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OC Register: Angels next GM will face plenty of roster questions to end playoff drought


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The Angels next general manager will likely have a busy offseason.

Billy Eppler was fired on Sunday, following five straight losing seasons that no doubt frustrated owner Arte Moreno as well as the fans.

Mike Trout is certainly frustrated, as he said on Saturday that the time is now for the Angels to do what it takes to get to the postseason. They haven’t been there since 2014, the only postseason appearance in Trout’s nine full seasons.

The Angels current roster has some clear holes, and some more subtle ones. It starts, of course, with pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. The Angels also could have a middle infield question, depending largely on the first roster decision that will face the new GM.

Andrelton Simmons and Julio Teheran are the only two free agents, but Simmons is the only one who would be a reasonable candidate for a qualifying offer.

The Angels will need to decide within a few days of the end of the World Series whether to make Simmons a qualifying offer. Simmons’ decision to opt-out of the final five games of the regular season does not impact his eligibility.

The exact figure isn’t yet determined, but it’s expected to be something between $17 million and $18 million. If the Angels make Simmons a qualifying offer, and he rejects it, the Angels would get a draft pick as compensation if he signs elsewhere.

The other benefit for the Angels is that the team that signs Simmons would lose a draft pick, which could make other teams less interested and therefore reduce his market value if the Angels want to re-sign him later.

Simmons could also accept the offer, which would mean he would be back for one more year at that salary. It would certainly solve the Angels infield questions, with Simmons at shortstop and David Fletcher at second.

The downside is that salary would eat into what the Angels have to improve the rest of the roster.

The Angels currently have about $116 million committed for 2021 to Trout ($36 million), Anthony Rendon ($27.5M), Albert Pujols ($30M) and Justin Upton ($23M). For luxury tax purposes, the average annual values are used, not the actual payroll figures, but those just happen to be about equal in 2021.

The Angels also currently have 11 players eligible for arbitration. In order of their service time, they are: Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Hansel Robles, Cam Bedrosian, Matt Andriese, Max Stassi, Jacob Barnes, Noe Ramirez, Keynan Middleton, Shohei Ohtani and Felix Peña.

The total price tag for that entire group would be $30 million to $35 million, although certainly not all of those players will be offered arbitration. The most likely significant cost-cutting move would be to non-tender Robles, saving perhaps $4.5 million.

Assuming around $27 million for the final arbitration class and around $10 million for the pre-arbitration players, that brings the Angels to around $153 million, without Simmons and without adding anyone.

For luxury tax purposes, add another $20 million for bonuses, benefits and minor leaguers on the 40-man roster, and you’re at $173 million. The luxury tax threshold for 2021 is $210 million.

Of course, the Angels have always insisted that their budget is determined by their revenues, not the luxury tax. And this year, it’s impossible to use any historical guidelines to guess where their payroll will fall, because of the unique circumstances.

Not only did the team go without any fans in 2020, but the landscape for 2021 is still uncertain because of the coronavirus. Even if fans are back in the stands next season, there could be attendance limitations that would still reduce revenues.

That’s obviously a larger question that will impact the entire industry, possibly depressing all salaries and making it difficult to assess how the free agent market will look in two months. The market also could be flooded with non-tendered players, creating a whole pool of free agents who aren’t yet identified.

For now, though, the Angels shopping list obviously begins with starting pitching, and the top available starter is Trevor Bauer.

After him, though, the list of prominent free agents are mostly pitchers who are coming off bad years (Jake Odorizzi, Robbie Ray, Mike Minor, Rick Porcello) or injuries (Marcus Stroman, Corey Kluber, James Paxton, Jose Quintana). Two free agent pitchers who hardly qualify as aces, but are healthy and coming off good seasons, are Kevin Gausman and Taijuan Walker.

The trade market is dicey as well. There are not likely to be any top-of-the-rotation pitchers available, so the possible options include Lance Lynn, Joe Musgrove, Danny Duffy, Matthew Boyd, Yusei Kikuchi and Alex Cobb.

The Angels could target just one or two starters, depending who they get and the new GM’s confidence in the current group. Bundy, Heaney and Griffin Canning would seem to be safe bets for the rotation, and Jaime Barria and Patrick Sandoval could fit at the back. Shohei Ohtani could fit anywhere, from the top to not at all.

The new GM will also have some work to do in the bullpen. Eppler’s policy was not to spend big money on relievers because they were so volatile, and he annually turned up a few pleasant surprises from the scrap heap, from Bud Norris to Blake Parker to Robles to Mike Mayers.

If Eppler’s successor chooses to make bigger deals for the bullpen, the free agent closer class includes Liam Hendriks, Alex Colome, Mark Melancon and Trevor Rosenthal. There are endless possibilities for trades or free agents among setup relievers.

Beyond the pitching staff, the Angels most pressing needs would seem to be in the middle infield, if Simmons doesn’t return, and perhaps at catcher. Max Stassi would certainly be more than adequate behind the plate if his offensive breakout this season is sustainable. On the infield, Luis Rengifo is the obvious choice to replace Simmons. He didn’t have a good offensive season, but he’s still 23 and has shown potential.

If the Angels chose to trade from their major league roster to make upgrades, the most likely players who could be dangled would seem to be Rengifo, Taylor Ward and Matt Thaiss among position players, and perhaps Sandoval, Barria, Jose Suarez or Keynan Middleton among the pitchers. They also could trade prospect Brandon Marsh if they believe the outfield is set with Upton, Trout and Jo Adell.

All of this work will start immediately for whoever is hired as the general manager, in order to get the Angels where everyone around the organization expects them to be.

“I don’t like not being involved in the playoffs,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “And I really want to challenge our guys that this is the last time this occurs for many years to come. We need to be an annual playoff team, but there are things we need to do to do to earn that right.”

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I disagree.  They need a one, they need a couple of bullpen arms, they need a AAAA catcher and they need a veteran 4th outfielder.  The last two you can pick up for next to nothing.  What I would like to see them do would be a lot more than that, but that is what I think it will take to be competitive. 

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I actually think it is relatively straight forward. 

1. Let Simmons and Teheran go.

2. Go with Rengifo, Barreto, and possibly Jones at 2B.

3. Sign the best starter you can. That's unlikely to be Bauer, but one of Odorizzi, Ray, Stroman, or Gausman.

4. Trade for or sign a low-cost second starter, as depth.

5. Pick and choose among the bullpen pitchers, letting a couple go that cost more in arbitration and/or are lesser talents. The rest of the bullpen can be fleshed out with rotation depth and a free agent or two.

6. Sign a reliable relief pitcher to bolster bullpen.

7. Sign a platoon/back-up catcher.

 

Everything else is optional and unnecessary, so should be done with moderation. For instance, they can kick the tire on trades, but should do so only if made an offer they can't refuse. If they don't spend too much on pitching, they can go with a more reliable 2B or SS, like Cesar Hernandez, Brad Miller, Jurickson Profar, Jonathan Villar, or Didi Gregorious. Or they could go balls-deep and go after DJ LeMahieu or Marcus Semien, but they almost certainly won't have the money, unless they bomb on pitching or make a trade or two. They could also sign a journeyman 4th outfielder, but also could start with Ward in RF and Hermosillo as 4OF, or Marsh when he's ready.

The team as currently configured--without any major additions--probably wins 85 games next year. With my numbered suggestions above, they pushes them to 90+. They don't need Bauer or to make a huge trade that empties the farm system. They just need to add a handful of solid to good players.

Edited by Angelsjunky
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4 minutes ago, mymerlincat said:

I'm seeing a lot of talk about moving on from Simmons but not a lot of talk about how people expect to fix the defense if we let him go.

Simmons is becoming less effective defensively had a 2 error game this season.  His bat is also mediocre and his OPS sub par, his price is just too high for similar production out of Rengifo.  Simmons is also not an OBP focused guy like Rengifo who will be a nightmare on the bases.

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40 minutes ago, Lou said:

You don't think Stassi and Bemboom are sufficient?

Sufficient, yes. But what if one goes down with injury? I like Bemboom well enough, but he's more the type of guy that you want as your third option.

Now if Ward and/or Thaiss pick up a catching mitt at the AFL, that's a different matter.

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I expect a lot of trades.

I think the new GM is going to trade for one of the upcoming FA shortstops on a one year deal; Lindor, Story, maybe Baez. Go hard after Gausman, and maybe a cheap upside arm. I imagine we see a trade for a more reliable relief pitcher or two as well. In addition I expect a move for a veteran outfielder similar to the canceled Job Pederson deal... maybe a guy like Robbie Grossman.

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It's gonna be interesting to see what happens. Regardless of who the GM is, they aren't gonna have an emotional attachment to any of these guys because they drafted none of them. The new GM isn't gonna worry about guys he liked in high school, college, and the minors. Instead, he's just gonna worry about improving the team. Even if it isn't Dombrowski.

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6 minutes ago, Trendon said:

It's gonna be interesting to see what happens. Regardless of who the GM is, they aren't gonna have an emotional attachment to any of these guys because they drafted none of them. The new GM isn't gonna worry about guys he liked in high school, college, and the minors. Instead, he's just gonna worry about improving the team. Even if it isn't Dombrowski.

Unless of course the new GM valued those guys when they were in high school or college before the Angels hired him to be their GM. 

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1 hour ago, AngelsLakersFan said:

I expect a lot of trades.

I think the new GM is going to trade for one of the upcoming FA shortstops on a one year deal; Lindor, Story, maybe Baez. Go hard after Gausman, and maybe a cheap upside arm. I imagine we see a trade for a more reliable relief pitcher or two as well. In addition I expect a move for a veteran outfielder similar to the canceled Job Pederson deal... maybe a guy like Robbie Grossman.

I also expect a lot of trades.  It's likely whoever takes over has a different view of the various prospects we have and will want to immediately start overhauling the roster.  It should be a very interesting offseason, for sure.

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19 minutes ago, Warfarin said:

I also expect a lot of trades.  It's likely whoever takes over has a different view of the various prospects we have and will want to immediately start overhauling the roster.  It should be a very interesting offseason, for sure.

I actually don't think we're gonna see much of an overhaul.  I could be wrong but I think most of the existing offense/defense will stay intact.  They'll add a starter and a couple of pen arms.  

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Our lineup is good enough too 10 or arguably top 5. The Angels need pitching pitching and more pitching that is it. If they can find a way to jettison Pujols and Upton that would be great too to save payroll but that’s not happening. All this team needs is pitching and we are a contender simple enough. 

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2 hours ago, Stradling said:

Ok, then I guess we should expect Bundy to be a borderline Ace, Mike Myers to be an amazing closer and for Trout to mortal.  

I expect Trout to be more mortal than what he has been previously. He’s getting older and he has a lot of wear and tear. I expect him to be all star and mvp level but not super hero anymore. 

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