LA Angels general manager Billy Eppler is looking to improve the roster for the 2019 season, but so far he has been able to do very little toward doing so.
It seems to be a theme that many LA Angels fans are familiar with over the years “Close, but no cigar”. The Angels have been said to be major players this off-season, but so far we have not seen much to make us believe that this is really the case.
The Angels have been linked to many players the past month, which is to say that have had interest in multiple players. The Angels may have even made an offer or two to some of the big names that are out there, but so far no one has come running to Anaheim.
Free Agent Pitchers Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi were two players that the Angels had interest in, but they chose to sign elsewhere for a whole lot of money. Eovaldi got a 4-year deal worth about 17 million per season and Corbin struck the motherlode getting a 6-year deal worth $140 million dollars (23.5 million per season).
As much as both of these players would have looked good in Angel Red in 2019 I understand why the Angels backed out of the bidding. So now let’s go to the Angels next target which was catcher Wilson Ramos.
Ramos has a very good bat for a catcher and is also pretty good defensively behind the plate. He would be a major upgrade to what the Angels have now in-house. Ramos, who turned 31 in August, was looking for a multi-year deal with his market value said to be between 9 to 11 million dollars per season.
While Corbin and Eovaldi were overpaid on their contracts, Ramos would have been a pretty good deal for a mid-to-high level talent at the catching position. However, just this morning the Mets signed Ramos to a 2-year contract worth 19 million dollars (9.5 million per year).
To me this seems like a bargain considering Ramos has been an All-Star in two of the past three seasons. In 2018 Ramos hit .306 with 15 homers and 70 runs batted in and in 2016 he hit .306 with 22 homers and 90 RBIs. For his career Ramos is hitting a solid .273 with 109 homers and 426 RBIs. His career fielding percentage is .994 which is well above average and he has thrown out 32% of would-be-base stealers which is only 5% lower than Gold Glove catcher Martin Maldonado.
So with this said I am mythed that the Angels did throw Ramos a contract that was better and really make him feel wanted in Anaheim. Even a two-year deal worth 21 or 22 million probably would have gotten him to sign with the Angels. Instead he is another prospective free agent that will be going elsewhere next season.
What is the Angels next move then? Are they going to be satisfied with a catching platoon of Jose Briceno and Kevan Smith which would really not be a platoon since both are right-handed batters. Smith has shown promise hitting in limited action hitting .281 with seven homers and 51 RBIs in 463 MLB at-bats.
Smith’s fielding percentage is also very high at .994 for his career. However, where Smith falls short, way short is throwing out base runners. In his career he has thrown out only 16 of 115 base runners (14% Yikes!). So the Angels may get some good offensive numbers from Smith, but Angel pitchers will hate having Smith behind the plate as it will be open season for opposing teams’ running game.
Briceno on the other hand is a good fielding catcher .981 percentage and he has thrown out 42% of would-be-base-stealers in the minors, but he has a career .241 average in the minors. He only has very limited major league experience. Briceno hit .239 with five homers and 10 RBIs in 117 at-bats. Fielding wise he had a .993 fielding percentage and threw out 8 of 18 would-be-base stealers (44%). So the Angels could use Smith when they need offense and Briceno when they need defense. This would be another train wreck waiting to happen.
Now as most Angel fans know a good catcher is important, but the Angels most pressing need is pitching. So far the only move the Angels have made to address this issue is trading for Marlins pitcher Dillon Peters.
Forgive me if I don’t get too excited about a pitcher who is 3-4 with a 6.10 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP in two seasons in the majors. To be fair his minor league numbers are actually pretty good as Peters posted a 28-20 record with a 3.37 ERA in four minor league seasons.
This being said there is some potential for Peters to improve, but he is not going to solve the Angel pitching woes of the last three seasons. The Angels need a potential ace and another starter who could fill in the middle of the rotation. The team ERA of 4.15 which was 19th out of 30 teams. This is not to mention bolstering the bullpen that blew 26 saves in 61 opportunities (4th worst in baseball).
As much as the Angels pitching was a major issue in 2018 the offense was much better. The Angels had a team batting average of .242 and an on-base-percentage of .313 both ranking them 20th out of 30 teams which is not good either. The Angels were 15th overall in runs scored with 721 and seventh best in homers with 214, which is adequate, but still needing improvement.
So for all of you out there in the Angel fan groups who say the Angels need to focus on only pitching this off-season, think again. The Angels need to look at not only pitching, but improving offensively as well. Offensively, right field, first, second and third base as well as catcher were a disaster all season. The production from those spots were abominable and were a major reason the team offensive numbers were so bad.
Hopefully Zack Cozart will bounce back from an injury-shortened season and David Fletcher will be solid at second base which will help a lot. Signing Justin Bour should perk up the first base numbers at least slightly and hopefully Kole Calhoun will have a full season like he did after the All-Star Break. If this all can happen the Angels will be a much improved team offensively. But that is a BIG IF.
So Angels general manager Billy Eppler is left with an unenviable task of trying to improve the Angels team in multiple areas, without spending too much money or trading away any of the major pieces in the Angels rejuvenated farm system. Good luck! However, the Angels need to man up and make at least a couple of major moves to show their fan base and also Mike Trout that they are serious about winning.
Let’s see what Mr. Eppler has in store for the rest of the off-season. Good luck Billy, this is your team now.