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Angels GM Billy Eppler says they ‘stretched’ budget to land Cody Allen – Orange County Register

Cody Allen may have been the last piece to the puzzle for the Angels’ offseason.

A day after the Angels officially completed the $8.5 million deal for the new closer, general manager Billy Eppler said Monday that the club needed the “blessing” of owner Arte Moreno to “stretch” the budget.

Asked then if that meant the Angels were finished for the winter, Eppler would not go that far, but he did suggest that he sees no glaring holes.

“We are a point where we feel complete with our club,” he said.

Allen’s deal stretches the Angels current major league payroll to around $182 million, including some expected performance bonuses. Allen, Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey alone could earn up to $6.5 million in performance bonuses.

Their payroll will be in the top quarter in the major leagues in 2019.

Last season’s final payroll was about $176 million.

Based on those figures and Eppler’s comments, it would seem unlikely that the Angels would enter the fray for any of the remaining free agents.

“We feel very good with the names we have on our depth chart right now,” Eppler said.

The core of the pitching staff is a rotation led by Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Harvey, Cahill, Jaime Barría and Nick Tropeano, with top prospects Griffin Canning and José Suarez waiting in Triple-A.

Allen now anchors a bullpen, surrounded by hard-throwing Ty Buttrey, Hansel Robles, Justin Anderson and Luis Garcia, with Cam Bedrosian also in the mix.

JC Ramírez and Keynan Middleton are expected back from Tommy John surgery around midseason.

Offensively, the Angels have added Justin Bour to supplement the production around Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani, with Jonathan Lucroy at catcher and Tommy La Stella as a utility infielder.

They also hoping to get full seasons from Zack Cozart, Kole Calhoun, Pujols and Mike Trout, all of whom missed time with injuries. Cozart and Calhoun also performed below their career norms when healthy. Ohtani also figures to get perhaps double the number of at-bats this season, as he focuses solely on hitting while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

“I think people realize how significant our offense is,” Eppler said. “Last season we were one of the top clubs in home runs (seventh in the majors),” Eppler said. “We wanted to address on-base percentage and we felt with some of the guys we’ve gone out to add that they can increase our overall on-base percentage, which was a goal of ours over the winter.”

The Angels had been plugging holes with stopgaps in the everyday lineup and the rotation ever since Eppler arrived in October 2015, mostly because he inherited the worst farm system in the majors.

Eppler has since traded just one top prospect (Sean Newcomb, to get Andrelton Simmons) but otherwise allowed the farm system to refresh while cycling through short-term fixes on the big league level.

That approach has left him few resources to commit to the bullpen, making the Allen deal uncharacteristic. Allen is the first free agent reliever that Eppler has signed to a guaranteed major league deal.

And he did so after what was, by some measures, Allen’s worst season.

After posting a cumulative 2.59 ERA over five seasons, Allen had a career-worst 4.70 mark in 2018. Eppler, however, pointed out that his ERA was skewed by a few bad outings, and also said that the same size of a reliever’s innings is too small for using ERA as a barometer of performance.

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