Fresh off of a disappointing campaign in 2016, the Los Angeles Angels have spent their winter shaking up the roster by adding a number of established veterans. Despite finishing fourth in the AL West (74-88), second year general manager Billy Eppler has decided to enter a retooling phase rather than a full-on rebuild. Rumors about a potential Mike Trout trade were only rumors and Trout remains the centerpiece of this team going forward. Albert Pujols is now 37 years old, and Eppler was noncommittal regarding Pujols being ready for Opening Day.
Through trades and free agent signings, the Angels have acquired numerous veterans such as Luis Valbuena, Danny Espinosa, Cameron Maybin, Ben Revere, and Martin Maldonado.
Valbuena signed a two-year deal worth $15 million, with a mutual option for 2019. Coming off an injury-plagued 2016, Valbuena will provide a left-handed power bat in the middle of the lineup, and can also play the two corner infield positions. Also, with the uncertainty surrounding Pujols’ health, Valbuena along with C.J. Cron will fulfill the duties at first base.
Espinosa was traded from the Washington Nationals after becoming expendable in order to make Trea Turner the full-time shortstop. The Angels have been searching for a second baseman since trading Howie Kendrick to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and now Espinosa fills that role instead of being dissatisfied on the bench for the Nationals. Espinosa hit a career-high 24 home runs last season, and as a switch hitter can provide power from the left side in a right-handed heavy lineup.
After playing center field for the Detroit Tigers this past season, Maybin is expected to be the Angels’ left fielder with Mike Trout in center field and Kole Calhoun in right field. Last year, left field was a revolving door, with Rafael Ortega getting the most starts but only appearing in 66 games. The acquisition of Maybin was their best offseason move and jumped on an opportunity when the Tigers were in their thought process of making significant changes to the roster. Maybin will serve as an upgrade defensively by switching to a corner outfield position while having tools a center fielder would display. In 94 games played last year, Maybin hit .315 with an .801 OPS.
With the outfield appearing to be set, Eppler signed Revere, which is the perfect example of a low-risk, high-reward move. It’s no secret that Revere had a terrible 2016, but this is the first time Revere has been asked to be a backup since the Twins called him up in 2010. His OPS last year was 100 points lower than his career number. His batting average, 68 points less, and he played many fewer games. Revere is simply here to step in if someone needs an off day or bring energy and steal bases to a lineup that has no true leadoff hitter.
When the Angels and the Milwaukee Brewers swapped catchers, it seemed at first to be a minor move that did not mean much, but now it’s another piece of the organization’s decision to retool. Jett Bandy is only 26 and saw the field for a majority of the second half of the season. Instead of continuing to develop Bandy, he was shipped out for Maldonado, a veteran who can assist the young pitching staff.
Back in September, I suggested that Mike Scioscia might have too long of a leash as Angels’ manager. For a team that has the best player in the league, they should not be underachieving the way that they are. Talent was lacking a year ago, but when they did have success in 2014, they were swept by the Kansas City Royals in the ALDS. Now, this becomes a season where if expectations fall short, what do the Angels do next?
The AL West has gotten much stronger, and with the injury questions surrounding the pitching staff, reaching the postseason will be difficult. The Angels are showing an urgency to win with Trout and Pujols as the leaders, and that won’t last forever. This is an improved Angels roster, and as we have seen in the last few years, once you make it to the postseason, anything can happen.
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