This offseason, the Angels shifted gears from their usual tendencies and decided to switch up their game plan. Instead of locking up veteran players on multi-year deals, they handed out exclusively one-year contracts.  If you haven’t paid too much attention to the Angels over the last few years, their more expensive contracts….well…leave much to be desired.

Case in point, Albert Pujols. The 39 year old slugger signed a 10 year/$250M deal in 2012 with the Halos, and so far the results have been pretty brutal. Due to foot injuries and expected decline due to age, Albert has become one of the weakest spots of the lineup. His home run total has declined three seasons in a row (31, 23, 19, respectively) and his OBP has dropped under .300 for two of those years. Defensively, he’s been roughly average in terms of DRS, but well below average in terms of range. As he gets older, his innings at first should decrease. If he can’t turn it around and Matt Thaiss continues to impress at Salt Lake, his days as a regular may be numbered.

Albert Pujols

STL11 seasons.328/.420/.6171.037 OPS86.6 WAR
LAA7 seasons.260/.315/.453.768 OPS13.2 WAR

Another prevalent example of the big signing failures of the Angels is Josh Hamilton. At the time, Josh was a premier slugger and a highly coveted bat in free agency. After a sharp decline in power and on-base ability and deep-rooted struggles with addiction, he reverted to his performance as a Cincinnati Red at the dawn of his career. Eventually, with no success in sight, the two sides parted ways.

Josh Hamilton

TEX6 seasons.302/.359/.542.901 OPS23.0 WAR
LAA2 seasons.255/.316/.426.741 OPS2.8 WAR

These two aren’t the only examples, though. Lefty C.J. Wilson inked a 5 year contract in 2011, but struggled in 2014 and 2015 near the back end of the deal. Very recently, Zack Cozart signed a three year deal but a shoulder injury limited him to only 58 games.

Suffice to say, Billy Eppler and co. saw that their old ways weren’t cutting it. As mentioned previously, rather than diving back into free agency for long-term fixes, they took a step back and added from the middle tier, fortifying a core of Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, Tyler Skaggs, and Andrew Heaney.

Now, let’s take a deeper look on who the Angels got on the short-term.

The first of the bunch was the acquisition of Justin Bour. Like some of the other pickups the Angels had, their belief is that there are signs of resurgence. Bour had a pretty rough 2018; following his exciting 2017 campaign, the slugger hit a measly .224 with just 20 home runs in 141 games, 5 less in 33 fewer games. On the positive end, he got on base at a solid .341 clip and drew 73 walks. In fact, he landed in the top 10 last year for BB%, in a group with Alex Bregman and his teammate Andrelton Simmons. A change of pace may be beneficial for the first baseman, as he’s had great success in his previous year with Miami, competing in the home run derby and crushing 25 home runs in roughly 100 games. His patience and pop are much needed in a primarily right-handed lineup (Trout, Upton, Simmons, Pujols, Fletcher, Cozart, Lucroy), so he’ll have plenty of opportunities to prove himself.

ROTOCHAMP PROJECTIONMY PROJECTION
JUSTIN BOUR.254/.352/.459, 19 HR.240/.345/.465, 23 HR

Later came the arrival of The fallen ‘Dark Knight,’ Matt Harvey. This is where the expectations get a little murky. Harvey’s once cy-young caliber career fell completely off the map after his surgery, and he still hasn’t fully returned. His off-the-field issues and his ERA dramatically swelled from 2.71 in 2015 to 6.70 in 2017. Needless to say, Harvey and the Mets parted ways. The rebuilding Cincinnati Reds took a flier on him after his 2018 release, and got mediocre results with some promising aspects to his play. Namely, his average fastball velocity rose from 92.6 to 94.3 mph. Around the all star break, he reached his peak at 97.9 mph, reminding some of the good ol’ days in his early stint with New York. His curveball also saw more use and more spin as the year continued.

Curveball Spin

20162261 RPM
20172307 RPM
20182534 RPM

The Halos are hoping these promising signs can give them a close-to-vintage Harvey, considering they have the proper coaching to do so. With injuries (Heaney, 10-day IL; Skaggs, day-to-day) and surprise moves (Jaime Barria to AAA, Chris Stratton to the rotation) already happening on the major league roster, Harvey will have a pretty significant role to fill.

ROTOCHAMP PROJECTIONMY PROJECTION
MATT HARVEY152 IP, 4.68 ERA, 124 K160 IP, 4.05 ERA, 135 K

After that, we saw the Halos snatch two AL west rivals, Jonathan Lucroy and Trevor Cahill. The two formed a solid battery in Oakland last season, with Cahill delivering a surprisingly solid performance out of the scrap heap. In 110 innings, the veteran right hander pitched to the tune of a 3.76 ERA, striking out 100. His 3.54 FIP also indicates that his performance should be sustainable in the future. Lucroy struggled offensively, but has drawn acclaim from teammates as being a great game caller behind the dish.

One of my main reasons of optimism lies in Cahill’s greatest strength — getting ground balls. Why, you may ask? Well, that shortstop of theirs isn’t too shabby.

The Greatness of Andrelton Simmons

Andrelton Simmons2017: 32 DRS, 17.5 UZR2018: 21 DRS, 19.7 UZR

Not to be ignored, the Angels also have two very solid defenders in Zack Cozart and David Fletcher joining ‘Simba’ in the infield. The icing on the cake is, for the first month or so of the season, they won’t be trotting out Old Man Albert at first base too frequently. Cahill also will return to facing the AL west regularly, a division he excelled against last season. Lucroy will catch him once again on opening day tomorrow.

ROTOCHAMP PROJECTIONMY PROJECTION
TREVOR CAHILL111 IP, 3.97 ERA, 106 K115 IP, 3.65 ERA, 110 K
JONATHAN LUCROY.259/.321/.376, 8 HR.245/.310/.360, 6 HR

As for the last offseason addition, reliever Cody Allen, you can see what I have to say about him in a previous article here. His 2018 left much to be desired, but there are many benefits a closer like him brings to the Halos. First, he has experience shutting down the door in Cleveland, holding their all-time saves record. His 84.375% conversion rate, after all, blew out the Angels’ 57% rate last year. Additionally, Baseball Savant pointed at solid xBA, fastball spin rate, and K% for Allen in a down year. 2018 was a clear outlier for the veteran closer, so I can confidently anticipate a comeback for him this year.

ROTOCHAMP PROJECTIONMY PROJECTION
CODY ALLEN67 IP, 3.90 ERA, 84 K70 IP, 3.30 ERA, 85 K

Realistically, the whole bunch of signings the Angels made won’t all pan out; but if they want to make a deep run into the season for the second wild card, they’ll need some of the one year commitments to succeed. Tampa Bay may be the favorite for the final playoff spot, but stranger things have happened.

Photo Credit: Orange County Register

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