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OC Register: GM meetings accelerate critical winter for Angels, GM Billy Eppler

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When Billy Eppler convenes with his colleagues at baseball’s GM meetings, starting on Monday, it will signal an acceleration into the business of what appears to be a critical winter for the organization.

Two months ago the Angels merely picked up Eppler’s option, rather than extending his contract. Then they fired manager Brad Ausmus with two years left on his deal and replaced him with Joe Maddon.

Those moves would seem to indicate that patience is running thin from owner Arte Moreno after the team’s fourth straight losing season.

“We are in the entertainment business,” Moreno said at Maddon’s introductory press conference a couple weeks ago. “If you want people coming to the ballpark, or watching or listening, you want to be able to put a product out there… We have a lot of loyal fans. We’ve built a loyal fan base, but the reality is we need to perform, so when people come out here they have a little more fun. It’s more fun on the winning side.”

For his part, Eppler insisted he is feeling no more pressure than at any other time during his tenure. Having come from the high-intensity world of the New York Yankees, Eppler said he tries to maintain the same philosophy each year.

“I approach every season like it’s my first year on the job, regardless of if it’s my fifth year, 10th year, whatever,” he said. “I grew up in a pretty adverse environment in New York. I had a lot of training. I understand you focus on what you can control, focus on doing your job, focus on putting the strongest team that you can on the field, and let everything happen as it comes.”

Skeptical fans will certainly question Eppler’s plan after what happened last winter. The Angels brought in Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey, Cody Allen, Jonathan Lucroy and Justin Bour, and none of them delivered.

As the Angels head into this offseason, there are a few reasons to believe that this winter could work out better.

First, Moreno has indicated that the payroll will go up, although it remains to be seen how much. The Angels figure to have at least $30 million, plus whatever increase Moreno makes available. Given his frustration with the team’s performance after last year’s deals, it’s reasonable to suspect that Moreno may be willing to open his wallet a little more to acquire a higher caliber of player.

Also, this year there is a much deeper pool from which to fill the Angels’ most glaring need: starting pitching. Last winter Patrick Corbin was the best pitcher available. The Angels tried to sign Corbin, but the East Coast native instead picked the Washington Nationals. They also tried to sign Nate Eovaldi, arguably the second-best starter on the market, but he returned to the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox. After that, there was Dallas Keuchel, whose demands were apparently high enough that no team signed him until June. Then the choices dropped off to pitchers like Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ.

This year, the group starts with Gerrit Cole, who is a native of Orange County and has been widely connected to the Angels. Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jake Odorizzi, Cole Hamels and Keuchel are all on the market.

There are also a handful of mid-tier pitchers who could be back-of-the rotation innings-eaters, at least, including Julio Teheran, Kyle Gibson and Tanner Roark.

That’s a much stronger collection of arms than was available last year.

Although it may seem difficult to squeeze two pitchers out of that group with the Angels available payroll space, even with an increase, bear in mind that they can always backload contracts. They could pay less up front, and more after Albert Pujols comes off the books in 2022.

The Angels also might explore a trade for a controllable pitcher like Noah Syndergaard or Matthew Boyd, who they discussed at last July’s deadline. Less likely, they could try to swing a deal for a one-year rental like Robbie Ray.

In truth, the Angels probably need to find a way to get at least two reliable starters, supplementing a rotation that was decimated last year by injuries, poor performance and the tragic loss of Tyler Skaggs.

As of now, the Angels are probably locked in to having Shohei Ohtani — who will be back as a two-way player after Tommy John surgery — in front of Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning.

Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barría, José Suarez, Dillon Peters and Félix Peña will all be around for depth, but the Angels will certainly prefer to let one or two of those pitchers surprise them, rather than count on them for a prominent role.

Beyond starting pitching, the Angels could probably stand to upgrade at catcher. They have Max Stassi, who is coming off hip surgery, and Kevan Smith. Yasmani Grandal is the top free agent catcher, although it’s difficult to imagine the Angels being able to afford him while still making the necessary upgrades to the rotation. Cheaper alternatives include Travis d’Arnaud, Robinson Chirinos and Martín Maldonado. A former Angel, Maldonado became Cole’s personal catcher at the end of this season in Houston.

 

The good news is that the Angels can probably afford to stand pat everywhere except the rotation, and possibly behind the plate. Position players like David Fletcher, Tommy La Stella, Brian Goodwin and Luís Rengifo all emerged into 2019 as productive major leaguers, and Jo Adell figures to be on the way. Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons both had down seasons because of injuries, so the Angels can be optimistic that they’ll rebound.

 

And, of course, this winter they also have one element they didn’t last winter: They know Mike Trout’s future. Having inked Trout to a 12-year, $426.5-million deal in March, the Angels not only have the certainty of having him on the roster, but they can use that to sell to other free agents who a year ago may have been unsure.

All of that provides a foundation on which Eppler will need to start building something better than what he has so far.

“We thought we were being active last year,” Moreno said. “We just didn’t get it done. We want to win… Every year, the way I want to run our business, we shouldn’t be taking steps back.”

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I'm liking the idea of Cole and Teheran. Not that Teheran is a great choice, as his peripherals are scary. I just think he'll cost less than Odorizzi, but will put up similar production and won't cost a draft pick. Hell, I could see him take a 1-year deal hoping to up his value and cash out as a free agent in 2021 as a 30 year old. 

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1 hour ago, tdawg87 said:

I'm liking the idea of Cole and Teheran. Not that Teheran is a great choice, as his peripherals are scary. I just think he'll cost less than Odorizzi, but will put up similar production and won't cost a draft pick. Hell, I could see him take a 1-year deal hoping to up his value and cash out as a free agent in 2021 as a 30 year old. 

I like Teheran too, but only if he's a third option.  Sort of like Cole Hamels.  He'd be good too as a third option.  For a second option, I'm really hoping to see Wheeler, Ryu or Odorizzi.  But they'd likely cost too much to add Teheran into the equation.  I'm also not jazzed about forfeiting two draft picks and international bonus slots.  That's why I'm hoping Ryu somehow lands in our lap.  Doesn't have any draft pick or bonus slot compensation.  That way you're not giving up too much down the road either. 

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Agreed with @Second Base. If we’re thinking about making a run deep in the playoffs it’ll take Cole, Wheeler and a good arm via trade. If the Syndergaard idea is a real possibility then that would be solid. Angels could roll with Cole, Thor, Ohtani, Heaney, Canning, Suarez/Sandoval. 
 

But I’d like the see them not be afraid to sign Cole and Wheeler then maybe mid season looks to acquire someone like Thor. That would give us the solid rotation needed for the playoffs. 
 

You look at all these teams that win a World Series and what do they have in common? An absolute solid rotation. If we think signing Cole and then going for a #4-#5 guy will do it then we’re not ready for a deep playoff run and Eppler/Arte need to get the hell out. I wouldn’t mind trading Marsh ONLY IF that gives us our third solid arm of the rotation. Don’t be afraid to give money to Cole and Wheeler then make a trade for that third piece. 

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1 hour ago, Second Base said:

I like Teheran too, but only if he's a third option.  Sort of like Cole Hamels.  He'd be good too as a third option.  For a second option, I'm really hoping to see Wheeler, Ryu or Odorizzi.  But they'd likely cost too much to add Teheran into the equation.  I'm also not jazzed about forfeiting two draft picks and international bonus slots.  That's why I'm hoping Ryu somehow lands in our lap.  Doesn't have any draft pick or bonus slot compensation.  That way you're not giving up too much down the road either. 

This. They need all three: Cole, Wheeler, and Teheran.

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Looking at the market, there appears to be more options for the 'third guy' where as who the 'second guy' should be has been debated and a lot of them, in my opinion, look like questionable buys (Ryu, Odorizzi).

Perhaps we go for two 'third' guys and end up with something like Cole, Hamels and Hill leaving us enough for Grandal on a backloaded deal.

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Hamels seems destined to head back to Philly but Eppler needs to try to swing a deal for him. That would add a solid veteran presence to the mound. He was pretty good last year when healthy. He struggled a little bit after a DL trip

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Eppler is a pretty smart guy. After putting his blood, sweat, and tears into this organization since he has had the helm, he has to know it's on the line this year. He has done a remarkable job of turning this team around from top to bottom but the one thing missing is results. Arte is raising the budget, capable talent is on the market, and he now has an undisputedly successful manager.

This season is do or die for Eppler and he knows it. No more pressure than before? Hogwash.

 

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6 hours ago, Second Base said:

I like Teheran too, but only if he's a third option.  Sort of like Cole Hamels.  He'd be good too as a third option.  For a second option, I'm really hoping to see Wheeler, Ryu or Odorizzi.  But they'd likely cost too much to add Teheran into the equation.  I'm also not jazzed about forfeiting two draft picks and international bonus slots.  That's why I'm hoping Ryu somehow lands in our lap.  Doesn't have any draft pick or bonus slot compensation.  That way you're not giving up too much down the road either. 

I know Cole is worth a second round draft pick, and pretty sure Wheeler and Odorizzo are both worth a third round pick. Draft picks are never a guarantee of anything, where as those pitchers are field tested and ready to go now, not in 2 or 3 years down the road. I hope with the next CBA they eliminate the losing of a draft pick and just give teams a supplemental pick as compensation for losing a player whose been given a QO.

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4 minutes ago, Ace-Of-Diamonds said:

I know Cole is worth a second round draft pick, and pretty sure Wheeler and Odorizzo are both worth a third round pick. Draft picks are never a guarantee of anything, where as those pitchers are field tested and ready to go now, not in 2 or 3 years down the road. I hope with the next CBA they eliminate the losing of a draft pick and just give teams a supplemental pick as compensation for losing a player whose been given a QO.

The second round is where we've landed Brandon Marsh, Griffin Canning, Jeremiah Jackson and Kyren Paris in the last for years, each of which either grew into, has become, or will grow into one of the top prospects in the system that isn't that empty anymore, which is saying something.

And in the third round this year, they came away with Jack Kochanowicz. Most didn't believe he'd sign, and that he'd be a top 10 pick after his Junior year of college. He signed and now the Angels can begin developing him.

And it's not just the draft picks, it's the picks AND the international bonus slots. We've used that money to inject the system with some serious upside that otherwise wouldn't be available. Jose Soriano, Hector Yan, Robinson Pina, Kevin Maitan, Livan Soto, Rainier Rivas, Raider Uceta, Trent Deveaux, D'Shawn Knowles, Alex Ramirez, Arol Vera, Jose Bonilla.

That's a brutal price to sacrifice. For guys like Cole and Wheeler, you've got to do it. But if I have the voice between Ryu and Odorizzi, I'll choose the one that won't cost me another draft pick.

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I wish Eppler all the luck in the world this off season ... as of now, I’m not a fan. Arte is opening up his checkbook, probably for the first time, for Eppler to make good decisions this off season. 
 

 

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21 minutes ago, Second Base said:

The second round is where we've landed Brandon Marsh, Griffin Canning, Jeremiah Jackson and Kyren Paris in the last for four years, each of which either grew into, has become, or will grow into one of the top prospects in the system that isn't that empty anymore, which is saying something.

I would trade anyone of them for Cole. Cole is ready today and it took years from the draft day until they will or did reach the majors and none of them or proven all stars yet. Cole could very win the Cy Young this season.

 

21 minutes ago, Second Base said:

And in the third round this year, they came away with Jack Kochanowicz. Most didn't believe he'd sign, and that he'd be a top 10 pick after his Junior year of college. He signed and now the Angels can begin developing him.

I would trade him foe Wheeler or Odorizzo, a known quantity is worth more than an unknown one at least in near future which is what we need now. We may not be able the afford both Cole and a Wheeler but I wouldn't let a draft pick stop me from trying.

Cowart was a first round pick, how much international money did we spend on Maitan? I'm sure for every successful draft pick there on 2 or 3 that fail.

Edited by Ace-Of-Diamonds

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24 minutes ago, yamsi12 said:

If they don’t sign Cole and either madbum, wheeler or strasburg during these meetings I’ll be pissed.

 

 

i set the bar high.

 

 

i also have a handle of sailor jerry ready when I do get let down.

“Madbum, Wheeler or Strasburg”

One of these is not like the others.

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6 hours ago, Ace-Of-Diamonds said:

I would trade anyone of them for Cole. Cole is ready today and it took years from the draft day until they will or did reach the majors and none of them or proven all stars yet. Cole could very win the Cy Young this season.

 

I would trade him foe Wheeler or Odorizzo, a known quantity is worth more than an unknown one at least in near future which is what we need now. We may not be able the afford both Cole and a Wheeler but I wouldn't let a draft pick stop me from trying.

Cowart was a first round pick, how much international money did we spend on Maitan? I'm sure for every successful draft pick there on 2 or 3 that fail.

Did you not read the part where I said it was worth it for Cole and Wheeler? You must've missed that part.

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Angels are going to sign the three best free agent pitchers on the market and the two best free agent infielders on the market. It will be the first time in history that it will have happened that way. 

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On 11/10/2019 at 5:09 PM, wopphil said:

This. They need all three: Cole, Wheeler, and Teheran.

They do, but the chances of getting all three are incredibly slim.  Even getting two of them would be surprising.

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