Eppler: No set goal to make Meetings splash
ANAHEIM -- In the 2011 version, the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in one fell swoop. In 2012, they picked up Joe Blanton and Sean Burnett, and they laid the groundwork for the addition of Josh Hamilton. In 2013, there was the three-team trade that sent Mark Trumbo to Arizona for Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. And in 2014, Howie Kendrick was sent to the Dodgers for Andrew Heaney.
But those were Jerry Dipoto's Winter Meetings. Billy Eppler, still not even two months in as the Angels' general manager, doesn't necessarily feel obligated to make a move at this year's eventful gathering.
"Sometimes teams want to walk out showing something, like, 'Here's a player that we walked out of here with,' but that's not a prerequisite, and that's not a goal," Eppler said. "The goal is to walk out the door with more information than you walked in with, and to be as thorough as possible in your information gathering."
The 2015 Winter Meetings, an annual assembly of the game's executives and agents -- and, therefore, media members -- will take place at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., from Monday to Thursday morning.
MLB.com and MLB Network will provide wall-to-wall coverage, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings broadcasts on Sunday at 5 p.m. PT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 8 a.m. PT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 7 a.m. PT.
The Angels satisfied their desire for a veteran utility infielder by signing Cliff Pennington to a two-year, $3.75 million contract on Nov. 17, then took care of the catching position by locking up Geovany Soto on a one-year, $2.8 million deal seven days later. Eppler could still choose to upgrade at up to four different positions -- third base, second base, rotation, bullpen -- but the major void continues to be left field.
The question is whether they'll chase, and ultimately sign, a premier free agent.
"Time will tell," Eppler said. "Nothing is ruled out at this point in time."
The Angels were roughly $20 million below the $189 million luxury-tax threshold before the non-tender deadline.
That threshold has basically acted as their spending limit the last handful of years. But the Angels can free up a significant amount of money by trading Wilson and some of the $20 million he's owed in 2016, and a lot can change if owner Arte Moreno consents to exceeding the luxury-tax threshold next season.
Regardless of the budget, there seems to be enough room to sign a premier free-agent corner outfielder -- and all of them remain on the board.
The Angels would ideally sign a left-handed power hitter, which is why Jason Heyward (a right fielder who would move Kole Calhoun to left field), Chris Davis (a first baseman with outfield experience) and Alex Gordon (likely a little less expensive than Heyward and Davis) could be a fit. But they'd also prefer to hold onto their first-round Draft pick, which is why Yoenis Cespedes makes sense on the right deal. And they have other needs, so don't rule out potentially less-expensive free agents like Ben Zobrist or Gerardo Parra, or trades for the Reds' Jay Bruce or Yankees' Brett Gardner.
The acquisition of shortstop Andrelton Simmons left the Angels without Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis, the two best prospects of a barren farm system, so free agency remains the Angels' most logical route.
"Just like you saw us with Soto and with Pennington and the move with Simmons, we're looking to get better everywhere we can," Eppler said. "When opportunities present themselves, we'll move aggressively when it makes sense."