Ausmus out in LA; Maddon up next?

September 30th, 2019

ANAHEIM -- Brad Ausmus -- after one season at the helm -- will not return as manager in 2020, the Angels announced on Monday. General manager Billy Eppler will be retained, however, according to a Major League source.

The Angels went 72-90 under Ausmus, losing 90 games for the first time in 20 years. The Angels never lost more than 88 games under Mike Scioscia, who was the manager from 2000-18. Ausmus remains under contract for two more seasons.

There is heavy speculation within the industry that the Angels have interest in former Cubs skipper Joe Maddon as manager. Maddon was a coach in the Angels organization for 31 years, including two stints as interim manager of the Angels in 1996 and '99 before he received his first managerial post with the Rays in 2006.

“I want to thank Brad for his hard work and dedication to this organization over the last two seasons as both a special assistant and field manager. He navigated this franchise through one of its most difficult seasons with class and professionalism,” Eppler said in a statement. “This was an incredibly difficult decision, but after significant consideration, we’ve decided it is necessary to go in another direction.”

The Angels had to deal with the tragic death of 27-year-old Tyler Skaggs in Texas on July 1. The club also dealt with countless injuries, as right fielder Kole Calhoun, infielder David Fletcher, first baseman Albert Pujols, setup reliever Ty Buttrey and closer Hansel Robles were the only regulars to avoid the injured list.

The Angels were scheduled to host a news conference with both Eppler and Ausmus on Monday, but it was canceled. Eppler will be made available to the media via conference call on Tuesday.

Ausmus, 50, was asked about his status on the last day of the season on Sunday, and he said the only assurance he received was that he was still under contract. He also added that he has a good relationship with Eppler, who hired Ausmus as a special advisor to the GM in 2018 before appointing him the 17th manager in Angels history on Oct. 21, 2018.

It's the second time that Ausmus has been dismissed as a manager, as he served as skipper of the Tigers from 2014-17. Ausmus has a career record of 314-332 in five years as a manager, making the postseason once in ‘14. Ausmus, who attended Dartmouth, also played in the Majors for 18 seasons as a catcher from 1993-2010.

Ausmus had a good relationship with the players in the clubhouse, but communication issues still persisted this season as the club brought in a new pitching coach in Doug White, as well as three hitting coaches in Jeremy Reed, Shawn Wooten and Paul Sorrento. It's unclear if the Angels will make any changes to the coaching staff, but a new manager would likely want his own coaches.

Maddon, 65, is expected to be the top target for the Angels after leading the Cubs to a World Series title in 2016 while also taking the Rays to the World Series in 2008. He was the bench coach of the Angels from 1994-2005, which included the franchise's lone World Series championship in '02.

Owner Arte Moreno bought the team in 2003 and knows Maddon well from his time as a coach with the Angels. The Halos have made the postseason just once in the last 10 seasons, getting swept by the Royals in the 2014 AL Division Series. The organization's last postseason win came on Oct. 22, 2009, against the Yankees in the AL Championship Series.

So it's become clear that Moreno wants to win now, especially with perennial MVP candidate in his prime. Trout, 28, has been the best player in baseball since his rookie season in 2012, but he's only made the postseason once.

The Angels have yet to finish above .500 since Eppler took over as GM before the 2016 season, marking the first time they've had four straight losing seasons since 1974-77. But Eppler has improved the club's farm system, signed and locked up Trout to a 12-year, $426.5 million extension before the season. Eppler is in the last year of his deal after his option was picked up, but the club declined to extend him.

The Angels figure to be very aggressive this winter in their pursuit of pitching. Astros ace Gerrit Cole, an Orange County native, will be their top target, and he's expected to sign a lucrative deal in free agency. The Angels know that to compete they have to improve a rotation that finished with the second-worst ERA (5.64) in the Majors, ahead of only the Rockies (5.87).