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Angels talking trades at Winter Meetings

LAS VEGAS — The first day of the Winter Meetings saw the Angels lose former first-round pick Kaleb Cowart to the Mariners via waivers, but general manager Billy Eppler said he’s been making progress talking with other clubs about potential trades.

The Angels had previously discussed the possibility of Cowart becoming a two-way player like Shohei Ohtani, but tried to get him through waivers because he’s out of Minor League options and couldn’t be sent to the Minors to work on his pitching. Seattle opted to claim him and try him as a two-way player, leaving the Angels with 37 players on their 40-man roster.

LAS VEGAS — The first day of the Winter Meetings saw the Angels lose former first-round pick Kaleb Cowart to the Mariners via waivers, but general manager Billy Eppler said he’s been making progress talking with other clubs about potential trades.

The Angels had previously discussed the possibility of Cowart becoming a two-way player like Shohei Ohtani, but tried to get him through waivers because he’s out of Minor League options and couldn’t be sent to the Minors to work on his pitching. Seattle opted to claim him and try him as a two-way player, leaving the Angels with 37 players on their 40-man roster.

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Eppler said it was a productive first day despite not making any roster additions, noting that the Angels are close on a few possible trades, using a football analogy to make his point.

“I think there are some things we could do if we wanted to but maybe we should play time of possession for a little bit,” Eppler said. “Keeping running the ball a little bit and march down. We could kick a field goal right now if we wanted to, but let’s go for a touchdown.”

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The Angels remain active in free agency, and were interested in both left-hander Patrick Corbin, who signed a six-year, $140 million deal with the Nationals, and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who inked a four-year, $67.5 million deal to remain with the Red Sox. Eppler wouldn’t comment on either player and he hasn’t been frustrated with the free-agent market, but it’s clear the Angels are still looking for a way to improve their rotation.

But that pitching help could come via trade instead of free agency, as Eppler is keeping his options open.

“I feel like I’ve been a little more engaged in the trade market recently than the free-agent market,” Eppler said. “It’s how I feel. I’m in both. My phone-call log today has plenty of sports agents on it, but it also has plenty of teams.”

As for other areas to improve the roster, Eppler said he’s comfortable with his current group of position players outside of catcher. Eppler added the farm system has improved to the point where many consider it among the top 10 in baseball after being ranked as the worst just a few years ago. He believes it can help the Angels become consistent contenders going forward, but they could also use prospects as trade chips.

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Eppler said no prospect in the organization is technically untouchable, although there are a few who are highly unlikely to be traded. Outfielder Jo Adell, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 15 overall prospect, is among those not expected to be moved.

“I wouldn’t make anybody off limits if something is going to improve the health of our organization,” Eppler said. “I think it wouldn’t be right for us as a baseball operation to not at least listen. But if you’re going to go to Las Vegas and play the odds on some of those particular individuals being traded, I wouldn’t put much money on it.”

One player who could be traded is outfielder Kole Calhoun, as Addell is getting close to the Majors and Calhoun will make $10.5 million in 2019 after signing a three-year, $26 million deal in 2017. Clearing his salary would allow the Angels to be more aggressive in free agency.

“With what we’ve tried to do here, it’s shorter-term decision-making on free agency and things like that,” Eppler said. “Trades we’ve done have typically been on players of which we did not have control after that year, absent of like Jett Bandy. Most of ours have been through that lens. We just have to keep making decisions that don’t jeopardize our health or put us in a financially unhealthy situation.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.



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