Another Frugal Offseason? It Could Be Part of Billy Eppler’s Plan

Updated: November 16, 2016

So far, Billy Eppler has made three major moves this season: trading for new left fielder Cameron Maybin, re-signing reliever Andrew Bailey to a one-year/$1M contract, and signing pitcher Jesse Chavez to a one-year/$5.75M contract.

The total price of these three players: $15.75 million, less than the price of a qualifying offer. Eppler has been very frugal this offseason, drawing the skepticism of many, but what he is doing may be a plan for the Angels future. A frugal 2016 offseason could mean a big 2017 offseason. And it could be the best thing for the team.

This season’s free agent class is definitely weak. The biggest fish in the pond is Yoenis Cespedes, but the Angels are pretty much out of the outfield market after the Maybin trade. Besides Cespedes, the rest of the free agent class is filled with question marks.

There are no big name starters available. The top slugger is Mark Trumbo, who had his first real quality season of his career, but can’t play defense to save his life. Wilson Ramos is coming off a monster season that saw him rack up a 123 OPS+, but is only one year removed from a 66 OPS+ season in 2014.

The only free agent the Angels really needed in Neil Walker was one of the only players to accept his qualifying offer and leaves the second base market pretty much barren.

The Angels have about $30 million left in payroll after their acquisitions, meaning they have lots of room to retool their lineup, but with no real quality players in their areas of need, the money is pretty much just standing water.

The Halos might just use this money to sign second-tier free agents to one-year contracts and maybe trade some low level prospects and take on some bad contracts from other teams, much like the have already done. While this puts the 2017 season in the hands of some unproven players, it may work out if the Angels could uncover some diamonds in the rough, much like they did with Jefry Marte last season. Some free agents that could prove to be cheap, quality producers are guys like Sean Rodriguez and Franklin Gutierrez.

The Angels might be able to trade for guys like Zack Cozart and Mike Moustakas to play second and third respectively to create one of the most insane defensive teams in the past few years. They have the money to sign some free agents, but the Angels should use that money wisely on low-risk one-year contracts.

A big benefit to a frugal offseason this year could be a big offseason next year. Next year’s free agent class is filled with quality players, especially at the Angels’ areas of need. The Halos could have the $30 million they had this season, plus another $26 million coming off the books from Josh Hamilton’s contract, plus a possible increase to the luxury tax from the new collective bargaining agreement.

That would put the Angels at a huge advantage next season. They could sign Moustakas and Cozart for relatively cheap compared to other big name free agents. They could sign a pitcher or two from a class that includes Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Danny Duffy, and Tyson Ross to name a few. They could sign a big name outfielder like Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gonzalez, or J.D. Martinez.

There should also be a retooling of the qualifying offer system with the new CBA, so the Angels may not have to give up a first-round draft pick if they sign a player with a QO attached to them. The possibilities are endless in 2017 and the Angels will have the money and flexibility to do what they want.

A frugal offseason may not be in the interest of most fans, but it would really help the team in the future. The Angels wouldn’t have to give up a high draft pick if they stay frugal. They wouldn’t have to commit to a possibly disastrous long contract on a player on the decline like Jose Bautista. It is in the best interest for Billy Eppler to have yet another low-cost offseason in order to be successful in the future.

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