With Spring Training fast approaching, the Los Angeles Angels are making some final tweaks to their roster. Not that a big move could not still be made, but with the Angels pushing close to the luxury tax threshold they are not expected to make a big splash at this point. So new general manager Billy Eppler is still trying to reshape the roster that ended the 2015 season just one game out of the playoffs into one that won’t just contend for an AL West title, but maybe bring home a second World Series Championship.
Most Angel fans and sports writers are very skeptical of the moves Eppler and his staff have made since the 2015 season ending. The most glaring hole from the 2015 left field, has been addressed, but not in the way most fans have hoped. Barring a surprise signing of Yoenis Cespedes or a major trade, the Angels are banking on a platoon of Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava to patrol left field. While not every position on the field needs to have an filling it, the hole in left field left by the departure of Josh Hamilton (although his $25 million dollar salary is still left behind for the Angels to pay over the next two years), was glaring.
Even if the Angels didn’t want to go after any of the big three left fielders on the free agent market Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, or Justin Upton, or even the next tier that included Ben Zobrist and Gerardo Parra. Surely they could have done better than a platoon that hit a combined .174 with one home run and 13 RBI’s last season. The left field spot was definitely a sore spot in the Angels line-up as well as catcher. However, David Murphy and Carlos Perez provided some stability late in the season, only Perez is back.
So back to the most recent off-season news. The Los Angels signed reliever Al Albuquerque who has a career record of 17-6 with a 3.20 ERA and 276 strikeouts in 225 innings pitched for the Detroit Tigers. Albuquerque is a hard thrower that will most likely compete for a bullpen role for the 6th or 7th inning, replacing Trevor Gott who was traded to the Washington Nationals for third baseman Yuniel Escobar.
In order to make room for Albuquerque on the 40-man roster first baseman/outfielder Efren Navarro was designated for assignment. Navarro a reserve for the Los Angeles Angels over the past few seasons batting .246 with one home run and 20 RBI’s. Navarro was used down the stretch last season as a late inning defensive replacement for C.J. Cron. The move was also done in conjunction of the Angels picking up first baseman/ left fielder Ji-Man Choi from the Rule 5 draft pool from the /Seattle Mariners organization for the $50,000 Rule 5 fee.
Choi must remain on the Angels roster all season or he will be able to be reclaimed by the Mariners for only $25,000. Choi unlike most Rule 5 players has played parts of two seasons in Triple-A (most Rule 5 players have played no higher than Double-A). Choi will join the Angels left field mix. How much will he be used is anyone’s guess. Taylor Featherston was a Rule 5 draft player in 2015 and got significant playing time in the second half of the season. Choi batted .302 with 35 home runs and 211 RBI’s in parts of five minor league seasons.
In closing, will these moves be significant for the Los Angeles Angels in 2016 we will have to wait and see. However, with Spring Training less than a month away many are still hoping for one more big move to get a bat. In my next post we will discuss some of the potential moves the team could still make to improve their offense. To be continued…