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  1. Hello Stewie88,

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  2. Yes, we still have no recent World Series championship banners here, and the search goes on for the cheat code to October. (Then again, maybe we should rephrase that in honor of the Houston Astros.) But Thursday afternoon’s Most Valuable Player announcements, honoring the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, offered a reminder: Southern California baseball fans are blessed. We in this region are treated to individual brilliance on a nightly basis. Trout again reigns as American League MVP, and I’m not sure what’s more striking: That he’s only the sixth three-time winner in the history of the AL award, that since 2012 he’s finished below second only once, that the only guy with more MVP plaques is Barry Bonds with seven … or that in all this time, Trout has participated in one postseason series. He confirmed Thursday, by the way, that he will be as active as the front office needs him to be in recruiting free agents (and if GM Billy Eppler is smart, he’ll have Trout lobbing a call to free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole ASAP). Trout can, if he wishes, encapsulate his pitch in this sentence from Thursday’s conference call: “I wouldn’t have signed the (12-year, $426.5 million) extension if I didn’t think we were going in the right direction.” Trout won this MVP despite not playing after Sept. 7, requiring surgery on his right foot; he verified that he expects to be 100 percent for spring training. But ask yourself how many more games the 72-90 Angels might have lost without him? His bWAR was 8.3, but double digits might be a more reasonable estimate. And he addressed the question that I’m sure some voters and more fans ask: How can you be Most Valuable if your team finishes fourth in the five-team AL West? “I come in every year to try to be the best,” he said. “At the end of the year, if I’m in the conversation, that means I worked hard and had a good year. Obviously, people say you need to make the playoffs. I’m doing everything I can to try to help the team win. … I let other people decide this. I go out there and just put up the best numbers I can.” Meanwhile, up the 5 Freeway, Cody Bellinger’s reinvention in 2019 won him the National League award. And the difference between Bellinger and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Christian Yelich might have been summed up in something that I said at midsummer, but something that was far from an original thought: Wherever Bellinger played – center field, right field, first base – he was the Dodgers’ best defensive player. “I definitely think that helped,” he said on the MLB Network’s awards show. “I don’t know exactly what goes into the votes, but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to show off what I can do this year out there, for sure.” This awards haul for our region is not unprecedented. Trout shared the SoCal spotlight when he won the award for the first time in 2014, because some guy named Clayton Kershaw went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and added the NL MVP to his third Cy Young Award. That was five years ago, and it is a reminder that nothing is guaranteed, given the process of reinvention Kershaw has faced the last few years. He was then 26. Trout is 28. Bellinger is 24. He’s going to be a factor for a while, you’d think. “I’m extremely happy for Bellinger,” Trout said. “He had an incredible year. It seemed like we really couldn’t get him out when we played him. The way he handled his adjustment made it pretty special. … I talk to Dino (Ebel) a little bit, and he says a lot of great things about him.” Ebel, of course, was on Mike Scioscia’s Angels coaching staff for 12 seasons, then moved over to Dave Roberts’ staff with the Dodgers last year. He, too, has been pretty privileged. “The American League (announcement) was after us,” Bellinger said during his conference call, “and my dad (Clay) said, ‘Dude, you won the same award as Trout, and he’s the best player in the history of the game.’ “To even come close to that is amazing. He’s an unbelievable player, and it’s cool playing against him (two series) a year.” Related Articles Angels’ Mike Trout named AL’s Most Valuable Player for 3rd time Angels open to trading young players to fill holes like starting pitching Scott Boras had lunch with Arte Moreno, sparking speculation about Angels’ pursuit of Gerrit Cole Mets’ Jacob deGrom, Astros’ Justin Verlander win 2nd Cy Young Awards; Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu finishes 2nd Angels hire Tony La Russa for advisory role For what it’s worth, it’s the 12th time that players from the same market have won MVP awards in the same season. The Dodgers have been involved in six, but four of them involved Brooklyn and the Yankees. The Trout/Kershaw combination in 2014 spawned a billboard, and an accompanying social media competition, before the following year’s spring training Freeway Series. The slogan: “Is Your MVP Red Or Blue?” (Also for what it’s worth, Trout is 2 for 13 lifetime against Kershaw. Both of his hits came during that 2014 season.) There won’t be that kind of head-to-head when Trout and Bellinger share the field next season. But it will be absolutely worth watching. They might want to start working on the billboard design now. “With the Dodgers, obviously, it’s always a battle when we go up to L.A. and when they come to us,” Trout said, adding: “It’s pretty cool to bring both (MVP) trophies back to Southern California.” There’s one Dodgers-Angels event that would be even better, and it would take place in October. But let’s hold off on that wishful thinking for a while, at least until the Angels assemble the type of team that Trout deserves around him jalexander@scng.com @Jim_Alexander on Twitter View the full article
  3. MIKE TROUT NAMED 2019 AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER ANAHEIM – Angels outfielder Mike Trout today was named the 2019 American League Most Valuable Player in an announcement made by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). It marks the third career MVP award for Trout, who previously won the award in 2014 (unanimously) and 2016. Trout becomes the 11th player to win at least three BBWAA MVP awards and is the sixth to win three times in the American League, joining Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle and Alex Rodriguez. The only player to win more than three MVP Awards in a career is Barry Bonds (7). Trout garnered 17 first place votes and 13 second place votes for a total of 355 points in the balloting process, 20 points ahead of second place finisher Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros (335 points). In his nine Major League seasons, Trout has now finished in the Top 3 of the MVP vote seven times, becoming just the second player all-time to do so, joining current Angels teammate Albert Pujols. The 28-year-old captures the Angels fifth MVP award in franchise history. In 2014, Trout joined Vladimir Guerrero (2004) and Don Baylor (1979) as the only Halos to receive the honors and became the Club’s first multiple winner in 2016. The Angels become the only team in the Majors to have won four MVP Awards across the last 17 years. The New Jersey native finished 2019, batting .291 with 27 doubles, two triples, 45 home runs, 104 RBI, 11 stolen bases, 110 walks and 110 runs scored. He led the league in both OBP (.438) and slugging percentage (.645) for the second time in his career (also 2017) and joined Mantle and Ty Cobb as the only center fielders to lead their league in both categories in multiple seasons. Additionally, he reached the 100 runs plateau for the seventh time in his career and became the fifth player in MLB history to score 100 runs seven times by his age-27 season, joining: Mantle, Rodriguez, Hank Aaron and Mel Ott. Trout’s resume now includes three A.L. MVP Awards (2014, 2016 and 2019), an A.L. Rookie of the Year Award (2012), eight All-Star Game selections (2012-19), two All-Star Game MVP honors (2014 and 2015), seven Silver Slugger Awards (2012-16, ’18-19) and two A.L. Hank Aaron Award (2014 & 2019). A BBWAA conference call will be held tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET (5:00 p.m. PT) with Mike Trout. The number to call in is (877) 256-6029. Please note that questions are reserved for BBWAA members only. All other media outlets are invited to join the call in listen-only mode. Statements from Angels manager Joe Maddon and hitting coach Jeremy Reed Angels Manager Joe Maddon – “Mike is a one of a kind player. There is no comparison that I've seen since 1981, when I began as a Coach, Manager and Scout. His complete skill set is generational and stands up to every era that participated in our game. He is the player I would recommend be required watching by all youngsters who want to become a Major Leaguer – Be Like Mike!” Angels Hitting Coach Jeremy Reed – “Mike’s abilities simply continue to amaze. He is a MVP on and off the field. His determination to be the best drives him to new levels each day. Mike’s passion to win helps elevate the organization as a whole. I’m blessed to work with him and I have the best seat in the house to watch greatness. Mike has combined his God-given physical skills with a mind-set that is equally as strong. His work ethic on a daily basis never alters from day one of Spring Training through the end of the season, yet one of the most impressive aspects of Mike is his non-stop support and encouragement of his teammates. In the clubhouse, in the dugout or on the field, nobody is better!” View the full article
  4. Mike Trout joined an exclusive club by winning his third career MVP award on Thursday afternoon, outpolling Alex Bregman in the closest election of Trout’s career. The Angels star earned 17 of the 30 first-place votes, cast by two baseball writers representing each city in the American League. The other 13 first-place votes went to Bregman, the Houston Astros infielder. Trout finished with 355 points in the weighted voting system, just 20 more than Bregman. In the previous six years in which Trout had finished first or second, the closest race was in 2016. That year, Trout won by 46 points, with a 19-9 advantage over Mookie Betts in first-place votes. Trout became the 11th player to win the MVP at least three times, including teammate Albert Pujols, who won three times with the St. Louis Cardinals. Barry Bonds is the all-time leader with seven MVPs. Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Alex Rodriguez and Mike Schmidt also won three MVPs. Trout, who also won in 2014 and 2016, has also finished second four times. In his eight full seasons, his lowest finish was fourth, when he was hurt for two months in 2017. This year, Trout said he had what he believed was his best season. He hit .291 with a career-high 45 homers, to go with a major league-leading .438 on-base percentage and a league-leading .645 slugging percentage. However, the MVP race was in doubt for two main reasons. The Angels finished 72-90, far out of the race for the postseason. Although team performance has become less significant than in the past among MVP voters, it still was likely an issue in the eyes of many. Bregman helped the Astros to a division title. Also, Trout missed the final three weeks of the season because of surgery to remove a Morton’s neuroma in his right foot. Trout played 134 games and he had 600 plate appearances, while Bregman played 156 games with 690 plate appearances. Bregman also had on his resume that he had moved from third base to shortstop to help the Astros while Carlos Correa was injured. Related Articles Angels open to trading young players to fill holes like starting pitching Scott Boras had lunch with Arte Moreno, sparking speculation about Angels’ pursuit of Gerrit Cole Mets’ Jacob deGrom, Astros’ Justin Verlander win 2nd Cy Young Awards; Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu finishes 2nd Angels hire Tony La Russa for advisory role Dodgers, Angels respond to Astros sign-stealing allegations Despite that, enough writers cast their votes for Trout, 28, to get him the award. In the first season after signing a 12-year, $426.5-million contract, Trout, 28, delivered exactly the type of season the Angels have come to expect. He has posted an OPS of at least .939 in each of his eight full seasons. He has been over 1.000 each of the past three years. According to Baseball-Reference, he has amassed a cumulative WAR of 72.5 in his career, which ranks 87th in major league history, despite having played just eight seasons. “One of the greatest players that I’ve ever laid my eyes on, and one of the better people I’ve also been around inside this game,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said from this week’s GM Meetings. “Great ambassador, total role model, yeah, he’s awesome.” Trout also took a greater leadership role with the Angels this year, helping guiding them after the tragic loss of Tyler Skaggs, who was one of his closest friends. “I’m about as proud of him as I could ever be of anybody,” Eppler said. “He means a lot to this organization.” More to come on this story. The Mike Trout archive Angels’ Mike Trout wins seventh Silver Slugger award Angels’ Mike Trout wins Hank Aaron Award, Sporting News Player of the Year Angels’ Mike Trout talks about the MVP, injuries and hope for the future Angels make Mike Trout’s 12-year, $426.5-million deal official Mike Trout is a believer in the Angels’ long-term plan View the full article
  5. SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For all the talk about the free-agent starting pitching market, Billy Eppler believes the Angels are well positioned to make some noise in the trade market too. As he left the GM Meetings on Thursday morning, the Angels’ general manager said he’d made progress in terms of realizing what acquisitions were realistic and which ones weren’t. He also said he believes the Angels have valuable commodities to trade if the right deal is there. He’s talking about young players, obviously, but not just the minor-league prospects most associate with trades. “We have probably the most valuable type of players you can trade,” Eppler said. “They are 0-to-3 (service time) players that we’ve stripped out a lot of the risk because they are pretty much there.” Pitchers like Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, José Suarez, Jaime Barría, Dillon Peters and Félix Peña, and position players like David Fletcher, Luís Rengifo, Taylor Ward, Matt Thaiss and Jared Walsh, have all touched down in the big leagues, to varying extents. They also have two top prospects – Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh – who have yet to make their debuts. To varying degrees, all of those players could be attractive to other clubs. Eppler had said a day earlier that he didn’t consider any player to be “untouchable.” That being said, it would be stunning if the Angels traded Adell, considering he’s the best prospect they’ve had since Mike Trout and has a big-league spot waiting for him. “I think we can match up in deals, just about any deal,” Eppler said. “If clubs are willing to engage, we can engage.” The starting pitching trade market includes Detroit’s Matt Boyd, who has three years left; Colorado’s Jon Gray, who has two years left; and Arizona’s Robby Ray and the Cubs’ José Quintana, each with one year left. The Angels also could entertain trades for higher-priced pitchers, who would essentially be salary dumps from their current teams, like Pittsburgh’s Chris Archer or San Francisco’s Jeff Samardzija. The prospect cost for a player like that would be minimal, unless the Angels also wanted the other team to pay down some salary. CALLAWAY’S IMPACT The Angels’ hopes for upgrading their pitching hinge not only on getting some new pitchers, but also on new pitching coach Mickey Callaway. Callaway enjoyed a five-year run of success as the Cleveland Indians’ pitching coach before his two-year stint as the New York Mets’ manager. Eppler said he was sold on Callaway in part because of how well they clicked during an early phone conversation. “I like to look down at the phone and look at how long I’ve been on, and if I’m thinking in my mind it’s been 30 minutes and I look down and its been an hour 45, that’s usually a really good sign,” Eppler said. “We connected very well.” WHO’S ON FIRST? Albert Pujols started 98 games at first base in 2019, leaving 64 for other players. Considering Shohei Ohtani’s return to pitching will provide more DH availability for Pujols, who will turn 40, it’s reasonable to assume the Angels are going to need to fill an increased number of games at first from other players in 2020. Related Articles Scott Boras had lunch with Arte Moreno, sparking speculation about Angels’ pursuit of Gerrit Cole Mets’ Jacob deGrom, Astros’ Justin Verlander win 2nd Cy Young Awards; Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu finishes 2nd Angels hire Tony La Russa for advisory role Dodgers, Angels respond to Astros sign-stealing allegations Angels pondering rotation configuration around Shohei Ohtani Eppler said he’s comfortable that Walsh or Thaiss can take the next step to be productive enough to fill in those gaps. “Those guys had some pretty good moments and showed that they were taking that first step and competing and they are at that age and experience level where it’s reasonable to expect growth and improvement,” Eppler said. “I’d like to see how those guys respond to more at-bats and see how they go from there.” Tommy La Stella also worked out at first last year, and could see some time there in 2020. View the full article
  6. SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In the middle of Scott Boras’ traditional media scrum at the GM Meetings, during which delivers carefully crafted one-liners amid a torrent of words meant to prime the market for his clients, the baseball super agent dropped this nugget. He had lunch with Arte Moreno just “the other day.” “It was good,” Boras said Wednesday of his meeting with the Angels owner. “He’s a guy that we talk baseball all the time. He’s very, very into the game. He’s really wanting to advance the interest of his franchise.” While there was no indication that this was anything more than a routine meeting, it certainly stokes plenty of intrigue, as well as tossing water on the decade-old narrative that Moreno and Boras don’t get along. Boras is the agent for Gerrit Cole, the top pitcher on this winter’s free-agent market. Cole is an Orange County native who most in the industry believe prefers to play on the West Coast. The Angels have made no secret of the fact that they need pitching, and are prepared to shop at the highest levels. Boras wouldn’t indulge further questions about the nature of his lunch with Moreno, or who else might have been there. “I don’t want to give you the lunch roster,” he said. Boras then added, unsolicited, that “Andrew Friedman was not at that lunch, by the way.” Friedman is the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. Cole, who starred at Orange Lutheran High and UCLA, certainly could help the Dodgers, as well as the Angels. Boras, in typical fashion, suggested that every team ought to be after his client. “If this were Major League Christmas, we would be looking at 30 stockings that would clearly want a lump of Cole,” Boras said with a grin. That being said, the Angels figure to be on the short list. Boras made a point of saying that geography doesn’t give them an advantage, although obviously he doesn’t want to scare East Coast teams out of the bidding. “I don’t think geography matters to any of these guys as much as what matters is the continuance of winning and being able to achieve their goal of getting that rare win,” Boras said. “In Gerrit’s case, when you’re that close, you’re really looking at this process as one that ‘I’ve got a box to check and I want to go out and put together the best effort to put me in that position to do that.’” Cole and the Houston Astros lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Washington Nationals last month. Whoever signs the 29-year-old Cole is likely going to have to pay in excess of $30 million per year for at least seven years. Many have suspected that process will drag past the new year, reminiscent of Bryce Harper’s negotiations last winter. Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in late February, days after the start of spring training. Boras, who is also Harper’s agent, said he didn’t anticipate Cole taking that long. He said a report that Cole would not sign until January is “inaccurate.” Boras said “all” of his free agents “have the possibility of signing much earlier than that. The clubs are wanting meetings and they are wanting to get in front of the players. They are all telling me they are wanting to make much earlier decisions. I did not hear any of that last year.” Of course, every word out of Boras’ mouth is part of the negotiation. He obviously wants teams to believe there is fierce early interest in his clients, which encourages larger offers earlier. Boras’ negotiating tactics back in 2008 caused some friction with Moreno. The Angels had been trying to bring back Mark Teixeira when they reportedly pulled their offer, believing that Boras was simply using them to drive up the cost for other teams. Teixeira ended up signing with the New York Yankees. Boras said Wednesday that any conflict with Moreno is ancient history. “It’s so distant I don’t remember it,” he said. “I sit down with (Moreno) every year. I see him all the time. We have a common restaurant where we run into one another. I wouldn’t read much into it.” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said that he’s seen no evidence of any friction between Moreno and Boras. Eppler said his relationship with Boras has been good for 17 years, since Eppler was starting out as an amateur scout in Southern California. Eppler said he has lunch with Boras every winter, although he wouldn’t say if this winter’s meeting had happened yet. At some point, presumably Cole will have a meeting with Eppler, Moreno and probably Manager Joe Maddon, and they’ll have their chance to demonstrate to him that he should sign with the Angels. As far as Boras is concerned, the sooner all that happens, the better. “I think any player wants to sign early,” Boras said. “I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t want to have this process done to his satisfaction (early). Obviously you have to have meetings and you through an inaugural conceptual exchange with franchises you are going to be working with for a long period of time. Those are things that are organic to the process. But any player wants to sign early.” View the full article
  7. Hyun-Jin Ryu’s elite season in 2019 will earn him millions of dollars this winter as a free agent. But it wasn’t enough to earn him the National League Cy Young Award. New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom was a near-unanimous choice for the award, receiving 29 of the 30 first-place votes to win his second consecutive NL Cy Young Award. DeGrom is the 20th pitcher to win multiple Cy Youngs and the 11th to win it consecutively, joining Max Scherzer (2017-2016) and Clayton Kershaw (2013-14) as back-to-back winners in the past seven seasons. Ryu received the other first-place vote finished second, ahead of the Nationals’ Scherzer. Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander was awarded his second AL Cy Young Award, beating out teammate Gerrit Cole in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Verlander got 17 first-place votes compared to 13 for Cole, who became a free agent after the season. For much of the 2019 season, Ryu was a surprise frontrunner in the Cy Young race. The 32-year-old Korean left-hander had chosen to accept the Dodgers’ qualifying offer last winter, returning to the Dodgers on a one-year, $17.9 million contract rather than take his checkered medical record into free agency. Shoulder and elbow surgeries had limited Ryu to one start over two seasons in 2015 and 2016. A groin injury had limited him to 15 starts in 2018. Those 15 starts, however, turned out to be a sign of things to come – Ryu had a 1.97 ERA and 1.01 ERA, both career bests, over 82-1/3 innings. The award was Ryu’s to lose in mid-August this season. The NL’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, Ryu had a 1.45 ERA – far and away the lowest in the majors – and a 0.95 ERA through his first 22 starts. He held opponents to two earned runs or fewer in 20 of those 22 starts. Over his final seven starts, though, Ryu had a 5.40 ERA including 18 runs scored in 14-2/3 innings over a three-start stretch in August. That slump brought pitchers like deGrom, Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg back into the Cy Young debate. DeGrom passed Ryu down the stretch by following the opposite route. After his first nine starts, deGrom had a 3.98 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Starting in late May, however, deGrom posted a 1.89 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over his final 23 starts, allowing two runs or fewer in 19 of those 23 starts. Ryu still finished with the best ERA in baseball (2.32). But deGrom was right behind at 2.43 and had better total numbers than Ryu in nearly everything else – WHIP (0.97), strikeouts (255), innings pitched (204), strikeouts per nine innings (11.25), FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), adjusted ERA (which compensates for ballpark) and WAR, finishing in the NL’s top four in each of those categories. Opposing batters found deGrom more difficult to hit than Ryu in terms of batting average (.207 to .234), on-base percentage (.257 to .263), slugging percentage (.323 to .359) and OPS (.580 to .622). Over the past 20 years, an ERA title has translated to a Cy Young Award in the National League just seven times – three times for Kershaw (2011, 2013-14) and twice for Randy Johnson (2001-02). The Dodgers’ Kershaw and Walker Buehler each received some down-ballot votes, finishing eighth and ninth, respectively. Kershaw received one third-place vote and Buehler received one fourth-place vote. The 36-year-old Verlander won his first Cy Young in 2011, when he was also named AL MVP, and he has since been a three-time runner-up. Verlander is the 21st pitcher to win multiple Cy Youngs. Verlander continued a marvelous second act to his career since a 2017 trade from Detroit to Houston. He led the majors with 21 victories and padded his Hall of Fame resume by getting his 3,000th strikeout in his final start of the regular season. He also reached 300 punchouts in a season for the first time. Verlander no-hit Toronto on Sept. 1, becoming the sixth pitcher with three no-hitters in a career. He joined a group that includes Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Sandy Kofax, Bob Feller and Cy Young, along with 1880s pitcher Larry Corcoran. Tampa Bay Rays righty Charlie Morton finished third a year after leaving Houston in free agency. Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, a Laguna Hills High product who was named the MVP of the All-Star Game this summer, finished fourth . Ballots, submitted prior to postseason play, were cast by two writers in each league city, and the voters differ for AL and NL in cities with multiple teams. They are tabulated on a system that rewards seven points for first place, four points for second place, three points for third place, two votes for fourth place and one point for fifth place. News services contributed to this story … More to come on this story. Related Articles Dodgers, Angels respond to Astros sign-stealing allegations The 50 Greatest Dodgers of the 2010s: #45, Kyle Farmer The 50 Greatest Dodgers of the 2010s: #46, Alex Verdugo Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger wins Silver Slugger award for outstanding 2019 season The 50 Greatest Dodgers of the 2010s: #47, Russell Martin View the full article
  8. SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Years ago, Billy Eppler went out to dinner with Tony La Russa and they ended up having a four-hour conversation. Ever since then, Eppler has maintained a relationship with the Hall of Fame manager, culminating with Tuesday’s announcement that the Angels have hired La Russa as a special advisor to baseball operations. “From my chair, he’ll be a sounding board for anything and everything as it pertains to developing players, coaching players, just generally someone to bounce ideas off,” Eppler said during the second day of the GM Meetings. La Russa, 75, had lengthy stints managing the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals, including three World Series titles. Since he retired from managing in 2011, he has worked in the front offices of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox. Eppler said La Russa will be around the Angels’ major league club, in spring training and also helping with evaluating their minor leaguers. Eppler did not expect him to have much input on major league player acquisitions. “He’s seen a lot, experienced a lot,” Eppler said. “My interactions with him have always been positive. I’m looking forward to using him as a resource.” WAITING FOR ADELL While most of the Angels enjoy a winter off, top prospect Jo Adell continues to be busy. Adell played in the Arizona Fall League, and now he’s playing for Team USA in Japan as they try to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Adell hit an opposite-field home run to led the U.S. to a victory over Japan in its last game. Related Articles Dodgers, Angels respond to Astros sign-stealing allegations Angels pondering rotation configuration around Shohei Ohtani GM meetings accelerate critical winter for Angels, GM Billy Eppler Angels’ Mike Trout wins seventh Silver Slugger award Angels’ Andrelton Simmons wins award as baseball’s best shortstop Eppler said the extra games have helped Adell make up for the time he missed at the beginning of the season after he was hurt during spring training. Adell, 20, is expected to compete for a spot in the Angels’ everyday lineup sometime in 2020, but Eppler wouldn’t commit to how soon that could be. “There are a lot of elements that he can get better at, just like there are a lot of elements of the game a lot of young players can get better at,” Eppler said. “Time will tell. I would just watch to see how things unfold. He’s had limited at-bats at Triple-A and in those at-bats he performed at a level consistent with when he first got to Double-A.” Adell hit .238 with a .753 OPS when he first reached Double-A in 2018. When he returned in 2019, he hit .308 with a .944 OPS. In his first 27 games at Triple-A at the end of 2019, Adell hit .264 with a .676 OPS. View the full article
  9. SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The story of the day at the GM Meetings on Tuesday hung over the Houston Astros, with ripples that affected the Dodgers and Angels. The Athletic published a detailed piece outlining the Astros’ method for stealing signs at Minute Maid Park during the 2017 season, including comments from former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers. The Astros reportedly watched the catcher’s signs on a television in a tunnel near the dugout and would bang on a trash can to signal to hitters when certain pitches were coming. The Angels, of course, are in the Astros’ division, and the Dodgers lost the 2017 World Series to the Astros in seven games. Two sources told The Athletic that Houston used the system into the playoffs while another source said it ended before the postseason. After Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said to dozens of reporters that the team is “going to look into the allegations in cooperation with Major League Baseball,” Andrew Friedman stood across the room and reflected on the manner in which the Astros beat the Dodgers in the World Series that year. “Being that we are a team directly involved, it sounds a little sour grapes for me to say much about it,” the Dodgers president of baseball operations said on Tuesday. “We’ll see what Major League Baseball comes back with and kind of go from there.” Friedman, however, did say that there was widespread suspicion before the 2017 World Series that the Astros were up to something. “Yeah there was a lot going into it,” Friedman said. “During the playoffs, our advance team that was on Houston talked about it. There was a lot of speculation at the time about it.” After the World Series, there had been stories suggesting that Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches to the Astros, contributing to him allowing four runs in 1-2/3 innings in his World Series start in Game 3 in Houston. “We had a player who was really good at picking up pitch-tipping type things and watched the Darvish outings and said you couldn’t sell out on something that Darvish was doing,” Friedman said. If the Astros couldn’t tell what was coming from watching Darvish, perhaps they had been stealing the catcher’s signs. Of course, Darvish also gave up five runs in 1-2/3 innings against the Astros in Game 7 at Dodger Stadium. While the Dodgers only played the Astros in the World Series, and only three times in Houston, the Angels play the Astros 19 times a year. In 2017, the Angels faced them 10 times in Houston. Angels general manager Billy Eppler said on Tuesday afternoon that he had not yet read the story in The Athletic, so he didn’t want to comment on it specifically. However, he said the best policy is to be watching for that type of thing all the time. “In general, our players are mindful in any environment they walk in,” Eppler said. “It’s something that if you are prepared for it, you probably won’t get caught off guard.” For what it’s worth, in 2017 the Astros hit .207 against the Angels on off-speed pitches in Houston and .232 against off-speed pitches in Anaheim. The sign-stealing system would have helped the Astros’ hitters prepare for off-speed pitches. Eppler and Friedman both said sign-stealing is something to be aware of in any park, but Friedman said there’s only so far a team can go to combat it. “My biggest thing is trying to make sure we have a sign system that our guys feel comfortable with, that won’t create mass paranoia,” Friedman said. “We want our players going out and playing the game and not being bogged down by that. You have to do something on the front end to make them feel as comfortable as possible with different signs. From our standpoint, it’s trying to make it as small of a distraction as possible.” View the full article
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  11. SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Angels are preparing to put Shohei Ohtani back into the starting rotation next year, although Billy Eppler isn’t ready to say just how they’ll configure the rotation around him. Eppler has said the Angels plan to have Ohtani pitch once a week, and be the designated hitter three or four days a week. With Ohtani pitching on six days rest, though, it’s unclear at this point what that means for the rest of the starting pitchers. “I’m going to wait until Shohei gets through everything he needs to get through,” Eppler said on Monday, the first day of the GM Meetings. He added that the Angels likely wouldn’t have the “gameplan” for their rotation until “early January.” In 2018, the Angels started the season with a six-man rotation, which was partly to accommodate Ohtani and partly to give extra rest to the other starters, most of whom had injury issues. If they don’t want to use a six-man rotation in 2020, they could have Ohtani pitch once a week and still have a five-man rotation. They would simply need a spot starter a couple times a month. They have plenty of starters with options who could serve that role: Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barría, José Suarez, Dillon Peters and Félix Peña. As for the core of the rotation, Eppler said Monday that he’d “like to” add two starting pitchers over the winter. Presumably Gerrit Cole is their top target, but Eppler said “I can tell you that I have cast a very, very wide net.” Eppler said the Angels “have the ability to be aggressive (financially) if we want to. We’ll just see how things ultimately take shape. There’s a lot of winter left.” The best returning pitcher who finished the season without health concerns is Andrew Heaney. Griffin Canning was on the injured list at the end of the season because of elbow inflammation, but Eppler said Canning is now cleared and fully immersed into a throwing program. Ohtani had knee surgery in September, just as he was getting toward the end of his rehab from Tommy John surgery. He’s now running on an anti-gravity treadmill and playing catch at a distance of about 120 feet. Ohtani is scheduled to get on a mound toward the end of November and complete his throwing rehab about three or four weeks later. “Everything is on track,” Eppler said. “I just talked to our guys before coming out here. They were were pleased with his rate and his pace.” MORE INJURY UPDATES Mike Trout and Justin Upton, who had procedures at the end of the season, are both doing well in their rehab, Eppler said. Upton, who had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his knee, recently had an evaluation and “they say it looks excellent,” Eppler said. Zack Cozart, whose two seasons with the Angels have essentially both been lost because of injuries, is a few days away from beginning a “normal offseason hitting progression,” Eppler said. Cozart, who enters the final year of his contract, is likely going to have to show something in spring training to earn any playing time around infielders David Fletcher, Tommy La Stella and Luís Rengifo. Related Articles GM meetings accelerate critical winter for Angels, GM Billy Eppler Angels’ Mike Trout wins seventh Silver Slugger award Angels’ Andrelton Simmons wins award as baseball’s best shortstop These 10 people will dictate the course of baseball’s offseason A look at the Angels’ payroll now that the free-agent market is open BEHIND THE PLATE Asked how comfortable he is with their current catchers, Eppler said they can get more out of Max Stassi and Kevan Smith. “That’s an area where we feel good with what we’re getting defensively at that position,” Eppler said. He added that Smith had periods of productivity offensively around his injuries, and that Stassi was reworking his swing toward the end of the season. He hit .136 last season, including .071 in 49 plate appearances with the Angels. “We think he’s better than what his stat line showed last year,” Eppler said. Stassi missed the end of the season with a hip injury that required surgery. At this point it’s not certain he’ll even be healthy by Opening Day, Eppler said. View the full article
  12. 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. Related Articles Angels’ Mike Trout wins seventh Silver Slugger award Angels’ Andrelton Simmons wins award as baseball’s best shortstop These 10 people will dictate the course of baseball’s offseason A look at the Angels’ payroll now that the free-agent market is open Angels’ Mike Trout among finalists for AL MVP, which will be announced next week 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.” View the full article
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  14. Angels outfielder Mike Trout won the Silver Slugger for the seventh time in his eight full major league seasons, extending his franchise record. The previous record-holder was Vladimir Guerrero, with four. The award goes to the top offensive player at each position in each league, as voted by managers and coaches. Trout, 28, beat out the other center fielders in the American League by hitting .291 with 45 homers and a 1.083 OPS. Only two outfielders have won more Silver Sluggers. Barry Bonds won 12 and Manny Ramírez won eight. Trout is tied with Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn and Guerrero, who won three with the Montreal Expos before joining the Angels. Next Thursday, Trout will find out if he won the American League MVP for the third time. He finished in the top three – along with Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman and Oakland A’s shortstop Marcus Semien. Related Articles Angels’ Andrelton Simmons wins award as baseball’s best shortstop These 10 people will dictate the course of baseball’s offseason A look at the Angels’ payroll now that the free-agent market is open Angels’ Mike Trout among finalists for AL MVP, which will be announced next week Angels decline Kole Calhoun’s option, making him a free agent View the full article
  15. The Angels’ Andrelton Simmons won the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at shortstop for the sixth time in the past seven years on Wednesday, picking up one award even though he was beaten for the more prestigious Gold Glove earlier this week. The Wilson award goes to one player at each position, rather than one from each league like the Gold Glove. It is based solely on objective statistics, while the Gold Gloves are mostly determined by a vote of managers and coaches. Injuries limited Simmons, 30, to 103 games this season, which is likely one of the reasons he lost to Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor for the Gold Glove. He has won the Wilson award every season except 2016. COACHES FINALIZED The Angels on Tuesday announced the composition of their 2020 coaching staff, news of which had been reported over the previous two weeks. Mickey Callaway, the former manager of the New York Mets and pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians, was hired as the pitching coach. John Mallee and Brian Butterfield, who both worked under new Angels manager Joe Maddon on the Chicago Cubs staff, were hired as assistant hitting coach and third base coach, respectively. Mike Gallego moved from third base coach to bench coach. Hitting coach Jeremy Reed, hitting instructor Paul Sorrento, first base coach Jesus Feliciano, catching instructor José Molina and bullpen coach Andrew Bailey are all returning in the same roles as they had last year. Related Articles These 10 people will dictate the course of baseball’s off-season A look at the Angels’ payroll now that the free-agent market is open Angels’ Mike Trout among finalists for AL MVP, which will be announced next week Angels decline Kole Calhoun’s option, making him a free agent Mike Trout among Angels blanked in Gold Glove awards View the full article