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Roster and Organizational Changes: Part II

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The second installment, tracking every transaction made this past offseason

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Introduce Shohei Ohtani
The Angels new star
Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

We all know the rules from yesterdays article, so let’s just jump right into it.

It’s “Sho-Time”:

So when we left off yesterday, Eppler had been checking underneath the couch cushions for some loose change in order to entice Ohtani. In the end, money wasn’t everything Ohtani was looking at when deciding which team he’d suit up for. Well, actually, nobody really knew what it was Ohtani was looking for except for Ohtani himself. With all of these factors unknown, it seemed like a long shot that the Angels would be a serious contender for Ohtani’s services. But on December 8th, six years to the date they signed Albert Pujols, the Angels gave their fans an early Christmas present, totally reshaping the long-term trajectory of the franchise with one move. Almost out of thin air, Ohtani’s agent dropped this little nugget.

“This morning, after a thorough, detailed process, Shohei Ohtani has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels. Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations and sincerely thanks them for their professionalism. In the end, he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals in Major League Baseball.

I want to thank the clubs and everyone else for respecting our intent to make this very important process as private as possible. We were resolved to having a fair, methodical process. Teams clearly put in a lot of work, and we are grateful for that. The past few weeks also further demonstrated Shohei’s incredible thoughtfulness, attention to detail and determination to make an informed decision. He read every page of every presentation and listened to every word in each meeting, and he was so impressed that it was not an easy choice. While there has been much speculation about what would drive Shohei’s decision, what mattered to him most wasn’t market size, time zone or league but that he felt a true bond with the Angels. He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals. More than ever, I believe this is not only a special talent but a man of special character, and like everyone else I’m excited to see him in Major League Baseball.”

The Angels got a 23-year old, Japanese phenom with ace potential and enough power in his bat to light up a small city. He’d make the Major League minimum, he only cost the team $2.135 million from their bonus pool, and Arte a sizable $20 million for the posting fee (which does not count towards the teams’ payroll/luxury tax threshold). Even if Ohtani doesn’t turn out the way we’re expecting him to, the loss is so small, it shouldn’t matter. But for right now, he represents another building block to pair with the best player in the game. There’s plenty of reason to be excited.

Milwaukee Brewers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Behold
Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Filling Out The Roster:

Upton had been re-signed/extended days after the World Series ended, the coaching staff was filled out, and the Angels won the Ohtani lottery, but there was still a ton of work to do. If you remember correctly, most of the talk early in the offseason circled around positions like third base, second base, and other spots on the pitching staff. This is where Eppler turned into a wheeling-and-dealing badass.

The first move after Ohtani was actually the signing of former top OF prospect, Rymer Liriano. He was brought in to compete for the fourth outfield spot, but most likely to serve as depth in Salt Lake. Some other t’s needed to be crossed and i’s dotted, though. The Angels finalized some signings with a handful of international prospects: LHP Wilson Gomez (16-years old), RHP Emmanuel Duran (17-years old), and OF’s Rainier Rivas (16-years old) and Orlando Martinez (19-years old). They probably won’t amount to anything, but it is nice to see the organization get involved with international prospects again.

The Angels were also pretty active during the Rule V Draft in December. They selected right-handed reliever Luke Bard from the Minnesota Twins in the Major League portion with the intention of competing for a bullpen spot out of Spring Training and, as of last night, that came to fruition! Bard was able to use data to generate video game strikeout numbers in the minors last year thanks to an elite spin rate on his fastball. That link will take you to a FanGraphs article that is definitely worth the read (don’t worry, I won’t blame you for taking a break from this for a second).

But there’s also a Minor League portion of the Rule V Draft. The Angels took a couple fliers. They selected a switch-hitting shortstop, Riley Unroe, from the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s more of a utility infielder type moving forward. They also took a RHP named Matt Ball from the Texas Rangers. He’s spent five seasons in the minors already, but he’s still only 22-years old. Consider this payback for the Rangers signing Tim Lincecum, Jesse Chavez, Bartolo Colon, and any other former Angels I’m forgetting. Tongue-in-cheek aside, this probably won’t make a difference. The Angels did lose the greatest name in the organization in this portion as well. RHP Damien Magnifico was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates. His name will be missed.

This is where the offseason got fun again, the Angels acquired fan-favorite second baseman, Ian Kinsler, from the Detroit Tigers on December 13th for outfield prospect, Troy Montgomery, and right-handed pitching prospect, Wilkel Hernandez. Kinsler was coming off of a down year in 2017, with a slash line of .236/.317/.412, but that, sadly enough, is a huge upgrade over the slash line Angels second basemen provided in 2017 (.207/.274/.318). Kinsler’s still a very good defender and baserunner, let’s just hope his third-lowest BABIP of .244 was the main culprit for the down year and not father time. What made this move possible in the first place, probably took place at the beginning of the offseason when the Angels re-sign Upton and brought Brad Ausmus into the front office.

In the four months since Eppler got Justin Upton from the Detroit Tigers, Upton had been recruiting his former teammate, second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Kinsler, who waived his limited no-trade clause to accept a deal to the Angels last week, said Monday he’d wanted to play for the Angels since talking to Upton about the team.

“Justin loved his time there so far, and I put a lot of trust in his opinion,” Kinsler said on a conference call with Southern California media. “It obviously made me real interested in the Angels.”

Kinsler said his interest was piqued even more when the Angels won the sweepstakes to get Shohei Ohtani.

“Making moves this winter to push for the next level, that’s something a player like myself is excited for,” Kinsler said.”That motivates a player like me.”

MLB: Spring Training-San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Angels
I, for one, am looking forward to our new, scrappy leadoff hitter
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

So the Angels had secured a second baseman, now all that was left was a third baseman. Turns out, the Angels solution would come in the form of an All-Star shortstop. Just two days later, the Angels signed Zack Cozart to handle the hot corner for three-years at $38 million. The original plan was to actually sign Cozart to be the teams second baseman, but when Eppler told Cozart he had a chance at acquiring Kinsler, Cozart agreed to play third base (he found this out on his way to take his physical!).

Cozart has never played third base up until Spring Training, but he’s been working with Angels special assistant and former All-Star third baseman, Eric Chavez, along with the great Scott Rolen. Those are some great mentors to have when learning the hot corner. If you’re wondering about the donkey, I’m sure we’ll hear all about it later.

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Angels at Los Angeles Dodgers
We could finally have a stud at third base
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

There was still work to do, however. The Halos had a glut at first base with Valbuena, Cron, and Pujols playing there now that Ohtani was in the fold. After choosing the route of free agency, the Angels were able to bring back spark plug, Eric Young Jr., on a Minor League contract. But there was a twist, the Angels also brought in former Cuban star Jose Miguel Fernandez after being mysteriously cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers to create competition and depth in the upper levels of the minors. All good stuff, it’s certainly nice to have guys like this in the minors.

After Martin Maldonado slumped, badly, in the second half of last season and reached a new career high in games started, by a lot, it was important that the Angels bring in backup catcher to lighten the workload on the defensive whiz. Enter veteran catcher, Rene Rivera. Rivera isn’t a star, but he’s very good defensively to where we shouldn’t notice a huge dropoff whenever Maldonado needs a day off. If you’re looking for offense from the catching position, I’d suggest watching a New York Yankees or San Francisco Giants game. Rivera was brought in on a modest, one-year deal worth $2.8 million. To sweeten the deal, the Angels kicked in $200K in incentives ($50K each for 45, 50, 55, and 60 games started), it’s unlikely he even achieves any of those, making it that much better. Not everyone was happy, unfortunately. LHP Nate Smith was deisgnated for assignment and later outrighted to AAA Salt Lake City, so at the very least, he’ll stick with the organization.

MLB: Spring Training-San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Angels
Veteran backup
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Arbitration:

I’m not going to spend too much time with this, the Angels reached deals with all of their arbitration eligible players. They haven’t been to court with a player since Jered Weaver in 2011. Here are the figures and players.

RHP Blake Wood ($1.45 million with $50K in incentives), LHP Andrew Heaney ($800K with undisclosed amount in performance incentives), RHP Blake Parker ($1.8 million), C Martin Maldonado ($3.9 million), 1B/DH C.J. Cron ($2.3 million), LHP Tyler Skaggs ($1.875 million), RHP Garrett Richards ($7.3 million), RHP Matt Shoemaker ($4.125 million), RHP J.C. Ramirez ($1.9 million), LHP Jose Alvarez ($1.05 million), and RHP Cam Bedrosian ($1.1 million).


The Rest of the Rest:

More Minor Leaguer casualities, the Angels released a list of Minor League players they released. See if there’s anyone you recognize.

C Angel Genao, IF Stephen Kerr, IF Dylan Woods, IF Dalton Blumenfield, If Osvaldo Oliva, IF Joel Borges, OF Miguel De La Cruz, OF Oscateri Castillo, OF Brandon Diaz, RHP Ty Barkell, RHP Jake McDavid, RHP Rafael Fortunato, RHP Nick Andress, LHP Shakiro Pina, and LHP Jorge Gonzalez.

The Angels also decided to take a couple more fliers on other Minor League players and even some Independent League players. They signed 25-year old South African RHP, Dylan Unsworth, after spending time in the Seattle Mariners organization. They re-signed LHP John Lamb after serving a 50-game suspension (if it’s not a PED, you can probably assume it’s something that’s legal in states such as Colorado, California, and Maine). They also brought aboard former Braves farmhand RHP Matt Custred. One of the more intriguing signings of this ilk, was the signing of former Cleburne Railroaders (an Independent League team) and Cleveland Indians prospect, RHP Cortland Cox. I love stories like this, here’s a video of him throwing.

For more competition in big league camp, the Angels signed veteran LHP Ian Krol to compete for a bullpen spot that is void of lefties (he did not make the cut). They also signed a longtime infielder Emmanuel Burriss (felt comfortable enough guaranteeing him $850K if he made the Major League roster...which, again, he did not).

The Angels also brought in some former Major League players to oversee some developmental roles. They hired Shawn Wooten (we know him!) as a Minor League Hitting Instructor and David Newhan as a Minor League Infield Instructor.

Eppler had two, two-and-a-half, more notable moves to make. With the signing of Cozart, which slid Valbuena over to first base, the Angels had a lot of bodies at first base. They traded the inconsistent C.J. Cron, and his $2.3 million dollar salary, to the Tampa Bay Rays for a PTBNL. Cron had constantly been shuttled back-and-forth between Anaheim and Salt Lake City, this finally gives him a chance to play everyday and carve out a niche as an everyday player. I wish him the best of luck. Oh, and that “PTBNL” ended up being IF Luis Rengifo, not to be confused with Lou Ferrigno (anagrams are fun). Rengifo is not a household name, but it is nice to get something for Cron.

The other big move, or move-and-a-half, were the signings of veteran outfielder Chris Young to become the teams fourth outfielder, along with former home run champion and absolute skyscrapper of a man, Chris Carter. Young is on a guaranteed contract worth $2 million with another $500K in incentives while Carter got $1.75 million with $600K in incentives (if he made the roster). Carter’s already been sent down, but Young is your fourth oufielder, bad Spring Training aside. Both could end up having bigger roles than we’re expecting (in Carter’s case, if Jefry Marte struggles to hit again to start out the year).

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays
Make us proud, Chris!
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Angels added even more outfield depth in a small trade with the New York Yankees, adding Jabari Blash for the notorious PTBNL or cash considerations. Alex Meyer was transferred to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster, which wasn’t surprising since we’ve known Meyer would be out for all of 2018 anyway.

Former Rookie of the Year and Angels reliever, Andrew Bailey, would hang up the spikes after he succumbed to injuries that plagued a promising career and talented player. It wouldn’t take long to find work, though, he was hired by the Angels to become an instant replay coordinator and coaching assistant.

The Angels capped off some international signings by signing three 17-year old prospects out of the Dominican Republic: RHP Nehemias Lopez, SS Jose Guzman, and C Geison Nunez. Carry on.

The Angels had two final Minor League signings, they signed RHP Taylor Cole, who had spent time in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, and they plucked up another former Braves prospect who had been declared a free agent after their scandal in 18-year old RHP, Juan Contreras. I got the links above if you want further information.


And that’s a wrap! Eppler was able to give the Major League roster a total makeover while being able to hold on the clubs’ top prospects. If anything, he only added to the current crop with the signings of Ohtani, Maitan, Soto, and Contreras. Those signings also help supplement the loss of guys like Montgomery, Hernandez, Grayson Long, and Elvin Rodriguez (who were used to acquire Kinsler and Upton).

While the team still possesses flaws, it’s a much more balanced and deep team than in recent years. Eppler deserves a huge round of applause, and maybe an extension or bonus, for what he was able to do while walking the tightrope of competing while rebuilding a farm system. And with Opening Day tomorrow, we can look at the final product. It’s time for baseball!

Pitching: LHP Jose Alvarez, RHP Luke Bard, RHP Cam Bedrosian, LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Jim Johnson, RHP Keynan Middleton, RHP/DH Shohei Ohtani, RHP Blake Parker, RHP J.C. Ramirez, RHP Noe Ramirez, RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Matt Shoemaker, LHP Tyler Skaggs, and RHP Blake Wood

Catching: Martin Maldonado and Rene Rivera

Infield: 3B Zack Cozart, 2B Ian Kinsler, 3B/1B Jefry Marte, SS Andrelton Simmons, 1B/3B Luis Valbuena

Outfield: Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout, Justin Upton, and Chris Young.

Poll

Has all of Eppler’s work made the Angels a serious threat to compete?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Heck yes!!!
    (77 votes)
  • 2%
    Heck no!!!
    (3 votes)
  • 32%
    Secret Option C of being cautiously optimistic about their chances, but not setting myself up for disappointment.
    (38 votes)
118 votes total Vote Now