The Angels have the player many experts consider to be the best in the Major Leagues and a future Hall of Famer. They have talented pitchers on the mend. They have a mix of solid position players and they have shored up their bullpen. They have the stability of the longest-tenured manager in the Majors and a talented, experienced coaching staff.
Now, the club has to put it all together in 2017 and erase any lingering disappointment from an injury-plagued, underperforming roster that led to a 74-88 finish in '16, and the focus on putting a winning team on the field in the coming year is about to be front and center at the Winter Meetings, which begin on Dec. 5.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8 at 6 a.m. PT.
• Hot Stove Tracker
The Angels head into our nation's capital with some optimism despite coming off a disappointing season. They did, after all, win each of their final three series and were 25-20 over their last 45 games of 2016. And their do-everything superstar, center fielder Mike Trout, won his second American League Most Valuable Player Award. He has finished first or second in the MVP voting in each of his first five full Major League seasons.
"Obviously, we were out of it, but we finished strong," Trout said. "There was a lot of positives we can look in for next year. Seemed like every other week we had a guy go down in our lineup or our pitching staff. It took a big hit. We played good the last few months."
Already, general manager Billy Eppler has gone to work to reshape the roster that will be put to use by manager Mike Scioscia, who has been at the helm of the Angels since 2000.
The Angels so far have added some intriguing pieces in outfielder Cameron Maybin and pitcher Jesse Chavez, and they are expecting full returns to health from premier starting pitcher Garrett Richards, who sustained a partially torn right ulnar collateral ligament in May but opted to avoid Tommy John surgery, and right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who sustained a season-ending skull fracture after being struck by a 105-mph line drive in a game in early September.
There's still more work to do, however, and the Winter Meetings might give the club a good chance to fill some areas of need, which could possibly include second base and catcher. Chase Utley and Neil Walker are veteran free-agent options who play the former position. Wilson Ramos and Matt Wieters are the most accomplished and expensive backstops on the open market. Former Angels catchers Hank Conger, Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta are all more affordable possibilities.
"In a perfect world, you'd love to have a full complement of handedness options, and that would be the perfect scenario," Eppler said. "But it's not the end-all, be-all."
The 2017 Angels will have a different look from last season in part because of some big-name departures. Righty Jered Weaver and left-hander C.J. Wilson are free agents, as are catcher Geovany Soto, righty Jhoulys Chacín and other role players. Weaver is a free agent for the first time in his 11-year career, which has been spent entirely with the Angels.
The Angels have not given up on trying to re-up with Weaver, who pitched to a career-high 5.06 ERA in 2016.
Otherwise, there's still a lot of talent to build around. The lineup still features Trout plus legendary slugger Albert Pujols, young power hitter C.J. Cron, defensive-wizard shortstop Andrelton Simmons, up-and-coming right fielder Kole Calhoun and rock-solid third baseman Yunel Escobar. Ricky Nolasco and Tyler Skaggs provide reliable rotational depth. The bullpen got stronger when the Angels recently re-signed Andrew Bailey.
"I don't think we're back as far as maybe the perception is," Scioscia said two days after the 2016 season came to a close.
The Winter Meetings the next big opportunity to change that perception for the better heading into a new year.