ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)The Los Angeles Angels are going straight from another disappointing regular season into another incredibly uncertain offseason, only for a different reason than usual this time.
Owner Arte Moreno put a ”For Sale” sign on his franchise six weeks ago, saying he is strongly thinking about giving up after nearly two decades of mostly underwhelming stewardship. Until Moreno decides whether to move on, nobody who works for the Angels knows exactly what’s looming in the team’s future, which hasn’t felt bright for years despite having stars Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout.
Although general manager Perry Minasian declined to say Thursday whether he knows what his budget will be next season with well over $120 million already committed to just seven returning players and no clear idea who will be writing those checks, he remains indefatigably optimistic about this beleaguered ballclub.
”For me, it’s business as usual,” Minasian said. ”Nothing changes. I know ownership still wants to put a good team on the field, and I expect us to improve significantly. Nobody is happy with how this year went, where we ended up in the standings. But for me at least, my day-to-day is the same. It’s obsessing about how we make this club better.”
The Angels are mired in the majors’ longest playoff drought (eight consecutive years, shared with Detroit) and the longest streak of losing seasons (seven straight years) after going 73-89 and finishing third in the AL West, 13 games out of a playoff spot. The Halos were 24-13 in mid-May, but soon entered a franchise-record 14-game losing streak during which Minasian fired manager Joe Maddon.
After that, the Angels spent another summer failing to capitalize on the transcendent talents of Ohtani and Trout, who have won two AL MVP awards and no postseason games during their five years together.
”We’ve got two of the greatest players ever to put on uniforms, but we need more,” Minasian said. ”It’s not a 2-on-2 game. If it was, I would love our chances.”
Minasian knows it’s his responsibility to surround Ohtani and Trout with the supporting cast to succeed. He is determined to do it right this winter, even if he can’t say exactly how he’ll do that with an owner who’s thinking about leaving, and a newly permanent manager – Phil Nevin – who’s on a one-year contract in a nod to the Angels’ unsettled future.
”I’m very confident we’ll be able to make this team better,” Minasian said.
The Angels’ pitching was their weak spot for several years, so Minasian put together a staff that performed in the top half of the sport this season. But then the Angels’ lineup fell apart behind Trout and Ohtani, producing some of the worst group offensive numbers in the majors from the 4-9 spots in the order.
While Taylor Ward and Luis Rengifo asserted themselves as big league regulars, nearly everybody else who went to bat for Los Angeles underperformed.
”It takes more than two players,” Minasian said. ”The quality of our depth was not good enough with the injuries we had.”
Maddon thought his firing was a terrible decision, and he criticizes Minasian’s micromanagement of his dugout in his upcoming book. Minasian declined to comment Thursday on the specifics in Maddon’s account: ”He’s got a book, and he’s trying sell it. I hope he ends up on the New York Times best-seller list.”
Ohtani already agreed to a $30 million contract for 2023 in his final campaign before free agency. His long-term future will be a major topic throughout next season, but the Angels still believe they have a shot to keep their two-way talent.
”I think it’s step one,” Minasian said of Ohtani’s new deal. ”Hopefully there’s more steps down the road. … We love the player, and nothing would make me more happy than bringing him back for a long time.”
Minasian said the Angels will support Ohtani taking whatever role he wants for Japan in the World Baseball Classic in March.
UP AND COMING
The Angels’ once-barren farm system is producing intriguing prospects, and Minasian believes several youngsters will benefit from the playing time they received during lengthy injury absences for Anthony Rendon, Jared Walsh and David Fletcher.
Jo Adell, newcomer Mickey Moniak and unsung Livan Soto all impressed at times during the season, though Adell is not yet as consistent as the Angels hoped. Minasian believes Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez and Reid Detmers will be solid starting pitchers, and Sandoval is already there.
When Albert Pujols signed his $240 million deal with the Angels back in late 2011, it included a 10-year personal services contract with the team after he retires. With Pujols likely wrapping up his career this month, Minasian was remarkably positive when asked about that potential arrangement, which seemed unlikely to happen after the Angels unceremoniously dropped Pujols early last season: ”That’s something we will discuss when the time is right. He’s still playing … (but) during the games (next season), if he’s sitting next to me in the box, I’d be really excited.”
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