Two years ago, when Billy Eppler was hired as the Angels’ general manager, there was a legitimate debate about whether the team should trade superstar Mike Trout to jump-start a rebuilding process. The Angels were saddled with regrettable salary commitments to an aging Albert Pujols and a banished Josh Hamilton. A power struggle between veteran manager Mike Scioscia and fired GM Jerry Dipoto had divided the organization. The farm system was as thin as any in baseball with little hope of help coming in the short term.
Eppler, however, has put those problems in the rear-view mirror with one of the most productive offseasons in franchise history. Justin Upton was signed to a contract extension. Ian Kinsler was acquired by trade and Zack Cozart from the free-agent market. But far and away the highlight of the Angels’ winter was Shohei Ohtani’s surprising decision to sign with the team. The Japanese star will make Anaheim the base for his unprecedented attempt to bring his two-way talents to the U.S. He will be one of the most compelling stories in baseball this summer and, combined with Trout’s continued brilliance, will make Angels baseball must-see viewing.
Opposing Scouts Size Up the ANGELS
“They can’t hang with Houston, but they might be the next best in this division. Mike Trout is the best and most irreplaceable player in baseball. He’s showing no signs of slowing down, and now they’ve added a lot of thump around him. Justin Upton was a great fit when he came over last August, and you know what you get with him — a streaky hitter, but someone who can carry you when he’s hot. Zack Cozart can make the switch to third, and Ian Kinsler is such a steady pro at second, I’ll consider last year a mirage. The wild card is Shohei Ohtani — will his elbow hold up? And if so, how does he fit into the lineup? I know I don’t want to see Albert Pujols at first base, because he can’t run anymore and has no range. But that’s where he’ll have to go if he plays when Ohtani is the DH. They’ll lean on Ohtani in that rotation, because all of those starters have such a shaky health history. They’ve got options, but I really don’t know who to trust.”