So...that was the quite the bang to the end of an exciting postseason. Even for non-Cubs fans, it was quite the sight to see an historic curse broken, and while it was fun to root for the “Lovable Losers” (a nickname that’ll surely be displaced by the time the Cubs have gone on a dynasty), I think most Angels fans can agree that it’s time for the long process of the offseason.
Sure, it’s not as exciting as being in the middle of a pennant race, the free agent class this winter is pretty weak, and the Angels are not a likely destination for the likes of the top free agent bats like a Yoenis Cespedes, Edwin Encarnacion, or Jose Bautista, but it means the slate is wiped clean and some level of hope springs eternal for 2017. One could argue the Angels’ offseason started when their ace Garrett Richards was able to get the nod to avoid Tommy John surgery. But the real composition of the future Angels squad will soon be dictated with the conclusion of the 2016 season now in the rearview mirror. So for this post, I’m gonna give a basic offseason primer along with key dates, which I’ll try to avoid making it too close to Josh’s post from earlier. Eppler may have the hardest job in the sport this winter if he wants the Angels to compete in 2017. Let’s get to it.
The offseason started before the Cubs, and their fans, could even chase down some Advil with a gallon of water in hopes of curing what I’m assuming is probably an incredibly debilitating hangover. Teams have already started to lay down the foundation of an effective offseason in hopes of catching up to the spooky Cubs. The Angels actually got some behind-the-scenes work accomplished already, hiring former St. Louis Cardinals Midwest crosschecker, Matt “Don’t Call Me Ron” Swanson, as the teams new Scouting Director to replace the recently canned Ric Wilson in hopes of instilling a new drafting philosophy to rebuild a still vacant farm system.
They also hired another crosschecker, this time the Cleveland Indians West Coast crosschecker, Jason Smith, as the new national crosschecker underneath Swanson. It’s not as exciting as signing a player or making some big trade, but make no mistake, these are the types of moves the turn a franchise around, even if the immediate results are virtually non-existent. Another under-the-radar signing was of former Arizona Diamondback amateur scout Frankie Thon Jr. as the international crosschecker and assistant director of international scouting. This is Eppler putting emphasis on getting the franchise flushed with homegrown players that are organically produced to build long-term, sustainable success. The kind of success that was quintessential in the 2002-2009 Angels ballclubs. This is exciting to see, even if it’s just surface-level as of now. Be patient Angels fans, the farm won’t do a 180 in a day, but this should inspire some optimism moving forward.
Eppler’s already been making some moves in an attempt to build some depth on the 40-man roster that lacks prospects to create that much needed depth when injuries inevitably happen over the course of a 162 game season. He claimed a pair of New York Yankee relievers in Blake Parker and Kirby Yates, which meant bidding adieu to outfielder Nick Buss and RHP A.J. Achter. 2B Johnny Giavotella, RHP Javy Guera, OF Todd Cunningham, LHP Lucas Luetge, and SS Brendan Ryan all elected for free agency ending their brief and abrupt Angels careers. Brett Oberholtzer, who was slated to make $1 million in arbitration this winter, was also designated for assignment and eventually outrighted in order to make room for a waiver claim from the Cincinnati Reds, Abel De Los Santos, as Eppler continues to try and accumulate diamonds in the rough to build a competitive bullpen, a tall task for the team when you compare the current pen to the likes of the Cubs or Indians pennant-clinching bullpens.
Still a long ways to go, but he’s trying to get better options on the 40-man roster who were better than the guys they designated for assignment, we won’t really know if Yates, Parker, or De Los Santos are competent until some games are played. But it doesn’t hurt to acquire a bunch of guys and hope one or two sticks, especially since acquiring them basically costs nothing. This is how you get a Jefry Marte or J.C. Ramirez, that’s exactly what a team with no prospects has to do.
So that leads us up to this point, a day after the World Series, and the real work begins. Today marks the beginning of two different “significant” decision making periods. You have the exclusive five-day negotiating period teams have with their impending free agents to work out new contracts, this doesn’t really impact the Angels since their free agents are, well, not entirely worth bringing back (to put it kindly). Weaver, Wilson, Soto, Lincecum, Bailey, are Chacin are the notable Halo free agents, I’d say Weaver, Chacin, and Bailey have the highest chances of coming back, but even then, it’s not likely more than one comes back. But this gives the Angels a chance to at least get in touch with the players agents if they feel inclined to bring any back. But really, I’d be surprised if anyone was brought back in this negotiation period.
The only other thing that impacts the Angels as of now, they have from now until the 7th of November at 5 p.m. ET to decide on Yunel Escobar’s $7 million dollar club option (that contains a $1 million dollar buyout in the event of them declining the option). The Angels have some flexibility here, while it’s highly doubtful they decline his option and let him walk in free agency, they could pick up his option and flip him in order to fill another area of need as Jon Heyman noted on Twitter earlier.
While I don’t necessarily think it’s a “tough call” on Yunel’s option (you either pick it up and keep him or you trade him, it’s thats simple for me), this could throw an interesting wrinkle into all of our offseason predictions. Just a matter of how Eppler and the organization value Marte’s development and see him as an everyday player moving forward. I’m in favor of trading Escobar, I don’t think it nets them that much, but it saves them $6 million (not $7 million due to the buyout), and could potentially land a useful reliever or pitching prospect while giving Marte a clear opportunity at playing everyday. That being said, I think this will be a swift decision that ends with Yunel being the Opening Day third baseman again.
Aside from that, the only other notable upcoming deadline would be the one to tender the Qualifying Offer to impending free agents by November 7th at 5 p.m. ET (the same day all clubs must submit decisions on club options to players). Again, this doesn’t impact the Angels unless they do something catastrophically stupid. The Angels simply don’t have a free agent who’s worth extending the Qualifying Offer to (especially since the amount in the QO has raised to a hefty $17.2 million up from $15.8 million from last year). It really only makes sense to track this and potential free agents who might carry draft pick compensation, and even then, it does not sound like the Angels will be players in the highest spectrum of free agency (even with the protected Top 10 pick and financial breathing room).
After that, the General Manager meetings take place from November 8th-10th in Scottsdale, Arizona. Not much activity happens here, it’s mostly formalities and the foundation of future transactions and signings. Whatever Billy’s doing here, we won’t really know until we see some moves that take place afterwards. So it’s all speculation, but juicy nonetheless. Free agents are also eligible to negotiate and sign with other teams after the 8th, so that’s when the momentum of the offseason will officially begin.
On the 14th of November at 5 p.m. ET, players who were extended the Qualifying Offer must make a decision to accept the offer or decline and become free agents. Again, this only matters for the Angels if a free agent they plan on pursuing is extended the offer. But other than that, just more formalities.
December 1st marks another big day, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire, putting pressure on the MLBPA and the league to agree to terms on a, hopefully, long-term, mutually beneficial CBA. Here are the latest rumblings on some potential changes to the CBA. Some interesting in-season notes, but it mostly sounds like the offseason will be unchanged. This could, however, still impact how the Angels go about business. This is an interesting development to keep tabs on, we’ll know more the closer we get to the deadline.
December 2nd is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. This year, the Angels arbitration-eligible players includes, including service time and estimated earnings in parentheses, Garrett Richards (4.148, $7 million), Shane Robinson (4.124, $600K), Kole Calhoun (3.130, $6.9 million), Matt Shoemaker (2.166, $3.8 million), and Cory Rasmus (2.155, $700K). The only players they won’t even consider tendering contracts to are Robinson and Rasmus. Every one else is a sure lock to be tendered contracts now that Oberholtzer has already been outrighted off the 40-man roster. Nothing to see here folks, unless an unlikely extension takes place.
Finally, December 4th-8th consists of the Winter Meetings, the main event of offseason chaos and constantly checking Twitter or refreshing MLBTradeRumors.com’s homepage. This is where the bulk of activity happens and it’s one of my favorite times of the year. The Rule V Draft also takes place on the final day, based off of what Eppler did last year in the Rule V, selecting Ji-Man Choi and Deolis Guerra, I’d anticipate at least one selection in this years draft.
We’ll know more about the teams future after we see what happens to Yunel, but unless an unlikely trade occurs, I would expect the Angels offseason activity to be pretty low for a few more weeks. As of today, the Angels 40-man roster stands at 38 (including Richards, Shoemaker, and Street who are on the 60-Day DL meaning they don’t count on the 40-man) with plenty of potential non-tender candidates and players who can easily be outrighted to create room for others. Eppler’s already said the coaching staff will remain intact, there ya go Scioscia apologists, he’s filled the major holes in the scouting department, and the rest of the front office looks likely to stay the same (for the most part).
We’ll see some minor moves made in the scouting department, player development, front office, and minor league coaching staffs, but nothing we’ll likely ever notice. I think now that Eppler’s had a full year to get his legs underneath him along with getting his brain trust together, he’ll be able to focus solely on roster reconstruction, and that’s going to be important since he has to add a left fielder, a second baseman, a starting pitcher or two, a plethora of relief arms, bench help, and minor league depth all while on a, still, relatively tight budget in an organization that lacks trade assets. Eppler’s got his work cut out for him, but I look forward to tracking and analyzing every single move he makes in an attempt to build a World Series contender around demigod Mike Trout. It all starts with the decision on a club option.