Inbox: What positions are most crucial to fill?

Beat reporter Maria Guardado fields Halos fans' questions

October 13th, 2017

What do you think will be the most important position to fill in free agency -- starting pitching or hitting? And how do we fill those needs? -- @cakirby, via Twitter

General manager Billy Eppler has already made it clear that his priority heading into the offseason will be improving the Angels' offense, which ranked 11th in the American League in on-base percentage (.315) and last in slugging percentage (.397). I think their two biggest holes are the ones they tried to plug with and at the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline: left field and second base.

:: Submit a question to the Angels Inbox ::

The Angels could have a long-term answer in left field with Upton, but he might opt out of his contract and leave a guaranteed $88.5 million over four years on the table to become a free agent. If he departs, the Angels could try to target other corner outfield bats on the open market, such as J.D. Martinez or .

Aside from , the Angels don't have an obvious in-house option for their void at second base, so they could also pursue free-agent infielders like Zack Cozart and , or trade for someone.

The Angels could use more production out of first and third base as well, but they have some internal options at the corner-infield spots with C.J. Cron, , Cowart and , so those positions could be less pressing.

Do you think Justin Upton stays? -- @bigangelbill12, via Twitter

Upton hasn't publicly said which way he's leaning, but my colleague Jon Paul Morosi reported last week that it's "increasingly likely" he will opt out. Even if he does exercise that provision in his contract, it wouldn't necessarily preclude him from returning to the Angels, who could always try to negotiate different terms with him. I think it'll be a close call.

Do you see the Angels going after or Mike Moustakas? -- @ChrisW1212, via Twitter

I think it will depend on Upton's decision. If he stays, the Angels will owe more than $110 million to six holdovers already under contract for 2018 (, , , , Valbuena and Upton), which will likely lessen their chances of making another big commitment to a free agent this winter. If Upton leaves, the Angels will have more payroll flexibility, with an estimated $50 million to $75 million to spend before hitting the luxury-tax threshold. Overall, I think Hosmer and Moustakas could be fits for the Angels, as they play positions of need (first base and third, respectively) and could provide much-needed offensive upgrades.

Do you get the sense that with some injured arms, like Nick Tropeano and , due back next year, they're not going to spend on starting pitching in free agency? -- @BigTimeTimJim, via Twitter

Yes, that was one of the main takeaways from Eppler's comments to the media on the first day of the Angels' offseason. Their rotation has been decimated by injuries in two consecutive seasons, but the Angels are confident that they'll have more depth next year, when , , , , Tropeano and Shoemaker are all projected to be healthy come Spring Training. It's possible that the Angels will look to supplement their depth through waiver claims, Minor League deals or trades, but I don't expect them to pursue high-end free agents like or this winter.

Who do you see as the Angels' starting five pitchers next year? -- Bob, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Assuming everyone is healthy, my best guess for the Angels' rotation next season would probably be: Richards, Heaney, Skaggs, Shoemaker and Tropeano. Injury or underperformance could also open up spots for Bridwell or JC Ramirez, though it's unclear if Ramirez will be available to pitch next season after suffering a partial tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his right elbow. Prospect Jaime Barria, who shot from Class A Advanced Inland Empire to Triple-A Salt Lake this season, is a strong bet to reach the Majors in 2018 and could also emerge as a rotation option for the Angels.