If you are a fan of the Anaheim Angels right now, you have to be less than pleased with the state of the club. As an outsider and baseball analyst, looking at the depth charts of the team has to make one’s stomach turn. There are a lot of flaws in the major league roster and in the top 30 prospect list given by MLB.com, some drastic decisions will have to be made.
Arte Moreno is not a blind owner. He wants a winner on the field, and until this year, it did not matter how much it cost to field such a team. This year, Moreno decided he needed to be stagnant and not spend much in free agency for players. The luxury tax was his justification for the stagnation, and he is far from the only owner who has been tackling this antiquated form of league wealth-spreading. The problem exists with the Yankees and their owner, Hal Steinbrenner, whose famous “189” plan to reset the luxury tax on the team, has been shown much ridicule.
That said, there are many approaches to what the Angels should do, because if they do not do something the entire team is going to be left in a state of unknown for a long time and Billy Eppler will be shown the same door his predecessors were.
- Do Not Fire Mike Scioscia:
It is a well-known fact that Angels manager Mike Scioscia and owner Arte Moreno are practically conjoined at the hip. The Angels have been through multiple GMs since Scioscia was hired in 2000 as manager of the team: Bill Stoneman, Tony Reagins, Jerry Dipoto and right now Billy Eppler. The general managers have seen themselves be fired faster than Scioscia has, and that has come to the point of ridicule.
Let’s face it: the manager is only as good as the team given to him. Yes, it has been 14 years since the 2002 World Championship, and even managers like Dusty Baker, who were making the playoffs year after year with the Reds have been fired due to lack of World Series championships. Yet Mike Scioscia continues on. He asks the best of his players and does not give up during the season. You can tell how much he cares based on the famous “Scioscia Death Stares” when things go horribly wrong on the field. Firing Scioscia is not going to improve this team.
The only justification in firing Scioscia would be that you want fresh blood on the team to help the future. That leads us into the next problem.
- What Future?
Looking at the top 30 prospects for the Angels based on MLB.com you would probably be better off seeing a tumbleweed go across the screen. The Angels depth in the minors is extremely lacking. MLB.com lists their top prospect as Matt Thaiss, their first-round draft pick from 2016. Thaiss, a first baseman, was drafted out of Virginia and scouting reports seem very mixed. He is graded at 50 overall. Repeat, 50. Their top prospect has a 50 overall scouting grade.
There is no way that Thaiss would be a number one prospect in any organization but the Angels. His estimated time of arrival is 2019, aka three seasons from now and that is if he improves and develops the power they expect. Their top pitcher is Nate Smith (their No. 5 prospect), who in their scouting report leaves a less than desirable report: “While none of his pitches jump out at evaluators, Smith does have a four-pitch mix, all of which he can throw for strikes.” Scouts think he will need multiple pitches to keep people guessing and that his fastball only goes 90-91 mph.
This is definitely not the top pitching prospect in most organizations, but in this system it is completely reasonable. To say the least, the Angels are going to need to build a new farm, but how are they going to about it?
- Trade Everyone but Mike Trout:
Talent like Mike Trout only come around once in a generation, and to waste his time in an Angels uniform can be understandably a bad idea. However, while the Angels could ask for a king’s ransom in prospects for Trout, he is the past, present and the future of the franchise. The Angels should be building around Trout, not trading him away for the sake of the future. That said, the 2016 trade deadline should have been a good time to deal away half of the team.
Realistically, Yunel Escobar, Kole Calhoun, Cliff Pennington and Andrelton Simmons should be on other teams by now. However, that was not the case. They only traded Joe Smith and Hector Santiago, picking up a struggling pitcher in Ricky Nolasco and a mid-level prospect in Alex Meyer. (The decision to trade Santiago was a bad since he was likely better than Nolasco will be.) In the offseason Eppler should be busy trading away veterans and finding a home for Albert Pujols on another American League team. I know it is going to hurt financially to eat money, but that deal for Pujols will be a constraint for years to come and at some point we will be at the point we are with Alex Rodriguez today.
- Cut Bait on Jered Weaver in the Offseason:
Let’s face it, Jered Weaver is a shell of himself. Velocity was never a big thing with Weaver, who normally threw 89-90 mph fastballs at his peak. During that time period, his changeup would average about 80 mph. However, the 2015-16 version of Weaver is basically a finesse pitcher. Radar guns are picking up the Angels’ ace at a miserable 81-85 mph. The 81 mph readings are the lowest for a non-knuckleballer among active players.
In 21 starts this season alone, he has put up a 5.11 ERA to the point of an 8-8 record. There have been flashes of his former self, including a complete game shutout on June 19. Angels fans love Jered Weaver, the Simi Valley native, but the time has come to end his time in the red and white. His velocity will continue to drop as he ages and at some point, it will be impossible to send a pitcher out there throwing 76-79 mph fastballs because the batter can just sit and wait on it. Behind Trout, Weaver is the face of the franchise and it might be more dignified if he retires as a Halo at the end of the season when his contract is up.
- Sign Rich Hill as a Free Agent:
The final problem with the Angels is the lack of healthy pitchers. The Angels right now have Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano out for the season or longer with Tommy John Surgery and their true ace, Garrett Richards, has a UCL tear that he is tackling with the Masahiro Tanaka approach. Similar to Tanaka, at some point, Richards will need the surgery. The rotation is a work in progress with Tyler Skaggs and Matt Shoemaker being the lead two pitchers. CJ Wilson is a free agent and if he could stay healthy, signing him to a one year contract would be wise if he can pitch close to his former self. The other free agent signing the Angels should grab is lefty Rich Hill.
Hill can be another stopgap solution so they can get through the time before Heaney and Tropeano return to the rotation and if it works out, maybe grab a few prospects for Hill in 2017.
The Angels are a mess. Tough decisions will have to be made by Mike Scioscia, Billy Eppler and Arte Moreno. The Angels are a franchise built on winning and used to have some of the best. Right now they need to rebuild desperately. There are pieces on the roster, but the team needs a lot of work and if it means a couple more years of rough losing seasons in the American League West, it will be worth it in the end.