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OC Register: Angels still looking for pitchers and a catcher as winter meetings begin

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LAS VEGAS — When the offseason began, the Angels were looking for pitching, pitching, pitching … and a catcher.

Two months later, as MLB’s Winter Meetings begin, not much has changed.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler has so far accomplished only a few minor tweaks to his roster, with the heavy lifting still to come.

“I feel optimistic that there are things we can do to the club to make us better,” Eppler said before heading to Las Vegas for the winter meetings, which begin officially on Monday. “We’ll see how those lay themselves out in the next week or the coming weeks, and further understand what can be reality and what cannot be reality.”

And what moves are the Angels considering?

Keeping his options open, as usual, Eppler narrowed the possibilities only slightly.

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“I’d say the the majority of our conversations have surrounded pitching and catching, but we’ve been engaged with some infielders on a couple things,” he said.

Although another first baseman to provide some depth behind Albert Pujols – coming off knee surgery – would be a plus, the Angels’ most pressing needs are pitching and a catcher.

The starting rotation currently includes Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Jaime Barría, Nick Tropeano and Felix Peña.

That leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Because the Angels probably would like to add multiple starters, it is less likely that they’d go after the top remaining free agent starter, Dallas Keuchel. He will probably command a salary of more than $20 million per year, which would limit what the Angels can do around him.

J.A. Happ could also get an annual salary approaching that amount, but for fewer years, because he’s 36.

After those two, the list of free agent starters includes pitchers like Gio Gonzalez, Lance Lynn and Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi. Wade Miley, Mike Fiers, Clay Buchholz and Derek Holland also fit for the Angels.

The Angels are also no doubt looking at the trade market, with Sonny Gray being the most obvious fit who is certain to be traded. The Angels would also no doubt have interest in Julio Teheran if the Atlanta Braves make him available. They could even make a run at Zack Greinke, who is most certainly available, although the Diamondbacks will have to eat a large chunk of his remaining contract to move him and Greinke is believed to have included most of the California teams in his no-trade clause.

Eppler said he’s also looking for relief pitchers, although his history has shown that he is not inclined to spend much on relievers. High-profile relievers like Craig Kimbrel, Kelvin Herrera or Andrew Miller are probably out, but they could look at one of the dozens of lower-level relievers on the market.

On the position player side of things, catcher remains their most pressing need. They have José Briceño and Kevan Smith on the 40-man roster, and they signed Dustin Garneau to a minor league deal.

If they want to go big at that position, they could try to trade for J.T. Realmuto. The Marlins are reportedly looking for a major league-ready young player, so the best the Angels could do would be a package based around Matt Thaiss, Taylor Ward or Luis Rengifo.

Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos are the top free agent catchers, but both have some defensive red flags, as well as their age. Grandal is 30 and Ramos is 31.

If the Angels add anyone who isn’t a pitcher or catcher, it would probably be someone who could play first base. Ideally, that player could play first and another position, so he could fill in for Pujols when he’s not available, but play somewhere else when he is.

When any of this happens is anyone guess, although it’s worth noting that in the previous three offseasons that Eppler has been the general manager, he’s added at least one everyday player during the Winter Meetings or shortly after. He picked up Yunel Escobar in 2015, Danny Espinosa and Martín Maldonado in 2016 and Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart in 2017.

“It’s hard to forecast an open market and what you might walk away with from the market,” Eppler said. “We have resources at our disposal. We are looking for a situation where we feel the price of the acquisition and the value added to our run-scoring or run-prevention intersect. When we do, we’ll take that player down.”

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On 12/9/2018 at 7:01 AM, AngelsWin.com said:

. “We have resources at our disposal. We are looking for a situation where we feel the price of the acquisition and the value added to our run-scoring or run-prevention intersect. When we do, we’ll take that player down.”

View the full article


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