In December 2017, Angels general manager stood in front of Angel Stadium on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The occasion? Introducing prized Japanese free-agent Shohei Ohtani selected the Halos as his team of choice, in large part thanks to Billy Eppler’s scouting trips to Japan years prior. This past March, Eppler was honored to announce that the greatest baseball player of his generation will continue playing in Anaheim for another 12 seasons amid speculation throughout baseball that Trout would be East Coast-bound at his earliest convenience.
Fast forward to this past Friday afternoon, when Angels owner Arte Moreno announced Eppler will be trusted for at least another year after he picked up his contract option for next season. The goal: to assemble a World Series championship team for 2020.
Some Angels fans will focus on this past off-season’s signings of Matt Harvey, Cody Allen, Jonathan Lucroy, and Trevor Cahill as a reason to look elsewhere for front office leader. Eppler led Angels teams of the past three seasons have been plagued more by misfortune than poor strategic decisions in recent years. Three years of major injuries to members of their pitching staff have taken their toll on the Angels franchise. Eppler should be praised rather than chastised for how he has managed team through that period.
As the Angels have endured injuries to their rotation and bullpen in recent seasons, Eppler has acquired forgotten arms from who have repeatedly discovered success with the Angels. J.C. Ramirez, Noe Ramirez, Felix Pena, Parker Bridwell, Blake Parker, and Jhoulys Chacin are just a handful of arms that Eppler brought to the club who were successful in Angels uniform.
Now that the Angels have Trout signed to a lifetime contract and Pujols contract winding down, Eppler will have the ability to navigate better in long-term contract talks with free-agents this of-season. Many are expecting the Angels to pursue top free agents Gerrit Cole and Madison Bumgarner this off-season. Grabbing one or more “top of the rotation” pitchers could be just what the Halos need to get back to post-season again.
The Angels wrapped up homestands against the Sox clubs and will benefit with a Labor Day off-day before traveling to Oakland and Chicago to face the Athletics and White Sox in back-to-bathree-gameame series.
Although official starters have not been announced for all this week’s games, I would expect the Angels to see the following match-ups this coming week:
7:07 PM (PT) Tuesday at Oakland: Jaime Barria versus Mike Fiers
7:07 PM (PT) Wednesday at Oakland: Patrick Sandoval versus Tanner Roark
12:37 PM (PT) Thursday at Oakland: Jose Suarez versus Chris Bassitt
5:10 PM (PT) Friday at Chicago (AL): Dillon Peters versus Lucas Giolito
4:10 PM (PT) Saturday at Chicago (AL): Andrew Heaney versus Ross Detwiler
11:10 AM (PT) Sunday at Chicago (AL): Jaime Barria versus Dylan Cease
Hot Down the Line in The Farm
Jared Walsh went into his first full season at Triple-A as a two-way player, splitting time between first base and (occasionally) left-handed reliever. Walsh wrapped up his season for Salt Lake with a franchise-record 36 home runs in 98 games. What’s most impressive about Walsh’s feat is that he also spent close to five weeks with the Los Angeles Angels during four separate stints with the big club during the season. Walsh still managed to hit .325 with 30 doubles, 36 home runs, and drove in 86 runners while also appearing in 13 games out of the Bees’ bullpen. He posted a 4.15 ERA in the obscenely offensive PCL over 13 innings, striking out nine batters in those outings. Walsh was recalled Sunday and should good an additional look in the Angels’ bullpen and line-up in September.