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There are 28 Major League organizations that never had Shohei Ohtani, but only one that will have lost him forever, leaving the Angels in a unique position as they forge a vulnerable path towards their new future. The road to recovery will be a difficult one, lined with more challenges than necessary thanks to ownership, but as is the Angels on-field issues have always greater than having or not having a single Shohei Ohtani. A lack of true position players across the board has been this team’s Achilles heel in many seasons past, yet the presence of emerging young stars in Zach Neto, Logan O’Hoppe, Nolan Schanuel and Mickey Moniak has provided the genuine foundation for a legitimate turnaround post-Ohtani. There are many paths forward that can keep the Angels playing with a pulse in 2024, and though it will take some creativity to build a realistic winner for the coming years there is more than enough opportunity available to hasten the bounce back. 

It's time to think ahead, beyond what we have lost and what we have endured, and into the future of 2024 and beyond.

Emphasis on the beyond. 


The Angels have a golden opportunity to cash in on value at the big league level while keeping themselves within the realms of competitive baseball. There needs to be an honesty regarding the teams ability to truly compete next season as well as an understanding that big contracts will not save this team from themselves. The Angels have gone down this path many times, pearl clutching talent that brings fans to the seats while desperately jingling whatever shiny free agent signings may keep fans attention. The only viable large contract in this current free agent class that may keep this team building future success would be a Yamamoto contract given his age and upside, though that level of acquisition is far beyond a long shot with the current state of the franchise. The Angels need to stick to short term deals this winter and see where the chips fall in 2024 before committing to more big contracts that will remain present for the better part of a decade. Swinging one to three year commitments on types such as Clayton Kershaw, Marcus Stroman, or Frankie Montas will allow the team to field professional innings with sustainable upside while giving them what should be valuable outs at the trade deadline should fortunes fall next season. This would offer the best of both worlds in which the team is given the opportunity to play legitimate baseball without hamstringing the teams future on albatross contracts (8 years for Snell, anyone?). 

Aside from poor impulse control on the free agent market the largest burden on this franchise has been an inability to sell value when competition is not promised. The first step towards shedding that insecurity would come this immediate winter with high value targets such as Brandon Drury and Carlos Estevez ready to return legitimate youth value on the trade market. Drury’s value as a top power hitting second baseman in the league (3rd in SLG% across MLB second basemen) would play well on the Angels next year, but as is the team’s biggest needs exist far beyond maintaining a 31 year old second baseman on an expiring contract. Unless the Angels want to continue playing from behind come 2025 steps must be taken to reverse the lack of observable talent flow into this organization. The Angels would not find themselves hard up going into 2024 with players such Tim Anderson available on the market, or Luis Rengifo internally, ready to professional innings at second base. The replacement will not come as 1:1 to Drury, but the true value comes through the youth brought into the organization as a return for Drury. Carlos Estevez exists in the same realm as contending teams are always chomping at the bits for high leverage relievers, though it would be harder to replace his potential production unless you foresee this club swinging a contract for Josh Hader/Jordan Hicks (they won't). Once this young core proves themselves further it will be more palatable to consider big contracts with the free agent class in 2025, but until then this team needs to show there is life to be fostered with the current home grown talent before deciding on any more decade long commitments. 

e0759bae-59b5-4bf8-8d1b-79a9b71dd822-USATSI_20238809.webpMORE DH AB’S, LESS IR VISITS

The now vacant DH spot is a near blessing in disguise for this often injured major league roster. The Angels would benefit greatly from prioritizing the DH hole in rotation for vets such as Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, who often missed the lineup were they not playing the field due to Ohtani’s ever-presence as DH. You would love to see Trout make as many starts in CF as humanly possible, though given the state of his health it would be prudent to see him take more than a couple DH shots a week. Replacing Ohtani's production by shifting Trout into the DH hole would make the transition into an Ohtani-less offense far more palatable. Trout's defensive production in center field would be an easier task to replace on the free agent market with Cody Bellinger being the most favorable candidate, but with his price tag likely to exceed $250 million it is doubtful owner Arte Moreno will swing his contract. Internally you have Mickey Moniak as the best full time defensive replacement, though his future is still a bit hazy given his need to prove last seasons breakout was not a fluke. It’s hard to fathom this organization seeing Trout as anything other than a full time center fielder, but with the future of his health questionable it would be wise to consider transitioning Mike Trout into the load management phase of his career. More availability for rotation through the DH spot should prove favorable for the teams long standing health all around, and if the bats of Trout and Rendon can survive the entire 2024 campaign the Angels may find themselves closer to competing than current appearance's would show.


There has been an incredible fanfare surrounding the fresh coaching staff headed by new manager Ron Washington by both Angel fans and the league in general, and for good reason. The Angels biggest on field issues in recent seasons have stemmed from coaching and player utilization more than the actual talent on this team. Poor third base coaching ran this team out of runs and into injury, horrendous pitching coach efforts dragged this young staff into an identity crisis, and godawful offensive guidance saw this team hit their way out of favorable situations time and time again (.385 SLG with 38 GIDPs in 1270 RISP ABs). The Angels were able to muster up a fair bit of production from most of their lineup as seven of their current hitters registered an OPS+ over 100 in 2023 (Logan O’Hoppe, Mickey Moniak, Luis Rengifo, Brandon Drury, Mike Trout, Nolan Schanuel, Taylor Ward), so the question of competitiveness exists outside of actual ability. A mastery of basic fundamentals, most notably situational hitting, infield defense, and mental fortitude, will guide this offense beyond the situational production of last year as they look to make up for Ohtani's raw production. The ultimate test for this coaching staff will stand on whether they can limit regression and raise the fundamental floor of this roster, both with incumbents as well as incoming offseason acquisitions. A massive sticking point in the Angels 2023 failures was the regression of rising stars Reid Detmers and Patrick Sandoval, who after appearing to find form as staff leaders in 2022 (Detmers: 3.77 ERA 129 IP, Sandoval: 2.91 ERA 148.2 IP), fell flat as they both posted ERAs north of 4 last season. Competitive hope will not come from big free agent swings, but from Angel mainstays maintaining their Major League legs throughout an entire season. There are always roster improvements that could be made (extra OF bat/undisputed frontline starter), but as is the Angels are in position to reclaim a semblance of their top 10 starting staff form from 2022, and top 10 offense in 2023. The assistance of Dan Haren understudy Barry Enright as pitching coach bodes well regarding this staffs reclamation of form, and with Ron Washington's focus on fundamental baseball there is hope that the Angels can raise the limits of their floor heading into 2024.


The Angels bullpen was a major factor in their failures in 2023, a key figure being the late season collapse of All-Star closer Carlos Estevez. Despite a first half that saw Estevez cruise through 35 innings of 1.80 ERA baseball the second half was not too kind. Estevez managed a brutal 6.59 ERA through his last 27 innings of work on the year as the Angels fell from a 45-46 first half to a paltry 28-43 second half. Early callups of hard throwing relievers Ben Joyce and Jose Soriano helped mitigate the Angels lack of late inning punch as the season wore on, and though they were far from perfect there was enough upside on eithers behalf to offer the promise of high leverage value. Putting together a bullpen may often feel like reading tea leaves, though with the Angels current standing there is far more high leverage upside present than there was entering last season. A free agent addition of a Josh Hader/Jordan Hicks type can complete the puzzle and take this bullpen over the top, though the Angels have never been one to spend big on free agent relievers. There is enough current high-velocity depth and upside to carry the late innings more efficiently than last year with the real question being whether or not the bottom end of the bullpen will maintain quality form. The return of multi-inning relief in Sam Bachman will certainly buff this teams floor going forward, and internal bullpen additions such as Tyler Anderson (another bounce back candidate) will look to provide enough bottom end innings to prevent overuse on higher value arms. The return of World Baseball Classic hero Jose Quijada from Tommy John should provide a further boon towards high leverage value as well. It may not be a galactic leap away from their positioning in 2023, but the springboard for efficient relief is coming into competitive form. Any improvement, no matter how small, will be monumental in this teams efforts towards bouncing back.


Last but not least we have the harbinger of our sorrows, the lynchpin of our torment, the crux of our suffering; team owner Arte Moreno. The pathways towards continued success remain choked under Moreno's historically poor management and will continue to be so as long as he remains in the fold. Refusals to invest in infrastructure, coaching, analytics, international presence, and scouting has left the Angels playing from behind the rest of the baseball world both on and off the field. The Angels will continue to find themselves bogged in stagnation until someone with modern sensibilities can pull this team forward. It is not enough to have GM Perry Minasian single-handedly drag Moreno kicking and screaming towards success, despite his best efforts. Even if the Angels accidentally fall into success in 2024/2025 there is little to suggest sustainability without major overhauls that would see this team invest in the organization from the bottom up. Ohtani may receive flak from certain Angel fans for leaving the team, but he has done nothing but what fans wish they themselves could do in creating separation between ourselves and the worst owner in the sport. Current outlook may appear bleak with Ohtani's departure, but if there was ever a coaching staff, and collection of core talent, to shift the karma back in the Angels favor, it would be this current staff. All is easier said than done when it comes to reversing fortunes of this magnitude, but when it comes time the baseball being played will speak for itself, you can only hope Ron Washington will teach this Angels team to play baseball that speaks for itself. 


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