With Hicks in the mix, what's in store for Jo Adell?

February 1st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- It made sense for the Angels to add depth by signing veteran outfielder to a one-year contract on Monday, especially considering the deal is worth the league minimum because he’s owed roughly $19 million from the Yankees over the next two seasons.

Hicks, 33, gives them a switch-hitter who can play all three outfield spots and fared well for the Orioles down the stretch after being released by New York last May. He gets the chance to play close to Long Beach, Calif., where he grew up, and he had a desire to play for new manager Ron Washington.

But it does make things much more interesting in the outfield for the Angels -- and Jo Adell, in particular. Superstar Mike Trout, Taylor Ward and Mickey Moniak figure to get plenty of playing time and Adell is the wild card of that group, more so because he’s out of Minor League options. If Adell doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he’d be exposed to waivers and certainly lost to another club via a trade or waiver claim.

So while Monday’s signing was about Hicks and what he can bring to the team, the question of what the Angels do with Adell is where the real intrigue lies.

Adell, 24, was a first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft and a former top prospect, but he has hit .214/.259/.366 with 18 homers and 66 RBIs in 178 games over the last four seasons. He’s had much better success in the Minors, most recently slugging 24 homers in 74 games with Triple-A Salt Lake last year.

General manager Perry Minasian downplayed the effect of the Hicks signing on Adell, saying they could have room for all five outfielders on their roster. Minasian noted injuries can occur during Spring Training, which is why depth is important and why the club signed other veterans such as Jake Marisnick and Willie Calhoun to Minor League deals. That said, it’s still hard to see the move and not think about Adell’s future.

“He's on the 40-man and he’s gonna come into camp,” Minasian said. “Jo had quality year last year from a Triple-A standpoint. He would’ve had a chance to play a significant amount of time last year but he had an unfortunate injury. It happens, but it's somebody that we think has a ton of talent and can definitely help us.”

Adell looked like he was going to have his opportunity to get extended playing time in early July, especially when Trout went down with his hamate fracture that essentially ended his season. But Adell suffered a left oblique strain in just his fourth game after being called up, landed on the injured list on July 14 and was out of action until Sept. 19.

Adell flashed some signs of potential in 17 games with the Angels last season but hit .207/.258/.448 with three homers, three doubles and six RBIs, striking out in 25 of his 62 plate appearances. He showed improvements defensively after struggling with the glove in his first three years in the Majors. But it still hasn’t fully clicked just yet.

“Jo is a young player who's been through a lot and has had a lot of ups and downs,” Minasian said. “It’s similar to Mickey Moniak. Similar to Taylor Ward. It takes time for young players to establish themselves. Experience matters. He’s gone through a lot of different coaches and a lot different managers. I believe the stability with the new staff we have will really help.”

The Angels could decide to deal from that outfield group ahead of Spring Training, especially if they’re looking for more pitching. But they also could let it play out this spring as there’s no rush to make a move. Hicks and Trout have had trouble staying healthy in recent years while Adell and Ward dealt with lengthy injuries last season.

When asked on Monday if he'd have any desire to trade away any of his outfielders, Minasian responded that the Angels would look at "everything" to improve the club.

“So whether it's trade market, whether it's free agency, we're still sorting through all those things," Minasian said. "There’s still players out there that we feel like can help.”