The Winter Meetings came and went in a whirlwind of wild speculation, wishing and hoping from not only Halos Heaven, but from every corner of the Halosphere. There was a consensus among the Angels fans, and it was unwavering: sign a kickass LF, preferably Jason Heyward. As quickly as the mid-December MLB meetup descended upon our Twitter feeds, it was seemingly over and done in the blink of an eye, and the aftermath became more and more clear today. The bummer news, of course, being the Cubs/Heyward signing, thus ruining many perfectly fine daydreams of a young, studly Angels outfield. C'est la vie. But hey, they also made some smaller moves over the past few days, most notably the trading of Trevor Gott for Yunel Escobar, and we also got to peek inside the mind of GM Billy Eppler today, seeing just where he may be taking this franchise in the foreseeable future.
So, what did we learn?
1. Yunel Escobar will be your new 3B, NOT your new, Johnny Giavotella-replacing 2B:
As expected, Yunel Escobar will be the Angels 3B, Billy Eppler said.— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) December 11, 2015
Some of the speculation around these parts and other corners of the blogging world was that the Angels would put Escobar at second, a position he hadn't played since 2007, and still look to fill the third base hole elsewhere. I thought that meant David Freese would for sure be returning to Anaheim, but with this news that Escobar will indeed be playing the hot corner, I think we're saying our official goodbye to Freese as an Angel. That's also good news for the Johnny Giavotella fans out there, but it doesn't change the Escobar trade reaction all that much: it's still a lateral move, position-wise, with the added perk of still upgrading at leadoff.
2. Avert eyes...left field platoon eminent:
Angels GM Billy Eppler said he's still talking about everyday players in LF, as well as platoon guys.— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) December 11, 2015
Perhaps the scariest little tidbit of Eppler's meeting with the beat writers today was his insistence that while they're still looking at one of the big ticket names(Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes), they are also perfectly comfortable going with a platoon with guys like recent pickup Craig Gentry, Rafael Ortega, or even keeping David Murphy in that spot. Or heck, how about ALL OF THEM?!?! Exciting? Not so much...but it would keep Arte Moreno going over that dreaded(to him, apparently) luxury tax threshold. If they truly go this route, expect it to fail miserably, pissing off fans left and right, and then C.J. Wilson, if healthy, may be on the trading block come July. More proof of this cheap, non-committal tactic was evident in the following statement, where you can almost hear the overworked gears grinding in his head in hopes of talking himself into this team's chances in an AL West that found rival teams getting stronger while they Angels did nothing.
Asked Eppler if the Angels can have an above-average offense without signing a star player. His response ... pic.twitter.com/wEPXU2ebgj— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) December 11, 2015
We can read between the lines, decipher the tea leaves, etc. til we're all blue in the face, but my gut reaction here is that we're still dealing with the same problem as we were before Billy Eppler came on board: Arte Moreno. I'm basically tempting fate, and hoping to be proven wrong, but I don't see anything happening that will send Moreno over the luxury tax line, and it seems like we're dealing with a "Meet the new GM, same as the old GM" situation. It's all running through Mike Scioscia's outdated baseball mind, and then being filtered through Moreno's apprehensive checkbook.
Again, I WANT to be wrong here, and only time will tell. There are good players to still be had, and we shouldn't give up ALL hope. But what else do we have to off of, other than learning from the past maneuvers and mistakes made by Moreno and Co.? One that that still subtly sets off alarms in my head is the fact that we never had a Billy Eppler press conference, like the Angels had for Jerry Dipoto. When I go to search for pics to use from the Winter Meetings, there are no pics of Billy Eppler. There are many of Mike Scioscia holding court at the Winter Meetings, though. What do those tea leaves tell you? If it's the same thing i'm picking up, we might be in for a bumpy 2016.