Eight years. That’s how long it’s been since the Angels made the playoffs. Because the Mariners finally ended their drought this year, the Angels are now tied for the longest streak of futility in baseball. The team they are tied with, the Tigers, however, do not have two of the top players in the bigs in Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. They started off at 27-29 and fired manager Joe Maddon. His replacement, Phil Nevin, guided them to 46-60 the rest of the way…ie, the Angels wound up 73-89 and in third in the AL West. Obviously Maddon wasn’t really the problem, so what is. Partly it’s bad luck—it’s the second straight year Anthony Rendon spent most of the season on the IL (didn’t keep him from participating in a brawl and getting suspended for 5 games though). Partly it’s poor free agent signings—note signing Noah Syndergaard wasn’t a bad idea, thinking he could still be an ace was, and now he’s a Phillie anyway. One of the biggest has been poor drafting and player development. Really, who’s the last really good major leaguer to come out of the Angels’ minor league system after Trout? …I’d also argue Trout never needed time in the minors. (His lowest OPS in the minors was .905.)
Speaking of Anthony Rendon, if they can keep him healthy, where will he play? The Angels have picked up Gio Urshela from the Twins…do they move Rendon to first to try to prevent injury? They’ve also added Hunter Renfroe via trade, so he should bolster the outfield. All that could certainly improve the batting order, but they still desperately need pitching. Shohei Ohtani signed a one year deal to avoid his final year of arbitration, but did not extend beyond it. The team front office is saying all the right things about trying to keep him, but if they cannot extend him, and they cannot stay in contention, then what? Do not be surprised if his is a name that comes up frequently through the first half of next season as a player who might move at the trade deadline. (Rumors already circulated this year.) If that happens, it’d likely be for prospects, consigning Mike Trout to multiple more years laboring on a noncontender.
This year it was also announced that the team is up for sale. Commissioner Manfred has said he hopes that is resolved by the start of next season. Obviously much of their future, including whether Ohtani and Trout are long term future Angels, depends on how the ownership issue settles out.