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What the LA Angels Really Bought: Flexibility

Justin Bour. Matt Harvey. Trevor Cahill. And today, Jonathan Lucroy, becomes the fourth one-year contract signing by Angels general manager Billy Eppler this winter. Not what you were hoping for? Welcome to the Los Angeles Angels’ new era of budget consciousness.

This was not what LA Angels fans had in mind coming into this winter. Last off-season, the Angel GM made splash after splash, handing out a 3-year, $38 million contract to win the bidding war for Zack Cozart, traded for Ian Kinsler and his remaining $11 million contract, forked over a $20 million posting fee to sign Shohei Ohtani, and penning Justin Upton to a 5-year, $106 million extension.

Not this year. Eppler has spent sparingly, holding both the payouts down by eschewing big-dollar bats like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Yasmani Grandal, while signing second- and third-tier free agents and making long-term commitments to none of them. This isn’t to say that the four new Angels are garbage, of course. Justin Bour has been a strong platoon hitter his whole career against the right side. If Harvey and Cahill are healthy, they would give the Angel rotation an enormous boost. Lucroy is a two-time All-Star who might have one last big season left in him, maybe.

If these guys all work out, that’s a coup for a team that has consistently disappointed over the last nine years. Even if these guys don’t all work out, the Angels aren’t on the hook for any of them long-term, which is a welcomed change in direction for the organization that once traded Mike Napoli to get Vernon Wells (on purpose!). On the other hand, it’s hard to say just how much of this budget restraint is because of actual discipline, and how much of it is just bad luck and circumstance.

 

 

 

It’s been confirmed that the Angels were final bidders on Patrick Corbin, Nathan Eovaldi, Wilson Ramos, and J.A. Happ, and lost out on all of them. Unable to land those players — and with no apparent interest in throwing money at Harper or Machado — the Angels have gone for the smaller fish in the sea.

There are still other big fish, unsigned and waiting for a line, of course. Dallas Keuchel is still on the table, hoping to get that six-year contract that teams aren’t offering to 31-year-old pitchers anymore. Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi has posted, and the Angels are apparently one of the teams showing interest.

Next: What will that one last big move be?

David Robertson‘s been a hot rumor around the Angels as well. For all the talk about fiscal responsibility, the Angels have been burning up the phone lines. There’s still holes to fill, and Mike Trout‘s free agency continues to loom over the organization like a gathering storm cloud. The winter’s not over yet.

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