Where do you begin when discussing the Los Angeles Angels offseason? It seems remiss to start in October or November.
Let's rewind a few extra months. Just prior to July, then general manager, Jerry Dipoto, reportedly handed Arte Moreno an ultimatum: it was to be Dipoto's team going forward, or the manager's, Mike Scioscia. It appears Moreno made his choice, and Dipoto stepped down on July 1st.
In the two months following, the Angels would go 24-29 for an overall record of 65-66. With effectively one month left in the season, the Angels needed to be red hot in September to have any hope of reaching meaningful October baseball. By the end of September, the Angels were 83-75.
Most importantly, they had beaten the Houston Astros 2-1 in a pair of three-game series. They had a four-game series against the Texas Rangers coming up, and the Angels were only half-of-a-game game behind the Astros for the second wild card.
By October 3rd, the Astros had bolstered their lead over the Angels to a full-game. Both teams had only two games remaining on the calendar. By the start of the ninth inning in their game against the Rangers, it appeared the Angels season was all-but over. The team was trailing 10-6 and the home team's closer was taking the bump.
Shawn Tolleson, who had worked in the previous four consecutive games, was, for some reason, being asked to close a four-run game. Tolleson didn't only allow the first two batters he faced to reach base, he gave up back-to-back home runs. The Angels went on to score five runs that inning -- despite Mike Trout grounding out in his only appearance -- and win the game.
Of course, it was all for naught. As the Astros won later that evening and the Angels lost the following game.
One would assume coming within one game of the wildcard would beget an active offseason. Let's see how the Angels spent it:
The Free Agents
With a few dire needs, the Angels had their work cut out for them in free agency.
With a need behind the plate and Chris Iannetta departing, the Angels signed Geovany Soto.
With a need at second base, the Angels signed Cliff Pennington.
With a need in left field, the Angels signed both Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry.
All four of those additions likely won't qualify as starters at any time this season. The Angels had holes in their roster, and addressed them with bench and platoon options. While all of these additions could absolutely pan out or break right, it just doesn't make much sense. The Angels want to stay under the luxury tax, but building a competitive team around the best player in baseball should be their chief concern.
To be fair, the Angels did bolster their bullpen by adding Al Alburquerque. Though their bullpen wasn't really lacking in right-handers, some depth is always good.
The Angels offseason revolves largely around two trades. The first, in which they acquired Andrelton Simmons from the Atlanta Braves. The second being the one in which they acquired Yunel Escobar from the Washington Nationals.
Moving chronologically. let's take a look at the Simmons deal. The Angels packaged up Erick Aybar with two of the very best prospects in their beleaguered system, Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis, to snag arguably the best defensive player in all of baseball and Jose Briceno.
While Simmons is an absolutely dynamic defender, he has struggled to produce any positive value at the plate since his rookie season. Last season, he hit 18 percent worse than league average by wRC+.
To compound matters, as recently as 2014, Aybar was actually exceptional. While he's five years Simmons' senior and the decline may be upon him, Simmons doesn't represent an altogether substantial upgrade over the outgoing shortstop. Aybar's 2015 was definitely forgettable, but will the upgrade from Aybar to Simmons -- one that may represent two extra wins -- really warrant losing Newcomb and Ellis?
Attention then turned to upgrading third base. With David Freese presumably departing as a free agent, the Angels packaged up Michael Brady and Trevor Gott for Escobar.
Of course, there is the fact that Freese still hasn't signed a contract with a major league team, meaning the Angels didn't really have to replace him. Especially since, again, Escobar isn't a particularly decisive upgrade over Freese. While Freese has had his struggles, he finished with a virtually identical WAR to Escobar.
Just two more moves to puzzle over, while the starting rotation and outfield went largely unaddressed.
Reasons to worry
Nothing seems more worrying about the Angels franchise than their farm system. I mean, aside from maybe wasting the best years of Mike Trout's career.
It's never nice when Keith Law ranks your team's system the worst in the major leagues. To compound matters further, the team that you traded Newcomb and Ellis to are now ranked first. And, if that wasn't enough, Law says that, in his eight years of doing this, that the Angels have "by far the worst system I've ever seen."
With a system that bad, it will be difficult for the front office to swing a trade at the deadline for the postseason push. The roster will have to rely heavily on talent that is already there. And that could be a scary thought.
Aside from having a worrying future, the team's present doesn't look especially promising either. Take for instance, their projected starting lineup.
With Albert Pujols questionable for Opening Day, the bottom six hitters will likely consist of C.J. Cron, Kyle Kubitza, Carlos Perez, Simmons, Daniel Nava, and Johnny Giavotella. Put politely, that isn't a starting lineup that strikes fear into many pitchers.
Reasons for hope
Apart from the Astros, no team in the division seemed to take significant strides forward. The AL West could be one of the most hotly-contested in all of baseball. Arguably every team has a shot at first.
Furthermore, Trout can almost single-handedly lift a mediocre team into contention. His ability to adapt to opposing teams' plans of attack makes him even more amazing. The unfortunate part about that though is the Angels lack of depth may force him to do just that.
Despite seemingly having a need at starting pitching, the Angels do have Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, and Matt Shoemaker. If they can combine for more than 450 innings then the Angels rotation could be in good shape. Despite potential declines from Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.