5 key offseason questions facing the Angels
The offseason will be an interesting one for the Angels, who decided to part ways with general manager Billy Eppler on the last day of the 2020 season after five straight losing campaigns despite having superstar Mike Trout on the roster.
Even with yet another losing season, the Angels are not in rebuilding mode and will be actively looking to supplant their core of Trout, Anthony Rendon, Shohei Ohtani, David Fletcher, Justin Upton, Andrew Heaney and Dylan Bundy.
Here’s a look at some of the questions facing this organization heading into 2021:
1. Who will the Angels hire as GM?
The Angels are still in the midst of a GM search, and it’s a search that could last all the way until Thanksgiving, according to club president John Carpino. Longtime executive Dave Dombrowski has been repeatedly mentioned as a possible replacement for Eppler and has a close relationship with special advisor Tony La Russa. Other names the Angels are reportedly interested in include the Dodgers' Josh Byrnes, the Cubs' Jason McLeod, the Athletics' Billy Owens, the D-backs' Jared Porter, the Royals' Scott Sharp and the Padres' Logan White. The Halos could make two hires, adding both a president of baseball operations and a GM, but they haven’t decided on that yet. Either way, they are going to want a GM who can make this team competitive in a hurry. Carpino said the club is only a few good decisions away from being a postseason club.
2. How can the Angels build a better rotation?
Starting pitching has been an issue for the Angels for several years, and that was again the case in the shortened 2020 season, as their starters combined for a 5.52 ERA that was the second-worst mark in the Majors. The Halos will still have Bundy and Heaney, while they are hopeful that Ohtani can return to two-way status. Griffin Canning has shown some promise, and they have other youngsters in Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria and José Suarez. But they lack an ace and are likely to add at least one starting pitcher via free agency or trade this offseason. Trevor Bauer is the top free agent on the market, but it remains to be seen how much the Angels will be willing to spend to improve their much-maligned rotation.
3. Will the Angels look to sign a closer?
Hansel Robles emerged as a dependable closer in 2019, but he struggled in '20, forcing the club to use several relievers in the ninth, including Ty Buttrey, Felix Peña and Mike Mayers. The Angels blew 14 saves on the season, which led the Majors. They could fill the closer job internally, especially with the emergence of Mayers, but will have to add several relievers this offseason. The bullpen had a collective 4.63 ERA, which tied for the ninth-worst mark in the Majors. Liam Hendriks will be the top closer on the market, but he is expected to command a large multiyear deal. Blake Treinen could also be an intriguing option after his bounce-back year with the Dodgers.
4. How will the middle infield situation shake out?
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons will be a free agent and the Angels also traded away impending free agent Tommy La Stella to the A’s before the Trade Deadline. Fletcher will be the regular at either shortstop or second base, depending on what the Halos do in the offseason. They could still look to bring back Simmons or La Stella, but it seems unlikely -- especially for Simmons, who elected not to play the final five games of the season. If the Angels don’t make a move, they would have to rely on a combination of Luis Rengifo and Franklin Barreto at second base. So it appears more likely they will acquire another middle infielder to pair with Fletcher.
5. Do the Angels need more catching?
The Angels signed veteran Jason Castro to a one-year deal, but traded him to the Padres before the Trade Deadline. They mostly leaned on a combination of Max Stassi and Anthony Bemboom behind the plate, and both fared better than expected offensively. Stassi had a breakout season, but he underwent hip surgery in mid-October and could miss the start of the 2021 season. J.T. Realmuto is the top catcher available, but the Halos are more likely to use their resources to acquire pitching.