The Los Angeles Angels have gotten work done this offseason, all before the holiday season.
In November, days after the World Series ended, they re-signed Justin Upton to a five-year, $106 million deal, essentially giving him one more year at $28 million and cutting his salary over the next three seasons.
Shortly thereafter, they bolstered their bullpen by acquiring veteran reliever Jim Johnson from the Braves. And once former Braves prospects that were ripped from the organization were allowed to sign elsewhere, the Angels picked up a couple, including highly-rated Kevin Maitan.
The coup de grace came before the Winter Meetings, when the Angels inked a deal with coveted Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani, which bolsters both their starting rotation and their offense.
This week, the Angels were at it again, acquiring second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers and signing shortstop Zack Cozart (though he’ll play third in southern California) to a three-year deal.
— Angels (@Angels) December 14, 2017
🚨 OFFICIAL 🚨
— Angels (@Angels) December 15, 2017
Just like that, Anaheim’s major offseason plans were all taken care of. They added to their bullpen (but will likely end up still pursuing another cheap upgrade or two), fortified their injury-prone rotation, and vastly improved their offense by filling potential holes at three positions.
Furthermore, the Angels managed all of these upgrades without significant investment.
Ohtani’s signing bonus will be roughly $2 million, peanuts in a game where above average relievers are getting $7 million per year. Upton’s contract was a nine figure one, but the Angels managed to cut the average value of the deal by around $1 million. Cozart was reportedly signed for a bargain basement $38 million over three years. Kinsler will make $11 million this season, but Anaheim only gave up two prospects that weren’t in the organization’s top 15.
The Angels got minimal production out of both second and third last year – their second basemen hit a cumulative .206/.274/.327 last year, and their third basemen slashed .238/.318/.395. Hell, even their left fielders struggled, putting together a .247/.324/.374 line – and that includes a month of Upton! Over the full season, their new full-time left fielder hit .273/.361/.540, their new third baseman hit .297/.385/.548 (as a shortstop, mind you), and their new second baseman hit .236/.313/.412. They all hit at least 20 homers too, by the way.
The key question for the Angels in 2018 will concern the health of their rotation, as expected. Two of their four players that logged 100 innings (Jesse Chavez, Ricky Nolasco) are free agents. Promising starter Alex Meyer will miss all of the 2018 season following shoulder surgery. Tyler Skaggs hasn’t thrown 100 innings since 2014. Matt Shoemaker has reached that mark three times in his career, but has never made 30 starts in a season. Garrett Richards has made just six starts in each of the last two seasons. If the Angels want to succeed in 2018, they’re going to need those three to combine for at least 400 innings so they won’t need to go down to option D on the depth chart, which would be guys like Troy Scribner.
In 2018, the Angels will be much better. Unfortunately for them, the American League is so top-heavy that they may only be the fifth-best team in the league. Thankfully, the team didn’t mortgage their future to contend next season, and have set themselves up for both short and long-term success. You can’t plan an offseason much better than that.