TEMPE, Ariz. —
Angels could use a little swagger. They can also use an October.
Yes or no, Perry Minasian: Is this a playoff team?
“We’ll find out,” Minasian said.
Minasian, the Angels’ general manager, earned respect across the sport for guiding owner Arte Moreno away from the brightest stars in the free agent constellation for the second straight winter instead of focusing on the depth needed.
No team in the major leagues has a longer playoff drought. October is the time to guarantee.
Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ manager, guaranteed a World Series last spring. The guarantee was not without merit. He piqued interest, even though the Dodgers didn’t reach the World Series. No damage was done.
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Come on, Perry Minasian, guarantee the longtime fans a postseason spot. Last season for the Angels was the worst in 20 years.
“I’ve been in this game too long,” he said. “You never know. I’m not a guarantee person.’
I’m not asking you to tempt the baseball gods, or ensure the Angels win the World Series, or even win the American League West. I’m asking you to guarantee the Angels win one of the 12 postseason spots held by the 30 major league teams.
So one last time: is this a knockout team?
“You’ve seen the playoff teams,” he said. “You told me. You can say we are short. You won’t hurt my feelings.
“It seems like a lot of people are picking us third, fourth, whatever.”
Your team finished third last season. Your team is better, right?
“So does everyone else,” Minasian said.
Of the 15 American League teams, Fangraphs projects the first 10 — including the Angels — to win 80 to 90 games.
“There aren’t a lot of rebuilding teams per se, so there’s a lot of parity,” Minasian said. “Our division is very difficult. Houston is the class of the division. Seattle made the playoffs last year. They’re not going anywhere. Texas had a tremendous offseason, two in a row.’
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And your Angels?
“We like what we’ve done,” he said. “It’s always fun to make a big splash. As a sports fan myself, when my basketball team or my football team goes out and gets the best player, you get excited.
“For us, we already have top talent. We really wanted to focus on improving the middle of the roster. Instead of putting chips in one player, we wanted to spread it out and try to fill as many holes as we could.”
It looks familiar.
A winter ago, the Angels spent $120 million on starters Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenz, closer Raisel Iglesias and relievers Archie Bradley, Aaron Loup and Ryan Tepera.
“We have to keep our top talent on the field. But we can’t have an injury and end the season. It can’t happen. That’s on me.”
– Perry Minasian, CEO of Angels
Baseball Prospectus projected the Angels to win 88 games last season, with a 68% chance of making the playoffs. Fangraphs projected the Angels to win 82 games, with a 39% chance of making the playoffs.
The Angels won 73 games. They didn’t have a winning record for the seventh straight season, they didn’t make the playoffs for the eighth straight season, they didn’t win a postseason game for the 13th straight season. Syndergaard and Iglesias were traded during the offseason, saving the Angels about $58 million in cap space.
“We have to keep our top talent on the field,” Minasian said. “But we can’t have an injury and end the season. It can’t happen. That’s on me. I had to do a better job of completing this list, to be able to deal with certain situations that happened during the year.’
Last winter, the Angels spent $97 million on starting pitcher Tyler Anderson, closer candidate Carlos Estévez, reliever Matt Moore and infielders Brandon Drury and Gio Urshela and outfielder Hunter Renfroe.
The projections are similar: Baseball Prospectus: 86 wins, and a 53% chance to play in October; Fangraphs: 83 wins, and a 41% chance to play in October.
Tyler Anderson, who pitched against the Dodgers in a spring training game on March 3, was one of the Angels’ biggest offseason acquisitions.
(Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)
The depth this year and last year, while certainly prudent, can’t solve the two biggest obstacles standing between the Angels and October.
The Angels went 27-19 when Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon played together regularly in the first two months of last season, and 46-70 after that. That’s nearly .600 ball with both stars healthy, not even .400 ball from there.
Better to have Drury and Urshela than, say, Phil Gosselin and Jack Mayfield. Still, it’s too much to ask of Drury and Urshela to make up for the extended absences of Trout and Rendon, neither of whom have played even 120 games in a season since 2019.
The Angels are also subject to the questionable progress of every starting player not named Shohei Ohtani.
All of the Angels’ top five hitters posted a sub-4.00 earned run average last season. An encore, like a playoff berth, is not guaranteed.
Did Anderson reinvent his career with the Dodgers last summer at age 32, or did he enjoy a career year? Can Reid Detmers, Patrick Sandoval and José Suarez maintain their effectiveness while increasing their workload? None of those three pitchers have thrown 150 innings in a major league season; Suarez has not even thrown 110.
The Dodgers signed Anderson for depth last season, then helped develop him into an All-Star. For all the Angels’ attention to depth this offseason, they haven’t signed a proven major league starter for the back end of the rotation, or insurance against the inevitable rotations of ineffectiveness and injury in the top five.
Neither did the Dodgers, but their starting depth this season ranks among the top 100 prospects in baseball, so the Dodgers could either promote him, or trade him for a top-line starter, or some combination of the two. The Angels do not have a pitcher ranked among the top 100 prospects in baseball.
“Startups are expensive,” Minasian said. “You sign another headline, and it takes away other things.”
Stop-stops are also expensive. The Angels signed none, despite a market offering four outstanding but expensive options. They will start the season, at least with a short torpe. They’ll also start with a bullpen projected by Fangraphs as the weakest in baseball.
You can see why Minasian is cautious. The Angels are in the same place they were at this time last year: if things go well, October could be seen from here.
That’s not a guarantee. For a team that last appeared in the playoffs under the Obama administration, that’s it: fingers crossed, and play ball.