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Eppler feels good about Angels' roster for '19

Club able to fill several offseason needs through free agency
January 28, 2019

ANAHEIM -- Angels general manager Billy Eppler hasn't ruled out making any more additions before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 12, but he also made it clear that he's confident with the roster as it stands.After signing closer Cody Allen to a one-year deal worth $8.5

ANAHEIM -- Angels general manager Billy Eppler hasn't ruled out making any more additions before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 12, but he also made it clear that he's confident with the roster as it stands.
After signing closer Cody Allen to a one-year deal worth $8.5 million on Jan. 20, Eppler said he had to ask for owner Arte Moreno's approval, as the GM said the signing stretched the club's budget. The Angels' payroll is projected at roughly $180 million. Last year, the club had an Opening Day payroll of about $166 million and finished the season with a $176 million payroll, so it doesn't appear likely it will add much to it via free agency the rest of this offseason.
"We are a point where we feel complete with our club," Eppler said. "We feel very good with the names we have on our depth chart right now."
The Angels came into the offseason looking for starting pitching help, a veteran catcher, a left-handed bat and possibly a closer, and the club achieved those goals via free agency. The Halos signed right-hander Matt Harvey to a one-year, $11 million deal, right-hander Trevor Cahill to a one-year, $9 million pact, while also inking backstop Jonathan Lucroy to a one-year, $3.35 million deal and first baseman Justin Bour to a one-year, $2.5 million agreement. They also acquired backup infielder Tommy La Stella from the Cubs and avoided arbitration by inking him for one year and $1.35 million.

On the pitching front, the Angels traded for left-hander Dillon Peters for starting rotation depth from the Marlins and they acquired relief prospect John Curtiss from the Twins. Lefty José Álvarez was also traded to the Phillies for hard-throwing reliever Luis García.
So while the Angels haven't made a huge splash via free agency, they've found ways to improve the roster without sacrificing future flexibility as all of the free agents they've signed have agreed to one-year deals. But Eppler said that wasn't necessarily the plan coming in. The club did make multi-year offers to free-agent catchers Wilson Ramos and Yasmani Grandal as well as starting pitchers Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ, while also having strong interest in relievers Zach Britton and David Robertson.
"It wasn't scripted," Eppler said. "There were some players that we engaged on and made offers to that would've been multi-year commitments. Those didn't work out for a couple different reasons. But shorter-term deals work in a variety of ways -- they keep you flexible and they keep you open to doing things both during the season and in succeeding seasons."
As it stands, the rotation is expected to be composed of Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Harvey and Cahill with Jaime Barria considered the front-runner for the fifth spot. Other candidates include Nick Tropeano, Felix Peña and Peters. Griffin Canning and Jose Suarez, ranked as the club's Nos. 2 and 8 prospects by MLB Pipeline, are expected to open at Triple-A Salt Lake.

Allen will be the closer with Ty Buttrey, Justin Anderson, Hansel Robles, Cam Bedrosian, Noé Ramirez and Garcia expected to serve as setup relievers. Others in the mix include Taylor Cole, Williams Jerez and Curtiss, while they wait on the returns of Keynan Middleton and JC Ramírez from Tommy John surgery in mid-season. Ramirez could also be used as a starter depending on need.
Around the diamond, Lucroy is the starting catcher with either Kevan Smith or Jose Briceno as his backup, while Albert Pujols and Bour will see time at first. Two-way star Shohei Ohtani will be limited to designated hitter duty after Tommy John surgery, so he'll see time there with Pujols. Andrelton Simmons is entrenched at short, while Zack Cozart will start at second or third depending on how the infield competition shakes out in Spring Training. David Fletcher is the favorite to start at second, but will compete with third baseman Taylor Ward and second base prospect Luis Rengifo for a starting spot. La Stella is also in that mix, but is more likely to be a bench player, as he led the Majors in pinch-hits last year.
The outfield is set with Mike Trout in center, Justin Upton in left and Kole Calhoun in right, while there will be a competition for the fourth outfielder spot. Non-roster invitee Peter Bourjos, who began his career with the Angels in 2010, will compete with Michael Hermosillo in camp.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.