At 73-89, the 2023 version of the Los Angeles Angels was once again a major disappointment. The club’s fans have long been waiting for their team to put it all together.
To a point, Angels fans have been spoiled for quite some time now. After all, the team’s starting lineup has featured one or both of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani since 2011. For a time, past MVPs Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols were also both in town.
Throughout all of that, though? No playoff victories. In fact, the Angels have made the postseason just one time in Trout’s career. That came in 2014 when L.A. made it to the ALDS but were swept in three games by the Royals.
Heading into the 2024 campaign, it’s time for ownership to put their money where their mouths are. Owner Arte Moreno and GM Perry Minasian have made it clear that the organization is not heading for a rebuild.
Not Off To A Good Start
To start things off, the Angels recently missed out on the greatest free agent in MLB history. Truthfully, they had the biggest advantage over all of the other teams: familiarity. If Moreno and/or Minasian were able to convince Ohtani that they were serious about contention, he could’ve easily signed with the other Los Angeles team.
Reports indicate that Ohtani’s representatives gave the Angels one last opportunity to match the offer the Dodgers presented. Both the Blue Jays and Giants agreed to the terms, but the Angels did not.
The loss of Ohtani is a significant one, but the fact that a larger effort to bring him back was not made is sure to upset fans.
A Change In The Dugout
In the dugout, Ron Washington, one of the more respected managers in the game, was brought aboard to lead the squad. He is set to replace Phil Nevin, who led the Angels to a 119-149 record over his two seasons at the helm.
Washington made it to the World Series twice during his eight-year stint managing the Rangers. He knows a thing or two about winning, so he’s going to be under immense pressure to come in and essentially fix the Angels on his own.
Time For The Young Guns To Step Up
There is no team more aggressive in prospect promotion than the Angels. Last year, the club promoted Nolan Schanuel just a few months after he was selected in the MLB Draft. He performed well, but this was an ultra risky move.
Zach Neto, Logan O’Hoppe, Sam Bachman and Ben Joyce are all other young guns that will need to step up in 2024. Each of the quartet impressed, but there is going to be a lot of pressure on their shoulders to carry this team.
This is where Washington comes in. The longtime manager is going to need to expertly juggle their playing time while also doing what he can to keep them healthy.
There’s some risk here, seeing as how Washington has not led a club on an everyday basis in 10 years, but he’s as good a candidate as any to right this ship.
Big Targets, No Deals
To this point, relievers Luis Garcia, Adam Kolarek and Adam Cimber have been the three biggest “splashes” the Angels have made this offseason. Notably, their relief pitchers combined to post a 4.88 ERA last year, which was 24th in the league. Bullpen upgrades were necessary, but there’s much more to do.
Angels starters were 18th in the league in ERA last season. Each of Reid Detmers, Patrick Sandoval and Griffin Canning have shown flashes of potential, but each still has something to prove. Tyler Anderson, the “old guy” in the rotation, is coming off of a year in which he limped to a 5.43 ERA across 25 starts. He cannot be relied upon to be the high-end southpaw they need him to be.
To fix this, the club has been active in their pursuit of upgrades to the rotation. However, nothing has come to be … yet.
As of right now, Alek Manoah, Corbin Burnes, Shane Bieber and Blake Snell have been pursued by the Angels. Multiple teams are guilty of being “in on” everyone, but there are few that need a big signing more than the Angels. It’s time to stop talking about it and just do it.
Which Offensive Pieces Make Sense?
Aside from losing Ohtani, the Angels are also currently expected to open 2024 with the ever-problematic Anthony Rendon at third base and a bench completely made up of unproven players. The need for an upgrade is there, but the Angels have not been tied to any hitters to this point outside of Teoscar Hernandez.
Rendon has had some serious problems with his health and has become an issue off-the-field as well. Going after someone like Justin Turner or Gio Urshela makes a ton of sense. Neither will break the bank but both have the potential of putting up above-average production at third base.
The one silver lining to Ohtani’s departure is that Mike Trout can now spend more time as a designated hitter if need be. This opens up a spot in the outfield; one that should be filled by one of Cody Bellinger, Hernandez, Kevin Kiermaier or even a trade piece like Max Kepler or Lane Thomas.
Do The Angels Have Any Hope Of Contention In 2024?
It’s difficult to see a path where this Angels club makes a deep postseason run in the upcoming season. However, this does not make it impossible. It doesn’t help that they play in the AL West, which is already an extremely tough division. Leapfrogging each of the Rangers, Astros and Mariners in the standings will be a tall task.
For things to work out in the Angels’ favor, they’re going to need many things to go right.
First off, Mike Trout is going to need to return to form. The otherworldly star has missed a whopping 249 games since the start of the 2021 season. What makes this especially frustrating is the fact that when he is healthy, he’s still been incredible. Getting him right is going to need to be priority number one.
Next, it is crucial for the club to go external in filling some roster holes. Sign free agents to play the corner infield and the outfield and see where it takes you. The young talent on the roster is extremely promising, but the fact that each building block is still so inexperienced means a backup plan needs to be put in place.
With money to spend, there’s no reason why ownership doesn’t pull the trigger. With Trout not getting any younger and the fans getting restless, it’s time to go big or go home.