ANAHEIM -- All offseasons are important, but this is an especially important one for the Angels, especially with two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani headed for free agency and their current search for a manager to replace Phil Nevin.
Ohtani, who is expected to win the AL MVP Award for the second time in three seasons, will be the most-sought-after free agent in MLB history and the Angels have made it clear they’re going to try to do whatever it takes to re-sign him. But before then, they’re going to have to hire a new manager, which is expected to happen shortly after the conclusion of the World Series.
But after missing the postseason for a club-record eighth consecutive year, plenty of questions loom. Here are five the Angels are facing this offseason:
1) Will the Angels be able to re-sign Ohtani?
Bringing back Ohtani will be the club’s top priority this offseason, but where he plays in 2024 and beyond will ultimately be up to him. Ohtani is comfortable with the organization, which is a positive, but the big question is whether he believes the Angels can be consistent winners going forward. Ohtani wants to win, and he’s never been to the postseason.
His free agency will be the biggest storyline in baseball this offseason, and his private nature only makes it more intriguing and mysterious. It’s impossible to know where Ohtani will sign at this point, and his right elbow injury adds a new wrinkle. He's expected to command the largest contract in MLB history, and the Angels will be right in that mix with other interested clubs such as the Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Mariners, Red Sox, Mets, Rangers and Yankees.
2) Who will the Angels hire as manager?
The Angels are still conducting their search for a new manager after dismissing Phil Nevin on Oct. 3. There haven’t yet been any confirmed names who have interviewed for the position, but there are several possible candidates, including Buck Showalter, Ray Montgomery, Benji Gil and Darin Erstad.
3) How aggressive will they be in free agency?
GM Perry Minasian said after the season that the goal is to put a contending team on the field in 2024, and the Halos have obvious interest in bringing back Ohtani, so it doesn’t appear a rebuild is in store. But is the club willing to go above the luxury tax like it did with its moves at the Trade Deadline? And if the Angels bring back Ohtani, how much more are they willing to spend this offseason to build a better team around him? And if they don’t, how will they pivot and how much will they spend? Those are all huge questions that will be worth monitoring this winter.
4) Will the club go to a five-man rotation, and how many starters does it need to add?
Los Angeles won’t have Ohtani in its rotation in 2024 even if he does return to the team, due to elbow surgery to repair a torn right UCL. It means the club is likely to go to a five-man rotation instead of the modified six-man rotation it employed with him in the mix. The Angels have some internal candidates like Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers, Chase Silseth, Griffin Canning and Tyler Anderson, but they will need to add one or two more starters to that mix.
5) Is the team willing to deal even more prospects after its push at the Trade Deadline?
The Angels went for it at the Trade Deadline, sending away several of their top prospects, including catcher Edgar Quero and lefty Ky Bush. The farm system was already considered thin, and the trades ultimately didn’t work out, as the Halos quickly fell out of contention with a seven-game losing streak to open August. Last offseason, the club traded for veterans Hunter Renfroe and Gio Urshela, with both headed into the last year of their contracts. The Halos could do something similar this offseason instead of signing a free agent, but it would deplete their farm system even more.
ANGELS OUTRIGHT 6, INCLUDING WALSH AND BARRIA
The Angels cleared some room on their 40-man roster on Monday, outrighting first baseman Jared Walsh, right-hander Jaime Barria, lefty Jhonathan Diaz, catcher Chad Wallach, center fielder Brett Phillips and right-hander Carson Fulmer to Triple-A Salt Lake. All six will become free agents after the World Series but are eligible to re-sign with the club.
It was a tough move for Walsh, who was an All-Star in 2021 but dealt with neurological issues dating back to '22. He found ways to manage his symptoms but struggled after being called up late in the season and is likely to sign elsewhere. Barria also had some success with the Angels, posting a 4.38 ERA in 462 2/3 innings since '18. But after posting a 2.61 ERA in '22, he struggled in '23, with a 5.68 ERA in 82 1/3 innings. He's also likely to sign with another club.
DANIEL IMPRESSING IN ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
Right-hander Davis Daniel, who posted a 2.19 ERA in three September appearances as a rookie last season, has been off to a solid start in the Arizona Fall League. Daniel, pitching for the Scottsdale Scorpions, turned in his second consecutive quality start on Saturday, allowing two runs over six innings and striking out seven. As of Monday, he's posted a 1.69 ERA in three starts with 22 strikeouts in 16 innings. Daniel, 26, was also named the AFL Player of Week last week after striking out 10 over six strong innings and said getting a taste of the Majors and having some success helped his confidence.
“Figuring out that your stuff can play [in the Majors] is a huge confidence booster,” Daniel told MLB.com. “I had some success while I was up there. Being able to take that confidence -- knowing there are still hitters and hitting is a hard game -- [is big]. If you can be in the zone with good stuff, you’ll have success.”
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