The Angels have found Mike Scioscia’s replacement in Brad Ausmus, the team announced Sunday.
Ausmus, the former Detroit Tigers manager and major league catcher, signed a three-year contract to manage the Angels. He won the job over the likes of Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada, former Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees third baseman Eric Chavez, and 11-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop Omar Vizquel.
“Brad’s balance of connectivity, communication and leadership skills as well as his understanding of evolving strategies and probabilistic approach to decision-making, led us to him,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said in a statement. “We believe his knowledge, drive and growth mind-set will allow him to integrate seamlessly with our players and will be pivotal in advancing our culture and moving us toward our goals as an organization.”
Ausmus became a special assistant to Eppler in November, shortly after the Tigers declined to renew Ausmus’ contract at the end of the 2017 season. Ausmus had taken the helm from longtime skipper Jim Leyland, who retired at the end of the 2013 campaign, and led the Tigers to the American League Central division title in his first season in 2014. But the Tigers, stuck behind the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals and the burgeoning Cleveland Indians, missed the postseason each of the next three years. Ausmus amassed a 314-332 record over four seasons, which included a 64-98 record in 2017.
The Angels were not discouraged by Ausmus’ shortcomings in Detroit, where he managed Hall-of-Fame-caliber players such as Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
By the time Ausmus’ stint with them came to an end, the Tigers had jettisoned Verlander to the Astros and slugger J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks and committed to an organizational rebuild.
“Our priorities are the same since Arte [Moreno] bought the team in 2003,” Angels President John Carpino said in a text message. “We are here to win. That goal was made clear to all of the candidates.”
Ausmus, 49, spent 18 seasons in the majors as a catcher from 1993 to 2010 for the San Diego Padres, Astros, Tigers and Dodgers. He transitioned to the front office as a special assistant with the Padres from 2010-13.
Ausmus’ hiring follows a recent industry trend in which front-office stints that require an immersion in advanced metrics have led to managerial roles.
- Former Padres skipper Bud Black in 2016 was an Angels special assistant to analytics proponent Eppler before taking over as Colorado Rockies manager the next season. This year, the Rockies lost a division tiebreaker with the Dodgers before entering the playoffs as the National League wild-card team.
- Astros manager A.J. Hinch, another former player, spent time in the Padres’ front office after a failed first stint as skipper for the Diamondbacks during 2009 and 2010. The Astros participated in three of the past four playoffs and won the 2017 World Series during Hinch’s tenure.
The formula for success is there. It’s now up to Ausmus, a Dartmouth graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in government, to follow it.
“He is a great fit,” Carpino said.
Ausmus will be introduced at a news conference at Angel Stadium on Monday. He becomes the 17th manager in Angels history — and just their second since the start of the century. Scioscia, who led the Angels to their only World Series title in 2002 and later signed a 10-year contract that expired at the end of the 2018 season, stepped down following a season-ending victory on Sept. 30.
Now that a manager has been named, the Angels will fill out Ausmus’ coaching staff and turn their attention to the roster. Eppler plans to dive into the pitching market to bolster a starting rotation that in 2018 was decimated by injuries.
For now, Ausmus knows he’ll manage one of baseball’s best all-around players in outfielder Mike Trout, two-way star and AL rookie-of-the-year candidate Shohei Ohtani and aging veteran Albert Pujols. Trout, a two-time MVP award winner, has only played in one postseason series since his debut in 2011 and has two seasons remaining on the $145.5 million contract he signed in 2014. Ohtani will not pitch next season as he recovers from ulnar collateral ligament surgery, but he is expected to feature in the middle of the Angels’ batting order as the team attempts to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The Angels were swept by the Royals in a best-of-five American League Division Series that year.
Overseeing the team’s use of Pujols might present a challenge for Ausmus, but the task won’t be foreign. Victor Martinez was 38 years old and produced a declined .697 on-base-plus-slugging percentage during Ausmus’ final year in Detroit.
The Angels this year finished 80-82, a record that marked a third straight losing season.