ANAHEIM -- A day after the Angels dismissed Brad Ausmus after his first year as manager, general manager Billy Eppler explained the organization’s rationale for the move and said it has yet to begin identifying candidates for the managerial opening.
The Angels, though, have been heavily linked to Joe Maddon after the Cubs and Maddon parted ways on Sunday. Maddon has ties to the Angels, serving as coach in the organization for 31 years, including two stints as interim manager. Maddon has reportedly expressed interest in the job, but he technically remains under contract with Chicago through the end of October, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Eppler, however, said the Angels did not make the move to part ways with Ausmus because of the availability of any potential candidates, and he said he will begin going over candidates with owner Arte Moreno and club president John Carpino on Tuesday. The decision to move on from Ausmus came after a meeting with Moreno and Carpino early Monday, but Eppler said they were considering the move for “a while."
Eppler wouldn’t go into specifics on what qualities Ausmus was lacking or what he’s looking for in a new manager.
“Removing Brad was not a decision we came to lightly,” Eppler said. “Our results this year fell short of expectations. We collectively felt it was in the best interest of the org to go in a different direction. The responsibility is a shared responsibility. But it just put us in a position where we are going to go with a different voice.”
The Angels will conduct a full search for a new manager, but Eppler said it’s too early to know how many candidates they will consider. Angels special assistant Eric Chavez and Astros bench coach Joe Espada, who were both interviewed last year, are among the potential candidates. Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who has ties to Eppler from their time in New York together, could be another candidate.
The Angels had a rough finish to the season under Ausmus, as they were five games above .500 on July 24 but went 18-41 down the stretch to lose 90 games for the first time since 1999. It came after the Angels had to deal with the sudden death of 27-year-old Tyler Skaggs on July 1. Ausmus also dealt with an injury-depleted roster, especially after free-agent signees Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill, Jonathan Lucroy and Cody Allen didn’t pan out and star center fielder Mike Trout was shut down after Sept. 7 with a right toe injury.
“Brad was focused on making people around him better and creating a positive culture,” Eppler said. “Brad is not solely responsible for our season. The majority of our short-term acquisitions we made this past offseason did not produce to their forecast.”
Eppler, heading into the last year of his deal after his option was picked up, has an important offseason ahead of him, especially as the Angels try to improve a rotation that finished with a 5.64 ERA, second worst in the Majors. He said the first priority is finding a manager, but the team will have a better idea of its plan for free agency by late October. It is expected to target the top free agents available, such as Orange County native Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner and Stephen Strasburg if he opts out.
“I anticipate us adding pitching,” Eppler said. “I couldn’t really forecast the number. Just with anything, we’ll always be open to getting better at any position we can get better.”