The Angels certainly have not spent their winter sitting idly by while owner Arte Moreno works on selling the team.
General Manager Perry Minasian said he hasn’t been surprised by Moreno’s green light to be active, but he appreciates it nonetheless.
“I’m not oblivious to the fact that in these types of situations, I think if you look historically, maybe the team that’s exploring a sale is not as active as we’ve been,” Minasian said on Friday. “So I think there’s something to be said for that.”
Minasian spoke to reporters a day after the Angels finalized a two-year, $17 million deal for utility infielder Brandon Drury. That deal stretched the Angels’ 2023 payroll commitments to about $206 million, which is a franchise record and ranks sixth in the majors. They spent around $180 million in 2022.
For purposes of the luxury tax, which is calculated differently, the Angels are at about $220 million. The first tax threshold kicks in at $233 million.
“I don’t think anybody can question what’s been invested in this club over the last 15-20 years,” Minasian said. “I don’t think that can be questioned. It’s my job to make better decisions than I’ve made over the last two years. That’s the biggest thing. Hopefully, with the additions we’ve been able to make, that will happen.”
Minasian, who said he has no idea when the ownership situation will be resolved, added that he’s got the go-ahead to keep pursuing improvements.
“I’m in constant communication with ownership, basically a daily basis and we’ve explored a lot of different areas and a lot of different places to improve this club and I don’t think that’ll stop until we get to spring training,” Minasian said. “How much more? Obviously, I’m not going to put a number on that. But I do think we can improve.”
The Angels still don’t have a true everyday shortstop, but at this point, all the impactful free agent shortstops are off the board. The Angels probably don’t have enough surplus young players to convince a team like the Chicago White Sox to trade Tim Anderson or the Milwaukee Brewers to trade Willy Adames.
The Angels still could upgrade their pitching with players who are on the free agent market.
Minasian acknowledged that they have one rotation spot “that doesn’t necessarily have anyone written in pen.” The best free agent starter available is right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who will probably cost $13 million to $17 million per year for at least two seasons. On the relief market, the best pitcher is probably left-hander Andrew Chafin.
The Angels could also make a smaller move for left-hander Lucas Luetge, who was designated for assignment by the New York Yankees.
“Pitching is definitely something we’ll continue to look at and hopefully improve,” Minasian said.
The offensive roster seems to be set with the addition of Drury, who is the second veteran utility player the Angels have added this winter. Drury and Gio Urshela can both play all four infield positions and the corner outfield spots, although Urshela is the better defensive player and Drury is the better hitter.
Either player could fill in at third base if Anthony Rendon gets hurt again or when he needs a day off. Either could also play first base if the Angels chose not to have Jared Walsh start against lefties.
When both Walsh and Rendon are in the lineup, though, it seems that Drury’s best spot would be second base, which means one of David Fletcher, Luis Rengifo or Andrew Velazquez would be at shortstop.
Although defense will be more important for middle infielders without the safety net of a shift next season, Minasian said Drury can still handle playing second.
“We think he’s a solid defender at second base,” Minasian said. “He moves well. He’s a bigger guy (6-foot-2), so there’s length. Maybe it takes him less steps to cover certain amount of ground than it will take somebody in as a smaller package, per se. He understands the angles of playing second base. He can make the turn on a double play. The arm strength is there, so we feel good about it.”
Offensively, Drury is coming off of his best season, hitting 28 home runs with an .813 OPS with the Cincinnati Reds and Padres. Minasian said the Angels tried to sign him to a minor-league deal before he signed with the Reds last winter.
This time, Drury picked the Angels over other teams that were offering him more money, Minasian said.
Minasian said the Angels are happy to have him because he and Urshela add another layer of depth that the Angels lacked last season. In 2022, the Angels didn’t get much out of Rendon, Walsh or Fletcher, mostly because of injuries. The cast of players they had to replace them was collectively well below average.
“I feel like we’re way better equipped to handle an injury or two than we were in previous seasons,” Minasian said.