ANAHEIM -- Since debuting in 2011, center fielder Mike Trout has been far and away the best player in the Majors, but the Angels have reached the postseason just once in his eight-year career.Trout has two years left on his six-year, $145 million extension signed before the 2015 season and
ANAHEIM -- Since debuting in 2011, center fielder Mike Trout has been far and away the best player in the Majors, but the Angels have reached the postseason just once in his eight-year career.
Trout has two years left on his six-year, $145 million extension signed before the 2015 season and the Angels want to give him a reason to remain with the organization for the long haul. So general manager Billy Eppler made short-term improvements to this year's roster in hopes of making the team competitive in 2019, while also giving them flexibility for the future as their rapidly improving farm system continues to grow.
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The Angels exclusively signed players to one-year deals this offseason, adding starting pitchers Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill, closer Cody Allen, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and first baseman Justin Bour via free agency. Los Angeles did make multiyear offers to the likes of Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Wilson Ramos and Yasmani Grandal, but the Halos ultimately didn't sign any players beyond '19.
"It wasn't scripted," Eppler said. "There were some players that we engaged on and made offers to that would've been multiyear commitments. Those didn't work out for a couple different reasons. But shorter-term deals work in a variety of ways -- they keep you flexible, and they keep you open to doing things both during the season and in succeeding seasons."
The Angels are counting on their Minor League system to remain competitive in the long-term, as it went from being considered the worst in the game to being widely regarded as a Top 10 system in just three years. Center fielder Jo Adell is the crown jewel and could be a regular in the Majors by 2020, while other top prospects such as right-hander Griffin Canning, lefty Jose Suarez and second baseman Luis Rengifo could make an impact in '19.
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"I can see the growth," Eppler said. "I know people outside can see the growth. Opposing general managers tell me, 'Wow, you guys have grown a lot,' so that makes me feel kinda good. Is it all ready to pop into the big leagues all next year? I don't know. Not all of it. Is some of it? Probably some. We just have to keep making decisions that don't jeopardize our health or put us in a financially unhealthy situation."
Despite wanting to be competitive in '19, Eppler has also been cautious not to trade prospects who can help the club in the future for a short-term fix. The Astros remain the heavy favorites to win the American League West, and the Angels are much more likely to compete for the second AL Wild Card spot with clubs like the A's, Twins and Rays.
"We have a methodology," Eppler said. "We're clearly trying to build organically. I think anybody can figure that out now. We haven't traded many players in our Minor League system. Nobody impactful in terms of the top tier of our prospect tree has been traded. We know sustainable health is going to be achieved through our farm system and then we do have the financial muscle to go outside at the right time and achieve those things as well."
The Angels also know the health of their starting pitching will have a major impact on how competitive they are in '19, as starting pitchers Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Harvey and Cahill have all had injury concerns in recent years. The club does have more starting depth than in recent years, but they will be without the pitching services of two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who will be limited to serving as designated hitter after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October.
But Eppler is confident that his current group has what it takes contend for their first postseason berth since 2014, even after not making any major splashes this offseason.
"We are a point where we feel complete with our club," Eppler said. "We feel very good with the names we have on our depth chart right now."
Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.