The LA Angels never seemed like the type of team to make a big move this offseason, especially not for a pitcher. However, Billy Eppler might just be up to something historic this offseason.
Bryce Harper on the LA Angels? Manny Machado jogging down the first base path at his home stadium, The Big A? Neither of these seemed like real possibilities at the beginning of the offseason. It was such a preposterous decision, I even chose to not include them in an article meant to see what the Angels would look like following a blockbuster offseason. Nonetheless, as Winter Meetings churn on in Las Vegas (Bryce Harper’s home town), the Angels seem to be big time players, FOR big time players.
Over the past few days, several reports have broken that could indicate the Angels are attempting to sign either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado this offseason. Go ahead, let that sink in Angels fans. And before you get flashbacks to contracts given to Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, the situations are very different. Machado and Harper are both 26 years old, while Pujols and Hamilton were well past their prime.
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That being said, the feeling of this offseason is similar to 2011, when the Angels signed Pujols and CJ Wilson. The Angels weren’t expected to be major players, but walked away with (what was supposed to be) two of the top free agents that year. Now, the Angels never seemed like contenders for the big names, but somehow, they are.
The Angels were finalists for both Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi before they each chose different teams. So while Angel fans are clamoring for their club to do something, they have quietly been trying to sign multiple big name free agents. Now, they have taken an even bigger step.
And if you don’t believe me, listen to Billy Eppler himself. In a recent interview, Billy Eppler confirmed the Angels were not just going to sit around, but instead go for the big score. While a “touchdown” could mean anything from a solid trade, to a Mike Trout extension, to signing Dallas Kuechel, it’s fun to dream, and it just might make sense.
A recent report about Manny Machado’s suitors confirmed the three main teams (Yankees, Phillies, White Sox) were still in on him, but that there were also three mystery team, and that his market is limited. The term “mystery teams” is interesting, as Albert Pujols had one as well. That team ended up being the LA Angels, for better or worse. Whether the Angels are pursuing Machado or not will soon become clear, as the star shortstop plans to visit each city of the teams he is considering.
In terms of Bryce Harper, this one is even more speculative. With Kole Calhoun‘s 2018 struggles and $10.5 million due to him in 2019, he could be a strong trade candidate. And instead of replacing him in left field, why not upgrade the position with one of the game’s best?
The Angels may not be in on Harper, but once again Billy Eppler and owner Arte Moreno may just be holding their cards to their chest. A report on Monday surfaced saying a mystery owner flew to Vegas to meet with Harper, along with “several” other teams meeting with him.
Jared Tims (@Jared_Tims), who co-hosts the OBP Podcast, pulled up a very interesting flight tracker on Twitter, of a plane that flew from Phoenix to Las Vegas. The plane also flies into John Wayne Airport often, which is located in Orange County and the closest airport to Angels Stadium. Could this be Moreno’s private plane? If so, the Angels seem very likely to be entertaining the idea of a Mike Trout-Bryce Harper duo in the outfield.
Sure, there is a lot of speculating here. However, the Angels were never thought of the team to land Shohei Ohtani last year, Josh Hamilton in 2012, and Wilson and Pujols in 2011. They have always, always, kept their moves secretive. Now, the Angels and their fans might be having one crazy holiday season.