With Mike Trout under contract for just two more seasons, the time is now for the Angels to make a push. With close to zero financial flexibility and an improved farm system they won’t want to destroy, Los Angeles will need to be creative to do so.
Current State: Playoff Contender
Angels acquire RP Luis Garcia for RP Jose Alvarez
In a swap of two relievers, the Angels have acquired reliever Luis Garcia from the Phillies in exchange for reliever Jose Alvarez. Garcia, 31, had a disastrous season last year. He had a 6.07 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP, just a year after posting a 2.65 ERA. Still, there are some encouraging signs of a bounce back season next year. He had a 3.51 FIP, struck people out at a career high (10 K/9), and there were no significant red flags. Still, Alvarez was very productive last season and is also left-handed, and Los Angeles now no reliable left-handed reliever, with Williams Jerez being their only one. This is a confusing trade for the Angels, who actually lowered the quality of their bullpen.
Angels Hire Brad Ausmus as Manager
After 18 seasons with Mike Scioscia, the Angels have hired Brad Ausmus to be their new manager. Ausmus, 49, was catcher in the majors from 1993-2010. He was then the Tigers manager from 2014-2017, where he compiled a 314-332 record. His first managerial term wasn’t a success, mostly due to his bullpen management, but he wasn’t put in a position to succeed. With Detroit, Ausmus had an aging team that put no investments in the bullpen and was not invested in analytics at all. Unfortunately for Ausmus, he’s in a similar position with the Angels, just in a nicer setting. The Angels have limited flexibility with their payroll, which has shown this offseason with buy low acquisitions of Garcia, Matt Harvey, and Trevor Cahill. They are trapped in mediocrity, and I don’t think Ausmus is the right person to help them succeed based on his track record. There’s still a chance that he flourishes in his second chance, but my bet is on another unsuccessful stint in a very tough division.
Angels Sign 1B Justin Bour
The Angels have signed first baseman Justin Bour to a one year, $2.5 million contract. Bour, 30, is coming off a down year in which he had an OPS of just .746 and a WAR of just 0.6. Before that, however, he had three seasons with an OPS of .800 or above. His peak season was in 2017, where he posted an OPS of .902 with career highs in on base percentage (.366), slugging percentage (.536), and home runs (25). At the very worst, he’ll serve a platoon with Albert Pujols at first base and will add depth at designated hitter. If he bounces back to his 2017 form or even his form in 2015 and 2016, he can add another impact bat to the lineup and fill in everyday. As things stand right now, he’s significantly better than Albert Pujols, meaning the Angels upgraded at first base for just $2.5 million.
Angels Sign SP Matt Harvey
The Dark Knight is off to Los Angeles. The Angels have signed Matt Harvey to a one year, $11 million deal. Harvey, 29, turned his season and his career around when he was traded to the Reds after a rough start with the Mets. With the Reds, he had a 4.50 ERA, 4.33 FIP, and a 1.25 WHIP. All of his peripherals improved, including his K/9, which at 7.8 still isn’t great but is a big improvement from his time with the Mets (6.7). His slider also improved in 2018, with a runs above average at 8.8, a career high. At this point of his career, Harvey is an average pitcher with good stuff and an ERA that should hover around 4. That’s good enough for a number four starter, which is a little steep for $11 million, but Harvey was one of the best available options remaining for the Angels. Considering Lance Lynn got 3 years at $10 million per, I’d much rather have Harvey on a one year, $11 million contract. The Angels need to fix their rotation in an unconventional way since they don’t want to part with prospects and have limited financial flexibility for long-term deals, and this is the best they could do. Especially after missing out on Patrick Corbin and JA Happ.
Angels Sign SP Trevor Cahill
In an effort too continue to bolster the rotation, the Angels have signed Trevor Cahill to a one year, $9 million contract. Cahill, 30, had a 3.76 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP and a 3.54 FIP last season with the A’s. Cahill is a classic ground ball power pitcher. He induced a ground ball at a 53.4% rate and had a career best contact rate of 72.9%. The main issue with him is his uneven home/road splits. While he had an impressive 1.84 ERA in Oakland, his ERA on the road was 6.41. Considering Oakland has the 28th most hitter friendly stadium based on home runs while Angel Stadium ranked 7th, this is alarming. Cahill also averaged less than 6 innings a start, so he isn’t exactly an innings eater. He’s a perfect pitcher for a team with a pitcher’s friendly stadium and a strong bullpen. A reunion with Oakland would’ve been much better for him, as he’s not an ideal fit for the Angels. He could end up being a bust on this one year contract.
Angels Sign C Jonathan Lucroy
To fill a hole at catcher, the Angels have signed Jonathan Lucroy to a one year, $3.35 million contract. Lucroy, 32, was horrible statistically last season with the A’s. He had an OPS of just .617, a negative -0.7 WAR, and was a liability on both sides of the ball. Lucroy had a defensive runs saved of negative 11, which put him amongst the league’s worst defensive catchers in addition to being one of the worst catchers offensively. He has been known to work well with pitchers, but there still is no chance that this ability makes up for the fact that he is one of league’s worst catchers statistically. He was off no value to the playoff-caliber A’s last year, who got baited into Lucroy the same way the Angels are, by paying for the player he used to be. With the Brewers, Lucroy was a two-time All Star and built a reputation as one of the league’s premier catchers. However, regression has hit him hard, and the reality is that the 32-year-old may not even be a quality backup at this stage of his career. Now, the Angels are going to trust him to be the everyday starter behind the dish. They will certainly be disappointed with the results, as Lucroy has provided zero sign over the past few seasons that he should be trusted to what the Angels think he can do- be a serviceable starting catcher. Los Angeles would’ve been much better off with a reunion with Martin Maldonado or by going big with Yasmani Grandal. Lucroy is not an upgrade at all from what they had at catcher coming in, meaning that they wasted some payroll that could have been used for better measures. If this is how the Angels think they can patch their roster to contend, then Angels fans can expect another year of Mike Trout’s prime wasted.
Angels Sign RP Cody Allen
To improve their bullpen, the Angels have signed reliever Cody Allen to a one year, $8.5 million contract. Allen, 30, is coming off his worst season of his career. He posted a 4.70 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP, and his 4.56 FIP suggests that that ERA was deserved. Allen’s BB/9, HR/9, K/9 were all career lows for a full season, and one has to wonder if he’s starting to slow down after pitching 67-plus innings in each of the last six seasons. His fastball velocity was down to 94 MPH in 2018, and he allowed a 38.1% hard contact rate as a result. His ground ball rate well below average, and his .292 batting average balls in play against was actually down from 2017. Therefore, it’s unclear that Allen will be able to bounce back to the closer he once was. Los Angeles needs a stable force in the back end of the bullpen, and instead they likely some of their last amount of available funds on a reliever who’s a shell of his former self and will continue to regress. Working out a trade with the Giants for Will Smith or Tony Watson, who they were rumored to be interested in, would’ve been a better idea.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Angels Make