Inbox: Will Angels upgrade on offense?

November 15th, 2019

ANAHEIM -- The annual General Manager Meetings are in the rear view mirror and now the Angels have roughly three weeks until the Winter Meetings, which begin on Dec. 8 in San Diego.

Angels GM Billy Eppler said that the Angels plan to acquire two starting pitchers this offseason, and that they have several avenues to improve the club because of its financial flexibility and trade assets. But there hasn’t been much talk on what they plan to do on the position player side, which brings us right into the first question of this week’s Angels Inbox.

Acquiring pitching is obviously the main priority this offseason, so any major upgrades to the lineup would be a bit of a surprise. The areas where they could use some help, however, are at first base, catcher and in the outfield.

It could make sense to add a left-handed power bat at first base to pair with , much like they did with last offseason with the Justin Bour signing that didn’t pan out. But Eppler said at the GM Meetings that he’s comfortable with youngsters Jared Walsh and Matt Thaiss and that Tommy La Stella could see more time at first base. But there are some free-agent first basemen out there, including left-handed hitters Eric Thames and Mitch Moreland and switch-hitters Justin Smoak and Neil Walker.

At catcher, Eppler said that he believes they can get more out of Kevan Smith and Max Stassi next year, but that Stassi might not be ready for the start of the season after undergoing right hip surgery. A reunion with could make some sense, especially with his relationship with Gerrit Cole.

In the outfield, the Angels decided not to pick up Kole Calhoun’s $14 million option, but they could turn to Brian Goodwin in right until No. 1 prospect Jo Adell is ready. They’re likely to bring in some competition for Michael Hermosillo to be an extra outfielder next year, but not at a high cost.

It's hard to see a scenario where Adell doesn't take over at some point in right in 2020. Unless he gets hurt. Adell, 19, has emerged as the No. 5 overall prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline, and he reached Triple-A last season. There's no guarantee that Adell will have immediate success, however, so it will be important for Goodwin to replicate his success from '18. That’s why there is risk from moving on from Calhoun, but Adell has so far showed the tools to be a potential star.

Considering both the short-term and long-term impacts on the payroll, it's hard to see the Angels signing two players of that caliber this offseason. There are Competitive Balance Tax considerations, so it's much more likely they target a top starter such as Cole, Wheeler or Stephen Strasburg, and then a second-tier starter.

The Angels have mostly been linked to starters, but they could add at least one veteran reliever this offseason. It helps that they have Hansel Robles at closer, but there's always room to improve the bullpen. But signing a reliever or two to a one-year deal seems more likely than any multiyear deals.

The Angels have some infield depth with the emergence of David Fletcher and La Stella's breakout year. Fletcher figures to be the primary third baseman while La Stella can play second and some third and first. Luis Rengifo also showed some promise as a rookie at second base last year and will be in the mix.

Zack Cozart is more of a wild card because he's missed so much time the past two years because of a torn left shoulder labrum. But Eppler gave good news on Cozart this week, saying that Cozart has been cleared for a hitting program and is expected to have a normal offseason.

The key again will be shortstop Andrelton Simmons’ health. Simmons was bothered by a severe ankle sprain throughout most of the season. When healthy, he remains the best defensive shortstop in the game, so keeping him on the field will be key in 2020.