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2024: The long-belayed "taking stock" year (and what it means)


Chuck

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By Jonathan Northrop, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer

Part One: The Cycle of Ages - Angels Baseball version

After the dead-cat bounce of the post-Golden Era (2014-15), the Angels dipped below .500 in 2016 and have stayed there since, with a .465 Win% from 2016-23, which equates with a 75-87 record. In other words, for the last eight seasons, the Angels have been, on average, a 75-win team.

Without going back into it again in too much depth, the Angels are long overdue for a rebuild, or at least, a shift in the organizational approach of the last decade plus. One could argue that they should have rebuilt way back in 2010-11 but Arte wouldn't accept that the Golden Age was over. What commenced was a serious of blunders that proved disastrous to the franchise for the last 15 years. They had another window in 2015-2016 and didn't take it, for a variety of reasons: they had a promising core of young starters, all of whom went under the knife. Next, they had the Trout Window, and then the Ohtani Window. 

So we have, ala the Greek/Indian ages, four distinct periods of 21st Century Angels Baseball:

2002-09: Golden Age - no comment needed. If you're a Millenial or older, you remember. If you're a Zennial, no, it isn't fake news - the Angels really were one of the half dozen best franchises in baseball for the first decade of the new millenium.

2010-15: Silver Age - At the time it was frustrating, but they won 85+ games in four out of six seasons, and we saw the arrival of the Promised One. Oh, and We Got Pujols; we'll extend Greinke; Hamilton is just so talented, isn't he? 

2016-20: Bronze Age - Things started looking grim, but we got a smart GM in Eppler. Right? 

2020-23: Iron (or Dark) Age - This era, despite the gloriousness of Ohtani, was embodied by Trout's injuries and Rendon's suckitude. It was probably the most dismal three-year span since, I don't know, the early 90s. If you want a Darkest Hour of the Dark Age, it is probably either the losing streak in 2022 or the trade deadline last year and what followed. Or possibly Ohtani signing with the Dodgers. But it's over, right?

Now the ancients had a few different versions of the cycle of ages. One is that the Dark Age eventually led to a new Golden Age. Yeah, right. Another is that the cycles goes back in reverse, and a new "ascending" Bronze Age follows the Dark Age, and then up to Silver and eventually Golden. Seems more plausible - or at least possible. A third is, well, Ragnarok: the Dark Age ends in cataclysm and the world ends.

Let's hope that the trade deadline, team collapse, and departure of Ohtani is that Ragnarok and that we'll get to start seeing the ascent again. I mean, how much worse can it get?

Anyhow, the various factors mentioned above kept the Angels brass from doing what long needed doing: taking stock and pushing the reset button. Of course there wasn't much to take stock of, but at least they could have held off on spending more money on mediocre free agents in a lame attempt to kinda compete each year.

So now Ohtani's gone and the Angels had one of their quietest offseasons in the last couple decades: No big splashes, no long contracts at all, just a handful of gap-fills and somewhat random free agent signings. It was a bit confusing at first, because Minasian's early offseason emphasis on building a stronger bullpen implied that he was going to go big on free agency. But nothing significant manifested -- no new starting position players or pitchers, just a handful of bench and bullpen guys. 

Barring a last minute Snellsplash, it looks like the Angels are truly--and finally--taking a beat, taking stock, and maybe eventually replenishing the farm a bit (barring contention come trade deadline). And I say, hallelujah! It is long overdue.

Consider the above as being a summation of my offseason thoughts, with the disclaimer that I've only paid passing attention the last few months and haven't really followed the Cactus League. On to part two...

Part Two: 2024 - the Year of Stock-Taking 

Here's the new part, or at least new to me. "Taking stock" implies seeing how good the young guys are. But I think that is somewhat secondary to the Minasian Plan. We know that in 2025 and beyond, the under-25s of Detmers, Silseth, O'Hoppe, Neto and Schanuel will be around - there isn't really a likely scenario in which they don't form the nucleus of whatever this iteration of the Angels morphs into. But what Minasian will really be looking at, aside from whether (and to what degree) Trout and Rendon can salvage their careers, is how the not-so-young guys will do. Meaning, the 25-30 group that includes Sandoval, Canning, Ward, Rengifo, Adell, and Moniak.

Really, it is all of the above and more - but I wanted to highlight that middle group, because those are the guys who are "on the clock" in one form or fashion. Sandoval and Canning have shown promise but struggled at various points in their career; Ward is coming off a major injury and it remains to be who the real Taylor Ward is; Rengifo is deciding whether he's going to be a quality regular or a bench guy; and Adell and Moniak are fighting for a starting gig, and at least for Adell, whether or not he's an Angel long-term.

So in summary, we have several groups that bear watching:

The young pups (under 25): Detmers, Silseth, O'Hoppe, Neto, Schanuel, also Joyce, Bachman, and Soriano (who is 25, but belongs with this group). 

The mid guys (age 25-30): Sandoval, Canning, Ward, Rengifo, Adell, Moniak, and Suarez.

The old guys (over 30s): Trout and Rendon.

The mercs (possible trade fodder): Anderson, Drury, most of the bullpen, especially Estevez, Moore, and Stephenson.

The last group, the "mercs," are solid players but are ultimately expendable, and the type of guys you dangle in July if you're out of the playoff hunt. Meaning, they only "stock-taking" is whether any of them have value - either for an unlikely postseason hunt in the second half or, more likely, as trade fodder.

The young guys are here to stay and are the nucleus for the next half decade plus, along with Old Man Trout. The middle guys are the ones whose place on the Angels are most in question - thus my relating the term "taking stock" most especially to them. Minasian will be looking at who is worth keeping and who joins the trade fodder, in the likelihood that the Angels are sellers in July.

Not sure what to say about the Decrepit Duo that hasn't already been said. The hope is obviously that both have a renaissance of some kind - that Trout returns at least to 2022 form but with better health, and Rendon is at least a solid on-base hitter. I'm guessing that of the two, he team's hopes is 95% on Trout, and anything Rendon produces is viewed as a pleasant surprise.

All of the above are under the eye of "taking stock" but, I think, the mid guys most especially. So even if the Angels struggle and don't ever really contend, it should be interesting to see how this year pans out.

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