington, but the Nationals may have to make a choice between Strasburg and Anthony Rendon.
Strasburg attended San Diego St. for college and grew up in San Diego and could be a target for the Padres as well. Strasburg is a couple years older than the aforementioned Cole, so he won’t likely get as long as a term as Cole, but could be similar to him in terms of annual average value. After posting an 18-6 record with a 3.32 ERA, Strasburg looks to cash in on a 6-7 year deal.
#2 Sign a second tier starting pitcher
Wheeler has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past two seasons, posting a 3.65 ERA and a 3.37 FIP. His FIP resembles the ERAs of Cole and Strasburg, but Wheeler will come at a significant discount compared to the two aforementioned pitchers. Wheeler is expected to receive a 4-5 year deal, right around 20 million dollars per year. His fastball averages 96.7 MPH, and with a sharp break to his curveball, Wheeler looks like he could take a step forward and become a true ace. Coming to Anaheim would result in a reunion with former Mets manager and current Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway.
Ryu has had a constant struggle with health through his major league career, but has been one of the games best starters the past two years. While he has only started 44 games in the past two seasons, Ryu has posted a 21-8 record with a 2.21 ERA, and was the runner-up for Cy Young in the National League this past season. His 3.07 FIP leaves some room for regression, but he could still slot in as a low-end ace/high-end number 2. It seems like the Angels would be more likely to target a more reliable pitcher without the health questions that Ryu brings.
After spending 11 seasons with the San Francisco Giants, Bumgarner will hit the open market for the first time in his career. The 30 year old southpaw suffered freak injuries in 2017 and 2018, fracturing his collarbone in a dirt bike crash, and suffering a broken hand on a comeback line drive. Bumgarner rebounded by pitching over 200 innings with a 3.90 ERA in 2019. He would provide the Angels rotation with a sense of stability, along with a veteran presence with a postseason track record, something the Angels rotation currently does not have.
Teheran will come a little cheaper than the previously listed second-tier free agents, but also has more questions. His ERA over the past 3 seasons comes in at a very respective in 4.09, but has a less promising FIP that lies at 4.82. Teheran has thrown at least 170 innings in each of his last 7 MLB seasons and would provide much needed durability in the Angels injury-riddled rotation. He is expected to land a 2 year deal worth about 10 million annually.
#3 Sign a catcher
Gomes had his 2020 team option declined by the reigning champion Washington Nationals, allowing him to hit the open market. After being named an all-star in 2018, Gomes regressed offensively hitting just .233 with a .704 OPS. His defense continues to be managable, as he posted a -1 runs extra strikes, and 47.5% strike rate, both right about league average. Gomes may be the perfect candidate to platoon with glove-first catcher Max Stassi behind the dish.
In the shadow of Mitch Garver’s breakout, Jason Castro had a nice bounce back year as Minnesota’s second catcher. After only appearing in 19 games in 2018 due to right knee surgery, Castro appeared in 79 games with the Twins and posted an OPS+ of 101, his highest since his lone All-Star season in 2013 with the Astros. His strong 2019 could lead to Castro searching for a multi-year deal, worth about 5-7 million annually. His left-handed bat would help to even out an Angels lineup largely dominated by right-handed hitters.
After signing Yasmani Grandal to a lucrative free agent deal, the White Sox look like they could move the 2019 first time all-star. In his first season with Chicago, McCann posted a career high 2.3 fWAR and a 109 wRC+ across 118 games played. McCann rates as one of the worst pitch framers behind the plate, but his offense helps to keep him in the lineup most days. He has one year remaining at 5 million and would probably cost a higher end prospect such as Jeremiah Jackson.
Potential trade targets
Ray has one year left on his deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, that is expected to pay him just over 10 million dollars. The southpaw has started at least 22 games in each of his past 5 seasons, and has posted a 3.96 ERA across that stretch. Ray would be a perfect fit for the Halos due his high strikeout rate 12.1 K/9 in 2019, a priority of Eppler’s. Ray is entering his age 28 season, and should the Angels trade for him, he could be a target for an extension.
The Angels were briefly rumored as one of the teams interested in Boyd around the trade deadline, but it appeared the asking price was too high. In reported trade talks with the Yankees, the Tigers were asking for Gleyber Torres in exchange. Boyd posted a 3.87 ERA in his first 18 starts with the Tigers, and a lackluster 5.51 ERA after the All-Star break. Even though Boyd has three more years on his deal, the Tigers may have missed their opportunity to sell Boyd at his highest point.
It feels like a longshot that the Mets would move Syndergaard, but if so the Angels make an interesting fit. From 2015-2018 Syndergaard’s ERA was 2.93 before posting an unlike-Thor season with a 4.28 ERA. Currently, Syndergaard has two more years of arbitration on his deal that runs through the 2021 season. After a down season his value is lower than it has been, and the Mets may not require top prospect Jo Adell in a potential deal.
This offseason will be huge for both the Angels and Eppler, who is entering the last year of his contract. A successful offseason and a healthy team next year should put the Halos in a prime position to grab a wild card spot, and possibly catch the Astros and the Athletics. It’s time for the Angels to finally build a winning team around Trout and it starts with this offseason.