Billy Eppler and Los Angeles Angels Prepare for Busy Winter Meetingsby B.J. Martin December 8, 2019 0 comments
The Angels head into the Winter Meetings on Sunday with some clear needs to address. Pitching and catching are clearly the obvious areas needing improvement for the 2020 Angels. Billy Eppler is sure to be using his time with fellow general managers and the representatives of this year’s free-agent crop to enhance these areas.
While the Angels’ pursuit of the top free agent starters in Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and others will continue to develop, they will also be looking at trades. They made one move last week by acquiring Dylan Bundy from the Orioles and will be seeking additional starters for the top of their rotation. The Angels were able to acquire Bundy without giving up a Top 20 prospect in return but may have to surrender some of that talent for the likes of Robbie Ray or Matthew Boyd. The pursuit of foreign pitchers will also continue as Josh Lindblom, Kwang-Hyun Kim, and Shun Yamaguchi are all seeking MLB contracts. While the Cole and Strasburg courting is most likely to continue beyond the Winter Meetings, I do expect more activity this year by the Angels and other clubs.
The catcher position is also in need of an upgrade and this could be addressed through trade acquisitions this week. The Angels have a history of acquiring catchers through trade in recent years and Eppler would not surprise anyone if he pulled off another deal this week. Leading options at the position continue to be a reunion with Martin Maldonado, South County native Austin Romine, or former Twins catcher Jason Castro.
Another intriguing option for improving the catcher position could also be through Thursday’s Rule 5 draft. Several organizations feature young talent at the position that the Angels could look to take a chance on going into Spring Training. Philadelphia’s Rafael Marchan, Baltimore’s Brett Cumberland, and the New York Mets’ Patrick Mazeika are all eligible for the Rule 5 draft and should be considered options.
Additional position players could look to be acquired to provide depth in the Angels’ line-up. Joe Maddon protégé Ben Zobrist could provide depth at first, second, and corner outfield positions. Shohei Ohtani’s return to the Angels’ rotation will create an additional need for depth as he’s expected out of line-up two to three games a week surrounding his starts. Zobrist or a similar player addition would not be a surprise for the Angels at the Winter Meetings.
Angels This Week
The City of Anaheim and Arte Moreno are reportedly closing in on a sale of Angel Stadium and the parking lot area that would confirm the Angels remain in the city through 2050. The deal includes an additional 15-year option that if accepted would lead to the 98th year in Anaheim for the Angels. Moreno would then would have the option to renovate the current stadium or build a new stadium at the current site. Retail shops and restaurant area surrounding new or improved ballpark would be a part of any new plan. This is reat news for Southern California Angels fans as rumors of moving to Long Beach and other areas have circulated in recent years.
Dylan Bundy was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles for minor-league pitchers Isaac Mattson, Kyle Bradish, Zach Peek, and Kyle Brnovich. None of these players were considered among the top Angels’ prospects. Mattson looks to be the closest to helping MLB bullpen, perhaps as early as next season. Bundy is 27 years old and the Angels hope to rejuvenate the former Orioles prospect’s potential much like the Cubs did with a 27-year-old Jake Arrieta just six years ago.
Angels Down on the Farm Report
Matt Thaiss returned from a week out of the Licey line-up to a four-for-five, five-RBI game Thursday night. The game was highlighted by his first home run of the Dominican Winter League. Thaiss has played both first base and third base for Licey this season. Thaiss could be a big piece for the Angels this season as Albert Pujols continues to see more designated hitter opportunities and Shohei Ohtani returns to the mound.
Greg Mahle has continued to carry his successful Mexican Winter League season into December. Mahle has only allowed one run and nine hits across his past three starts and 16.1 innings. Mahle has a 3-0 record with a 2.01 ERA for Mexicali in eight LMP starts this season. Mahle split last season between Triple-A Salt Lake and Double-A Mobile and will get a good look as a lefty arm in camp again next year.
Regardless of the Angels’ pursuits in the Rule 5 draft, the team will have a vested interest in the process. They have several talented prospects like Jose Rojas, Jeremy Rhoades, Leo Rivas, and Oliver Ortega all available for other organizations to draft. It will be an interesting week indeed.