The Angels decided not to bring back general manager Billy Eppler for the 2021 season, the club announced after Sunday's 5-0 loss to the Dodgers. Eppler quietly signed a one-year extension in July, per a Major League source, but the Angels decided to move on anyway after finishing with a losing record in each of Eppler’s five seasons as GM.
“The Angels Organization would like to thank Billy for his dedication and work ethic over the last five years,” Angels president John Carpino said in a statement. “We wish him and his family all the best."
Angels manager Joe Maddon spoke highly of Eppler both before and after Sunday’s game. He found out Saturday night that Eppler would not be returning. The Angels are scheduled to host a virtual press conference on Wednesday with more details on why they parted ways with Eppler with one year remaining, and what kind of candidate they are looking for in a new GM.
"I thought we worked great together," Maddon said. "From the moment I met him, I thought to myself, 'This is a straight-up guy, absolutely straight up.' He's one of the most honest people I've met in this industry. Great talent evaluator.”
The franchise hasn’t made the postseason since 2014 despite having superstar Mike Trout on the roster since 2011. But Eppler did sign Trout to a 12-year extension for $426.5 million before last season, and signed Shohei Ohtani as a highly coveted free agent before the 2018 season. Trout and Eppler developed a close friendship, and Trout said Friday he was hopeful Eppler would be retained.
"Billy was a big reason I signed back here," Trout said Friday. "Billy and I have built a friendship over the years. He's put a lot of great teams together, and, obviously, it just didn't work out these last few years.”
Eppler inherited a tough situation, as the Angels had one of the worst farm systems in the game, but couldn’t go into a full rebuild with Trout on the roster. Eppler instead tried to do what he called “rebuilding on the fly," meaning the team still tried to add veterans but also looked to improve its Minor League system.
He made successful trades for players such as Andrelton Simmons and Dylan Bundy, but struggled to sign effective starting pitchers with misses including Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill and Julio Teheran. The Angels also signed infielder Zack Cozart to a three-year deal worth $38 million before the 2018 season and had to trade their 2019 first-round pick to the Giants last offseason to get out of Cozart’s contract.
It never fully clicked for the Angels, whether it was due to injuries or simply a lack of pitching. His hire before last season of manager Brad Ausmus lasted only one year before Maddon was brought on this season. Hopes were high after the signing of Anthony Rendon to a seven-year contract, but the Angels sputtered out of the gate and were eliminated from the postseason on Friday. Eppler’s teams finished with a combined 332-376 (.469) record since 2016.
The Angels are expected to look for a veteran general manager and have already been linked to Dave Dombrowski, who most recently was the GM of the Red Sox, who won the World Series title in 2018. Angels owner Arte Moreno, special assistant Tony La Russa and Carpino will have influence on the final decision. Maddon said in his role as manager that he doesn’t expect to have any say.
"I am the manager and my job is to manage the group given to us," Maddon said. "And so that's what I anticipate my role shall be."