'Now it's our turn': Nevin, Angels ready to make noise

February 14th, 2023

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels manager Phil Nevin said Tuesday there was some uncertainty at the beginning of the offseason because owner Arte Moreno was exploring a sale, but he was pleased to see the Angels bring in several quality veteran players and was happy to hear Moreno isn’t selling.

Nevin, speaking on the first day of Spring Training as pitchers, catchers and World Baseball Classic participants reported to camp, said he believes the Angels are better equipped to compete in 2023 because of the moves they made this offseason. They signed several free agents such as lefty , potential closer , infielder and outfielder , while trading for outfielder and infielder .

“Quite frankly, at the end of last season we weren’t sure if we’d be able to improve the roster at all,” Nevin said. “What we’ve been able to do is really impressive. We’re in a good spot. And now it’s our turn.”

The Angels enter 2023 with their highest payroll ever, as it’s roughly $206 million, which is up from last year’s $180 million. Nevin, who signed a one-year deal to become the club’s manager after serving as the interim skipper last year following Joe Maddon’s dismissal in early June, credited Moreno for adding to the roster despite the uncertainty early in the offseason.

“He’s been a good owner for this organization,” Nevin said. “We've always had really exciting players and big-money players to watch, and I think as a fan, that excites you. Everybody wants to win. That’s really the end-all. Until we bring that, I understand people’s feelings and all that. But he’s been great to us and the organization. He certainly opened some things up and put us in the position we’re in right now where we feel like we can bring it to him. And now it’s on us.”

The Angels are aiming for their first playoff berth since 2014, which is tied with the Tigers for the longest postseason drought in the Majors. But Nevin thinks the club’s improved depth will be key in '23.

Unlike recent seasons, the Angels pitched well enough in 2022, as their 3.77 ERA ranked as the ninth-best mark in the Majors. But they scored the sixth-fewest runs in the Majors, so the goal was to find veterans to add to that mix this offseason. Renfroe brings plenty of power as the club’s new starting right fielder, while Urshela and Drury add depth to the infield. Nevin said he expects Drury to see a lot of time at second base, while Urshela can split time at first with Jared Walsh and give Anthony Rendon a break at third, when needed.

“If you look at the last two months of last year, we played .500 ball and we played pretty well, but our starting pitching and relief pitching carried us, if you want to know the truth,” Nevin said. “We needed to score more runs. And we brought in some dudes who can really bang. It’s exciting to think about that.”

Nevin added that he envisions position battles for the sixth starter spot, at catcher and in the bullpen. He wouldn’t quite call it an open competition behind the plate, but veteran is coming off a down year offensively and the Angels want to get long looks at top prospect Logan O’Hoppe and .

The competition for the sixth spot in the rotation will be interesting to monitor, but Nevin cautioned that it might be a swing role and not a traditional spot. The Angels are going to try to start two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani on his sixth day as much as possible, so they’re going to have to shuffle the rotation plenty during the season.

But candidates include right-handers Griffin Canning and Chris Rodriguez, both of whom missed the 2022 season due to injury, and left-hander Tucker Davidson, who is out of options. Right-hander Jaime Barría is also in that mix, as well as right-handers Chase Silseth and Davis Daniel.

“We certainly like the options we have,” Nevin said. “There’s a lot of guys who can fit that role. Is it a traditional six? I don’t know if it’s going to look like that. Our starters are going to pitch when they are ready to pitch, especially Shohei. So it could become a swing deal. But we like what we have with our rotation.”