It’s almost February, and with February comes pitchers and catchers reporting, and after pitchers and catchers report, then the Angels’ camp is in full swing and it’s Spring Training, and then next thing you know, it’s Opening Day. Yes, these things move quickly, and normally I’d shake my fist in the air at Father Time, but when it comes to baseball, I’m quite OK with life moving fast.
So, since we’re climbing out of our baseball hibernation caves, and the dust is settling from Billy Eppler’s busy offseason, it’s time to give him (and the Halos) a grade on how well they did. I asked some of our staff what they thought, and how they’d grade the offseason, and here’s what they had to say:
The Angels needed a near-perfect offseason in order to get back into the postseason picture after a disastrous, soul-crushing, injury-riddled 2016 and Eppler has delivered big time. Not only has he filled glaring holes without giving up little to nothing in the ways of prospects, cash, and long-term contracts, but also he bought low on a bevy of MLB-ready arms of various calibers, improved minor league depth, and assembled one of the best benches in the league. This is also to say he took advantage of market inefficiencies en route to building what will be one of, if not the top defenses in the league. Projecting the team is insanely difficult due to health uncertanties, but if all goes well there will be relevant September baseball and perhaps October, too. And given a highly competitive AL West, that's all I can ask for.
While Billy Eppler would have had to try pretty hard not to upgrade this team's roster going into the offseason, I am still impressed at how much he accomplished, considering his shoestring budget and the barren free agent wasteland. The additions on Maybin, Maldonado and Espinoza transform a good defensive squad into an elite one. The late signing of Luis Valbuena addressed the lack of offensive depth and thump from the left side.
I question whether his moves to improve the pitching staff will be enough to keep the team in contention. The names Brooks Pounders, Andrew Bailey, Jesse Chavez and Vicente Campos hardly inspire confidence. Still, this team is projected to win north of 80 games, while keeping their prospect pool in tact and not tying themselves to any new crippling contracts. This makes their offseason an unqualified success.
I’m gonna say B overall. I’d give him a B+ on position players. He did a pretty great job there with limited money and resources even if he did maybe sign another fragile flower for left field. He gets a D- when it comes to pitching where he did almost nothing aside from Jesse Chavez and our pitching staff could really have used some help (starters and bullpen).
Rahul, Carlos and Jessica seem to be, for the most part, pleased with what Eppler did this winter. As for myself, I can’t really disagree too much with all their points made. I love all the position player moves, especially the Luis Valbuena signing, and I think we may finally get to see some productivity out of the LF spot for the first time in three seasons.
Any deficiencies the team still has are on the pitching side of things, whether we’re talking rotation or bullpen. Jessica touches on this problem in her assessment, but I’m not quite as dour on names like Jesse Chavez or Brooks Pounders; they could end up being quite serviceable. And I’m still digging the Alex Meyer pickup in last year’s Santiago/Nolasco trade.
Today, we also learned that the Angels have acquired Bud Norris...so throw another name on the possible-5th-starter pile on. The depth is something they didn’t have this time last year, and that alone makes me feel pretty good about the pitching moves that Eppler made. The bullpen needed to be addressed, though, and the only thing that came close to that was signing Andrew Bailey. So I’m giving Eppler good marks in the starter arms department, but he gets dinged in the relief department.
All in all, this offseason has done nothing but make my confidence in the Angels GM continue to grow, and I think he’s finally some true analytical and evaluating skills to the front office and throughout the organization. Billy had a lot to do this offseason, and he more or less took care of business.
How would you grade Billy Eppler’s offseason?