The LA Angels were one of the most disappointing teams in 2016. Injuries, lack of depth, and poor play are all reasons for the failed year. General manager Billy Eppler hasn’t made any major moves.
Eppler has been great for the LA Angels so far. Trading away two top pitching prospects for Andrelton Simmons was risky, but was great for the long term. Simmons had his best year on the offensive side of things and was stellar as always on defense.
That was Eppler’s only major signing, but he was also very successful in the smaller signings. Finding players like Jeffry Marte, Gregorio Petit, Andrew Bailey, and Alex Meyer was vital to the small amount of success the Angels had last year.
Eppler has done much of the same this offseason. He has made signings and claimed players of waivers. Something noticeable about each player brought onto the team is the obviousness of their role. For example, Jesse Chavez was recently signed for a small contract. It is well known he will compete for the fifth rotation spot or throw from the bullpen. Every player has a path carved out for him and is put in a position where they will be able to compete for a role.
Eppler is great at doing this. It is an underrated aspect of being a general manager. Eppler should stick with it this offseason for a few reasons.
The free agent market is not very talented. To go along with that, most free agents are older than a rebuilding team would like. Yoenis Cespedes, the widely regarded cream of the crop this year, was signed to a four-year, 110-million dollar year. He is currently 31 years old. Edwin Encarnacion was reportedly signed to a 5-year 115-million dollar deal. He is 33. A designated hitter who is that old making that much money shows how weak of a class it is. Any player signed this offseason is going to be signed for more than their real value.
Avoiding big names in free agency this year would be the smart move. The Angels have a lot of money off the books this offseason, 40 million dollars from CJ Wilson and Jered Weaver alone. Next year they will also have that ghostly Josh Hamilton contract over with. The 2018 free agent class is going to be historically great. Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, and Yu Darvish are just a few names on the list.
Waiting until 2017 and even 2018 (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, oh me oh my) to get in on the free agency frenzy would be the smart move. Even if the Angels still did not get in on the big names, the lower players would then most likely be undervalued.
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Another reason the Angels should avoid spending the big bucks is because they do not need to. There are no high expectations for the Angels in 2016. Spending the 2017 season observing the talent they have and they dispersing it at the trade deadline should be the move for the Angels. They will be coming off of a draft in which they had high picks and hopefully a handful of future big league players with a stud or two. Trading their veterans to bring in more young talent should be the plan.
The Angels should also avoid trading any of their big names. Trading Tyler Skaggs or Matt Shoemaker should not be done before the trade deadline. There is a lot of uncertainty for each, as Skaggs has the potential to be a number two starter for a team and Shoemaker was one of the best pitchers in baseball for a stretch last year. He is also getting up their in age though.
The Angels have a cloud of uncertainty in their future. They need to maintain their flexibility as much as possible. Retaining assets and salary room will prove very valuable in the future.