After finishing with the best record in the majors in 2014, the Los Angeles Angels fell to 85-77, missing the second wild card by one game. Mike Trout once again played at an MVP level, but the offense still plummeted from 773 runs (first in the AL) to 661 runs (12th). Billy Eppler, an assistant general manager with the Yankees since 2011, takes over as the new GM from Jerry Dipoto, who resigned in July amid rumors of conflicts with manager Mike Scioscia.
What do they need: The Trout-plus-depth approach of 2014 didn't work in 2015, and now the Angels have holes all over the place. When the team angrily parted ways with Josh Hamilton, Matt Joyce was shifted from a proposed DH role to left field but had a miserable season. As a result, Angels left fielders ended up with the worst production in the majors with a .216/.275/.317 line. Joyce is gone, but there's no left fielder to take his place. Third baseman David Freese and catcher Chris Iannetta also are free agents. Second base isn't in great shape as Johnny Giavotella was adequate with the bat but an adventure on defense. Albert Pujols hit 40 home runs but hit just .244 with a .307 OBP. And outside of Kole Calhoun, there isn't a decent left-handed bat on the roster.
The one looming after 2016 was fixed on Thursday night with the acquisition of Andrelton Simmons from the Braves for pitchers Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis, the team's top two prospects. Veteran Erick Aybar, coming off a bad season and with one year remaining on his contract, was included in the trade. Simmons is signed through 2020 and while his offense has regressed from 2013, he remains a plus-plus defender.
Guy on the rise: Andrew Heaney, acquired for Howie Kendrick, had a promising rookie season, going 6-4 with a 3.49 ERA in 18 starts. He's probably not a top-of-the-rotation guy given his so-so strikeout rate, but if he can continue to get ground balls with his low-90s sinker, he should be an effective No. 3-type starter.
Prospect to anticipate: Newcomb, a hard-throwing lefty, was the top prospect in a very thin system. Kyle Kubitza -- who owns a career .376 OBP in the minors -- is the default option at third base, but he lacks power and a .271/.357/.443 line at Salt Lake isn't too impressive. He struggled in an initial brief trial with the Angels but unless another move comes he'll get a chance to start.
Winter action plan: The good news is that Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, both making $20 million in 2016, are off the books after this season, so the Angels could dip into the free-agent market. Jason Heyward would solve the outfield corner issue (with Calhoun moving to left field) and also provide a left-handed bat with on-base ability. Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes have to be considered possibilities as well.
The Simmons trade means there isn't much left in the farm system, so any further additions will likely come via free agency or will be one-year fixes, somebody like Martin Prado at third base. The Angels have depth in the rotation with seven solid candidates and the infield defense will certainly be better with Simmons, but any chance at getting back to the postseason rests on Eppler figuring how to build an offense around Trout.