Los Angeles Angels (80-82)
Additions: SP/OF Shohei Ohtani, OF Justin Upton, 2B Ian Kinsler, SS Zack Cozart, RP Jim Johnson, OF Chris B. Young, C Rene Rivera, 1B Chris Carter (minor-league deal), OF Eric Young Jr. (minor-league deal), RP Ian Krol (minor-league deal)
Subtractions: SP Tim Lincecum, SP Ricky Nolasco, SP/RP Jesse Chavez, SP Wilkel Hernandez, RP Andrew Bailey (retired), RP Huston Street, RP Yusmeiro Petit, RP Bud Norris, RP Fernando Salas, RP Justin Kelly, OF Ben Revere, OF Michael Bourn, OF Troy Montgomery, OF Jacob Pearson, 3B Yunel Escobar, 1B C.J. Cron, IF Brandon Phillips, IF Nick Franklin, IF Cliff Pennington
After falling short of a postseason appearance for the third straight year and posting a second consecutive losing season, the Angels needed to make some big moves this winter in order to compete against a top-heavy American League and an improving AL West.
They did just that, as they had four big acquisitions: the signings Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton and Zack Cozart and the trade for Ian Kinsler.
Angels general manager Billy Eppler and company began the process by signing Upton to a five-year, $106 million extension in November. Upton, who the Angels acquired from the Tigers at the end of the waiver deadline last August, was one of the few players (i.e. Mike Trout) who consistently hit for a team that had one of the worst lineups in the AL.
A month later, the Angels landed Ohtani in arguably the biggest pursuit of an international player in MLB history, signing the starter/outfielder to a minor-league contract that included $2.315 million in international bonus money. The Angels also had to pay a $20 million posting fee to the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani’s former team in Japan. The Halos acquired a player who hit .332/.403/.540 with eight homers in 65 games while posting a 3.20 ERA in five starts for Nippon last season. In five seasons in Japan, he owns a .286/.358/.500 line in 1,035 at-bats and a 2.52 ERA in 543 innings. Ohtani’s signing instantly upgrades the Angels’ rotation, which was plagued by injuries last year after Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs and JC Ramirez all missed time. He also gives the lineup a punch, as he will more than likely be the designated hitter as the Halos have Trout, Upton and Kole Calhoun in the outfield and Albert Pujols transitions back to playing first base on a regular basis.
Also in December, the Angels acquired Kinsler from the Tigers for prospects Troy Montgomery and Wilkel Hernandez to fill their hole at second base. Kinsler, who struggled to a .236/.313/.412 slash line with 22 homers last year, will earn $11 million this season before hitting free agency in the fall. However, the Angels hope Kinsler can be their answer at second for their win-now team after having to use three men last year at the position.
Two days after the Kinsler deal, the Angels signed Cozart to a three-year, $38 million contract. Though Cozart was an All-Star shortstop for the Reds, the Halos want him to anchor third base because they already have a Gold Glove-winning shortstop in Andrelton Simmons. With Cozart, Simmons, Kinsler and Pujols in the infield, the Angels have upgraded their defense as well as their offense.
Outside of the four major acquisitions, the Angels also added solid role players in reliever Jim Johnson, outfielder Chris B. Young, catcher Rene Rivera, first baseman Chris Carter (minor-league deal) and outfielder Eric Young Jr. (minor-league deal) to help them off the bench now or possibly down the road. On the flip side, they did lose some solid players, including relievers Andrew Bailey (retirement), Huston Street, Yusmeiro Petit, Bud Norris and Fernando Salas, infielders Brandon Phillips and Yunel Escobar, outfielders Ben Revere and Michael Bourn, and starters Ricky Nolasco and Tim Lincecum. However, they feel their loss of players, especially ones from the bullpen, could be made up real easily because they have the potential for an elite bullpen with Blake Parker, Cam Bedrosian, and Johnson leading the way barring any setbacks.
Because they were so busy this winter, the Angels don’t plan on going after any other big free agents. General manager Billy Eppler said to Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group on Feb. 28 that the Angels “feel very good” about their roster and are not going to “pursue anything.” However, he did add that the organization is “open minded to things that come around.” After all, the Angels want to not only get back to the playoffs, but win their first postseason game since 2009 and ultimately capture a second World Series crown after winning their first one in 2002.