Will MLB’s Angels finally ascend?



FILE – Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno, right, talks with Angels manager Joe Maddon prior to a baseball game against the Cleveland Guardians, April 26, 2022, in Anaheim, Calif. Moreno has decided not to sell his team. He took his franchise off the market Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, after announcing his plan to explore a sale of the team last August. The 76-year-old owner met with prospective buyers during the winter. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon, Albert Pujols, Taylor Ward. A baseball team consisting of players such as these would be expected to succeed. You’d be dead wrong.

These are some key players from the 2021 Angels, a team stacked with star power, yet, without any semblance of success. A team with 3 all-star selections and multiple future locks for the Hall of Fame only reached fourth in the relatively weak AL West, not even reaching the postseason. What’s worse, they hadn’t reached the postseason since 2014. The 2022 team was no different, sans Pujols, losing the division again, and missing the postseason.

The Angels have become a laughingstock in the baseball world; how could a team this good on paper fail this badly every year? The answer might lay in its ownership.

The Angels won their one and only World Championship thus far in 2002, when the team was under the ownership of the Walt Disney Company. The corporation became responsible for renovating the aging two-way stadium, bringing it from a walled-in coliseum to a modern, feature packed experience, with water features, a flamethrower, new screens, and a better view of the Anaheim skyline.

After their championship, however, Disney began shopping the team around for sale. They found a buyer in Arte Moreno, an advertising magnate who purchased the team for $183.5 million in 2003. Initially, fans were enamored with their new owner, who immediately slashed prices for concessions and tickets, and who would consistently walk around the stadium during games to listen to fans’ complaints about how to make the experience better. However, this would spell the beginning of the downfall of the team.

Between the time of Moreno’s purchase and 2009, the Angels would go to the postseason 5 more times, never advancing past the championship series. Throughout the 2010’s, the Angels would consistently struggle, despite signings of key players such as Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Huston Street, and Jered Weaver. They last made the playoffs in 2014, never advancing past the divisional series. Mike Trout, consistently ranked within the top three best players in MLB, has never gotten more than this one series in his postseason repertoire.

Since then, the Angels have only sensed the bitter taste of defeat. Despite stacked lineups, power pitching, and players who have fundamentally changed the game, this team has performed far worse than they should on paper. However, their 2023 squad is shaping up to be their best in years.

Since then, the Angels have only sensed the bitter taste of defeat. Despite stacked lineups, power pitching, and players who have fundamentally changed the game, this team has performed far worse than they should on paper. However, their 2023 squad is shaping up to be their best in years.

Halfway through their 2022 season, starting off with yet another losing record, Los Angeles traded their rookie center fielder Brandon Marsh to the Philadelphia Phillies in a deal that included them receiving top catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe. With Kurt Suzuki’s retirement at the end of the 2022 season, O’Hoppe, unless traded, is poised to become the franchise’s catcher for years to come.

At the conclusion of the 2022 season, the Angels (and moreover, the Brewers) shocked the baseball world by trading career minor leaguer Janson Junk (owner of a 4.74 career ERA) and prospects for the Brewers’ star outfielder, and, arguably, best player, Hunter Renfroe. The veteran journeyman slashed .255/.315/.492 last year, and hit 29 homers. He’s a former gold glove finalist, and his outs above average, while in the negative for 2022, aren’t abysmal for the position.

Anaheim added to their lineups with third baseman Gio Urshela of the Twins, in exchange for another Minor League pitcher in Alejandro Hidalgo. The veteran infielder has also seen time as a utilityman, with experience at all other infield positions and outfield positions. Having slashed .285/.338/.429 with Minnesota last year, he hits for contact, good for a leadoff man or to hit in the middle of the order.

Tyler Anderson, one of the Dodgers’ more reliable starting pitchers, also went down the freeway to sign with Anaheim in free agency on a 3 year deal. While the Angels had an elite arm in Ohtani and decent arms in Patrick Sandoval and Reid Detmers, Tyler Anderson is closer to the ace that Ohtani is, and will excel both in longer games and higher-octane situations on the mound.

Third baseman Brandon Drury and DH/infielder Jake Lamb also signed in free agency with the Halos. Last year, Drury hit 28 homers, and Jake Lamb signed a minor league contract in lieu of 2016 and 2017 29 and 30 home run seasons, respectively.

The outfield depth that Hunter Renfroe adds should reduce the reliance on minor leaguers coming up for big games, leaving Renfroe, Mike Trout, and Taylor Ward to hold down the warning track. The Angels’ infield has been pillaged in recent years, with the departure of Albert Pujols at first base in 2021, and with $245 million nightmare 3B Anthony Rendon constantly finding himself injured. The defense and offense that these new additions as well as home-grown offerings can provide is, again, on paper, something that has the potential to make a deep postseason run.

Angels owner Arte Moreno has stated in past years that he was looking to sell the team. In January, he announced that he was no longer looking to sell, and stated that he was eager to bring a World Series back to Anaheim. His team’s actions since the close of the 2022 season only help to solidify this viewpoint, and should plant the Angels as a legitimate contender and a team to watch out for.