Billy Eppler has outdone himself this off-season in reshaping LA Angels

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Zack Cozart
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Zack Cozart /

When the LA Angels began the off-season there were a lot of holes that needed to be filled and the big question was, who was going to fill them.  The Angels needed a second and third baseman, and a left fielder as well as pitching help.

So LA Angels general manager Billy Eppler was given the task of adding the pieces to help make the Angels into a solid pennant contender.  Over the past six weeks Eppler has done just that and filled pretty much every need the Angels have for 2018.

What’s even more impressive is that Eppler has done so without surrendering any major prospects and not spending an obscene amount of money, both of which will make Angels owner Arte Moreno very happy.

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The first thing Eppler did was signing left fielder Justin Upton, who was acquired in late August to a new five-year contract worth $106 million over five years.  This was not a cheap signing, but compared to what his original contract was worth (four years $88 million), the Angels saved one million dollars per year.  However, Upton has proven to be worth such a deal as he finished with 35 homers and 109 RBI’s while bating .273.  Upton also a .361 on base percentage and stole 14 bases.

The next move Eppler made was to acquire reliever Jim Johnson from the Atlanta Braves to bolster the bullpen (hopefully).  The move also gave the Angels some much needed International money so they could pursue Japanese two-way player Shonei Ohtani.

Sure enough less than a week later Eppler helped the Angels land Ohtani which should bolster both the batting line-up, but also more importantly the rotation.  Ohtani is 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA with 624 strikeouts in 543 innings pitched. We will have to wait and see if he lives up to the hype.

The signing of Upton and Ohtani would have been enough for many fans and also many general managers, but not Billy Eppler.  Eppler continued his pursuit of players to fill the holes the Angels have at second and third base as he entered the Winter Meetings.

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On Thursday morning it was announce that the Angels had made a trade with the Detroit Tigers for veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler, who is a four-time all-star.  Kinsler ,35, fills a big need at second base that the Angels have had since trading Howie Kendrick at the end of the 2014 season.

Kinsler is a career .273 hitter with 234 homers and 839 RBI’s with 225 stolen bases.  He also has a .342 OBP.  Last season was a down season for Kinsler as he hit only .236 with 22 homers and 52 RBIs.  However, surrounded by a line-up that the Angels and Eppler have put together should help Kinsler bounce back as he won’t be relied on as heavily which should take some pressure off him.

Just when you thought Eppler was done, he made one final move Friday to put the finishing touch on now what becomes a very solid infield and batting order.  Eppler convinced shortstop  Zack Cozart ,32, to sign with the club as well inking him to a 3-year deal worth 38 million dollars.  Cozart will most likely shift to third base to fill a hole left by the departure of Yunel Escobar through free agency.

Cozart had a very strong season for the Cincinati Reds hitting .297 with 24 homers and 63 RBI’s and a .385 OBP.  Cozart can play third and possibly second as well which gives the Angels some versatitlity they will need especially if they decide to use a six-man pitching rotation to accomodate Shonei Ohtani desire to hit as well as pitch.

Cozart is a career .254 hitter who has hit 82 homers and drove in 280 runs in five and a half seasons.  So now the Angels have a very formidable line-up from top to bottom and will also be a strong defensive team as well.  The only wuestion is whether their starting pitchers will stay healthy to put everything together.

Next: Angels add Kinsler to the fold, is there more to come?

A few weeks ago after the Angels let Yusmeiro Petit go to the A’s I challenged Billy Eppler to make some more moves to improve the Angels.  My quote was your move Mr. Eppler.  Well ll I have to say is great job Mr. Eppler.  It is great to have someone in the front office who knows what he is doing and is not afraid to take chances.  Thank you for your dedication to the LA Angels.