Now that the World Series has concluded, the Major League Baseball offseason is officially underway. The Angels have already made major changes in the field management with a complete overhaul of the on-field leadership.
Out is Brad Ausmus after his lone season as skipper of the Halos. Ausmus served as the replacement for long-time Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whom the club parted ways with at the conclusion of the 2018 season. Now, in comes a man with almost twice as many years of experience in the Angels system as Scioscia in Joe Maddon. While Maddon has already named a pitching coach in Mickey Callaway and is rumored to have selected John Mallee as his hitting coach, many of the other areas of supporting staff are undetermined.
So where are the Angels in need of improvement heading into 2020?
As it stands today, the current rotation under contract going into the offseason is Shohei Ohtani, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, and Jaime Barria or Felix Pena. The Angels will most certainly be looking for one or more top-of-the-rotation starters to add to this mix this winter.
Gerrit Cole is the top free agent on the market and will likely receive the largest free-agent contract this off-season. Some estimate his deal may be the largest ever landed by a free-agent pitcher. The Angels continue to lead the lists of potential suitors, but the Halos are sure to receive heavy competition for Cole’s services from the Yankees and others.
Stephen Strasburg has an option to opt out of the final four years and $100 million of his current contract with the Nationals. He will need to make that decision in the next few days. Based on his 2019 regular season and post-season performance, it’s safe to assume he will test the market. Like Cole, Strasburg is a Southern California native and would seem to be another target for the Angels especially if bidding for Cole gets outside their comfort zone.
Madison Bumgarner has not performed like the dominant pitcher of previous seasons but could still provide the Angels with veteran leadership ahead of the likes of Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, and Jaime Barria. Zack Wheeler, Rick Porcello, Cole Hamels, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Wacha, and Kyle Gibson are other secondary options the Angels are sure to consider.
Korean left-handed starter, Kim Kwang-Hyun, has been an ace in Korea and has expressed interest in playing MLB next season. The Angels, among other clubs, were reportedly scouting him this past summer. The 31-year old lefty attempted to sign a MLB deal in 2014 but couldn’t reach an agreement with Padres and remained in Korea. He finished the 2019 season in KBO with a 17-6 record, 2.51 ERA, and 38-to-180 walk-to-strikeout ratio in over 190 innings pitched. I would not be surprised to see Eppler look to Korean and Japanese talent looking to transition to MLB this offseason.
Hansel Robles stepped up and did a great job assuming the ninth-inning role after Cody Allen faltered in his early-season attempt at closing out Halo victories. Robles is ideally a seventh or eighth inning option on a championship team and I believe the Angels will look to find other late-inning alternatives this offseason. Getting help to support Ty Buttrey, Keynan Middleton, Cam Bedrosian, and other current Angels relievers will be a secondary priority for the Angels’ front office going into winter.
The strength of the market for closers is dependent heavily on players leaving contracts with options. The best current free agents are limited to Dellin Betances and Will Smith. This could change if Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen opt-out of their current contracts to become free agents. Shawn Kelley, Steve Cishek, and Sean Doolittle have club options that if exercised by their current clubs would add them to the free agent market. The other alternatives would be the likes of Greg Holland, Sergio Romo, Cory Gearrin, Will Harris, and Joe Smith.
The Angels could use some of their prospects to acquire relief help or starting pitchers this winter. This could become a focus if the Angels land one or more of the big free agents to offset payroll expenses by finding players under team control. On Monday, the Angels assigned Luis Garcia and Miguel Del Potto to Salt Lake and they both elected free agency, so they already have two fewer relievers and a little more room in payroll for replacements.
The Angels swung and missed last offseason as they opted to sign Jonathan Lucroy instead of the likes of Yasmani Grandal. The Halos could get a second chance at Grandal this off-season if he opts out of his deal with the Brewers. Robinson Chirinos, Martin Maldonado, Matt Wieters, and Travis d’Arnauld could also find themselves to be targets on the market for the Angels.
Yan Gomes and Welington Castillo have club options that I would expect to be picked up, eliminating them from the free agent market. Other free agent options would include veterans Russell Martin, Francisco Cervelli, Jason Castro, and Orange County native Austin Romine.
The Angels have Max Stassi, Kevin Smith, and Anthony Bemboom still under team control, but one or more of them are likely to be designated for assignment to make room for others on the 40-man roster. Max Stassi has a relationship with Gerrit Cole so I would expect him to remain, but the other two could find themselves on the free agent market themselves in the coming weeks.
So now, we wait to see what moves they make (if any) in the first few days of the off-season.