The Angels have won between 74 and 85 games in five of the last six seasons. Trying to convince Mike Trout they can contend is not working and there’s not much to suggest they are suddenly going to be competitive in 2019.
Albert Pujols, Zack Cozart and Justin Upton’s contracts kept the Angels out of the sweepstakes for the elite free agents. They were still active in free agency, adding plenty of Major League experience.
Matt Shoemaker and Garrett Richards departed and were replaced by veterans Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey. Harvey was less bad for the Reds than he was for the Mets, but his upside is still limited. Cahill was good for the Athletics, though it’s very hard to tell if he will repeat that.
The now-rubbish Pujols will struggle for plate appearances in 2019 after a bargain deal for lefty slugger Justin Bour. With Shohei Ohtani set to DH and Bour at first, the Angels must be getting closer to releasing the three-time MVP.
The bullpen will look very different this season. Jose Alvarez was traded to the Phillies for Luis Garcia, who was poor in 2018, and Blake Parker left in free agency, joining the Minnesota Twins. Daniel Hudson was brought in on a minor league deal to compete for a spot.
Cody Allen is another hope-for-a-bounceback guy. His walks increased and strikeouts dropped last season, though projections like his chances of performing better in 2019.
Former first-round pick Kaleb Cowart was waived by three teams this offseason. Seattle claimed him from the Angels in December, the Tigers claimed him from Seattle in January and the Angels claimed him from the Tigers in February. Once a highly regarded prospect, Cowart has provided no value as a Major Leaguer, but his offseason activity was an amusing side note to an uninspiring winter in Anaheim.
What to watch
Rotation health is a concern for all of their starters. Spells on the sidelines are very likely, and there’s not much adequate starting pitching depth. Any of their rotation missing time will put pressure on prospects Griffin Canning and Jose Suarez to deliver at the Major League level. Both could be effective pitchers in the near-future, but potential contenders do not want to be relying on prospects.
The Zack Cozart contract looked like a mistake at the time. Injuries and an 84 wRC+ only furthered those concerns in 2018. Being a league-average hitter would be something for the Angels, who have enough good hitters that they don’t need him to return to his 2017 self. He just needs to be okay and provide line-up depth.
Andrelton Simmons lives in the shadows of Ohtani and Trout. He won his fourth Gold Glove and posted 6.1 bWAR last season. That’s the standard he’s set, and a standard the Angels need him to keep up if they are to be a genuine contender this season.
Ohtani’s surgery was a devastating blow for the Angels. His absence makes their rotation a greater concern and increases the likelihood of hovering around .500 again in 2019.
The offseason was underwhelming. The Pujols contract obviously has an impact on spending, but there were ways the roster could have been improved.
Even with a healthy season, their ceiling is the second wildcard spot.