The Angels hired Billy Eppler on October 4, 2015. We will investigate how his transaction decisions have fared year-by-year in a series of four articles starting with the 2016 season and ending with the current season (2019), the Brad Ausmus era.
We’ll focus on his trades and free agent signings, but we will not focus on waiver pickups since those are low-risk moves which don’t require much spending. Signings of players to minor league contracts will also not count because those are low-risk moves as well. The ratings of each transaction are determined based on how the player has performed on the Angels and how other players the Angels traded have performed on other teams.
Let’s begin with our final series Part 4: The 2019 Season…*
*Note: Grades are subject to change because the 2019 season hasn’t ended as of yet.
November 29, 2018
The Chicago Cubs traded Tommy LaStella to the Angels for future cash considerations. La Stella batted .266 with a .672 OPS over a career-high 123 games with the Cubs in 2018. He leads the Majors in hits (24), batting average (.312) and OPS (.813) and ranked second in RBIs (11) among pinch-hitters with a minimum of 50 plate appearances in 2018. In parts of five seasons in the Majors, La Stella posted a .345 career on-base percentage. The Angels knew they were getting a solid pinch hitter. What they didn’t realize was that they were getting a bit more production out of him than just your average pinch hitter in 2019. He’s already almost matched the same number at-bats this season (166) as he did last season (169). And now that he’s playing full time at second base, he has thrived. He’s hitting .307 with 12 home runs and 34 runs batted in and a healthy .372 on-base percentage. He’s nothing but a steal and Eppler has to get credit for this one.
December 6, 2018
The Angels traded LHP Jose Alvarez to the Philadelphia Phillies for RHP Luis Garcia. Jose Alvarez hasn’t been lights out by any means in Philadelphia. He’s appeared in 20 games and in 20.2 innings, he’s given up 24 hits, has a 3.92 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.45. Luis Garcia started off hot but has recently cooled off. His ERA is a respectable 3.32 ERA in 21 appearances and in 19 innings, he’s only given up 14 hits. However, his command is a huge issue. He’s walked 13 (a very high amount), and struck out the same number of batters. He also went on the injured list on May 13 for lumbar spine spasm but got activated on May 25.
December 15, 2018
The Angels signed free agent first baseman Justin Bour to a one-year, $2.5 million deal. The goal was for Bour and Pujols to split time at first base and they would both take turns being the designated hitter when Ohtani got a break. Well, it turns out that Bour’s signing was a serious mistake. In 2018, while splitting time between two teams (the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies, he hit .227 with 20 home runs and 59 runs batted in. He also had a decent on-base percentage at .341. With the Angels this season, Bour was pretty awful. He batted .163 in 98 at-bats, had 31 strikeouts, 4 home runs, and 14 runs batted in. You do notice that we used the past tense to describe Bour’s performance and we’re just making our way into June. Well, that’s because he got demoted to AAA and is currently trying to work on his hitting. Whether the Angels recall him remains to be seen.
December 20, 2018
The Angels signed free agent RHP Trevor Cahill to a one-year, $9 million contract. No one expected Cahill to be a #1 starter. However, the Halos expected to get a reliable starter to go six innings consistently and keep the ball in the yard. In 2018, Cahill went 7-4 and had a 3.76 ERA. In 110 innings, he gave up 90 hits and only 8 home runs and had 100 strikeouts. In 2019, Cahill changed into a different pitcher, and that’s definitely not a good thing. Currently, he’s 2-5 with a 6.92 ERA. In 53.1 innings, he’s given up 55 hits and a staggering 16 home runs. He still has a job….for now. But with Félix Peña pitching well, the Angels next best-pitching prospect Jose Suarez lurking, and Jaime Barria waiting to get another chance to start, Cahill might be on borrowed time. Ausmus seems to believe Cahill has pitched pretty well in his last three starts, but maybe that’s just lip service in order to give Cahill confidence that he can do better. To be continued.
December 21, 2018
Just a day later after signing Trevor Cahill, the Angels had announced that they signed free agent RHP Matt Harvey to help solidify their rotation. His contract is for one year and $11 million. In 2015, Matt Harvey was known as the Dark Knight since he went 13-8 and had a 2.71 ERA. Then his career took a downward spiral. He went 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 2016. Then he went 5-7 with a 6.70 ERA while giving up 21 home runs in 2017. The Mets finally gave up on him last season after starting the season with a 7.00 ERA in 8 games (4 starts and 4 appearances out of the bullpen). He tried to resurrect his career in Cincinnati and seemed to improve incrementally. He went 7-7 with a 4.50 ERA. But he gave up 132 hits in 128 innings and gave up 21 home runs. His 27 home runs given up in 2018 were a career high. The Angels hoped a change of scenery would do Harvey well. In 48 innings, Harvey has a 7.50 ERA/6.11 FIP with 6.56 K/9 against 3.94 BB/9 across 48 frames. Among pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings this season, Harvey ranks last in ERA, sixth worst in fWAR (minus-0.3) and 11th from the bottom in K/BB ratio (1.67). Ugly to say the least. Now he is on the injured list as of May 25 due to upper back strain. However, the injured list may be more for him to regroup mentally.
December 29, 2018
Angels sign free agent catcher Jonathan Lucroy to a one-year $3.3 million, which is quite a bargain compared to Yasmani Grandal’s contract with the Brewers (one-year, $18.25 million contracts). Although Lucroy has a tendency to let balls get passed him, he does have a decent arm, calls a good game, and has had a better bat than expected this season. He’s batting .261 with 7 home runs and 24 runs batted in. He also has a decent .756 OPS. He’s also only struck out 24 times in 157 at-bats.
January 20, 2019
The Angels signed free agent RHP Cody Allen. Cody Allen was an elite closer with the Cleveland Indians and saved at least 24 games in five consecutive seasons. As recently as 2017, Allen he had a 2.94 ERA in 67.1 innings with 92 strikeouts and only 21 walks. However, in 2018, he had his worst season in Cleveland. He had a 4.70 ERA, walked 33 in 67 innings, and gave up a career-high 11 home runs. The Angels took a chance on him, but they didn’t get the All-Star Cody Allen of the past. They got the Allen that struggled last year with Cleveland. In 18 innings, he has given up 6 home runs and has an ERA of 5.00, which actually was higher until recently when Ausmus took him out of the closer role and gave it to Hansel Robles. He also went on the injured list on April 26 due to lumbar spine strain but was activated on May 7. Now Allen only appears in low leverage situations when the Angels are way ahead or way behind.
March 26, 2019
The Angels traded LHP Williams Jerez to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Chris Stratton. Williams Jerez came to the Angels in the trade that sent Ian Kinsler to the Boston Red Sox for him and Ty Buttrey. Buttrey has been amazing and Jerez didn’t really impress the Halos that much, so they thought they could let him go and add Stratton while making him the #5 starter. In the meantime, Jaime Barria (who was the Angels most consistent starter last season) was sent to AAA to make room for Stratton. The Stratton experiment was a disaster. In 5 starts and 7 total appearances, he had an 8.59 ERA and gave up 43 hits (6 home runs) in 29.1 innings. He also walked a lot of batters (18). He was released and is now trying to improve as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Barria was recalled once and appeared in 4 games with the Angels and hasn’t done that well, but you have to believe that his confidence was shattered after getting taken out of the rotation just a few days before Opening Day. Will he ever recover from that? We’ll have to wait and see.
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