A ballroom in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino buzzed Thursday as the news of a blockbuster three-team trade spread through a crowd of reporters and baseball executives gathered for the final day of the winter meetings.
The news did not involve the Angels. Like most clubs, general manager Billy Eppler’s team ended its four-night sojourn to Las Vegas without moving the needle in the trade market or free agency.
Sure, the Angels agreed preliminarily to a one-year contract with first baseman Justin Bour and announced the official signings of seven players to minor league contracts this week. But they departed for Anaheim at about noon without patching the most obvious holes in their roster.
The Angels scoured the market for a pitcher or catcher; they made trade proposals that bore no fruit. They came up empty.
As the Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians swapped Carlos Santana, Edwin Encarnacion, Jake Bauers, Yandy Diaz and cash, Eppler was not fazed by his inability to gain traction on his earliest pursuits.
“We were making progress in trying to see what’s reality and what’s not reality,” he said. “We’ve identified some targets that seem to be within striking distance. We’ll see what the rest of today and tomorrow and next week brings and just go from there.”
The Angels have three openings on their 40-man roster and about $30 million to spend. They have enough flexibility to send a shock wave.
Now it’s a matter of finding the right fit.
For the Angels, the fit might come from a pool of free agents that includes catchers Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos and starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Yusei Kikuchi.
“There were a lot of trade conversations that turned out to not be really realistic at this time,” Eppler said. “It might make you change some of your focus back toward free agency. But there’s still some active trade dialogue happening.”
Rule 5 draft results
The Angels neither lost a minor leaguer nor added anyone to their major league roster in the opening rounds of the annual Rule 5 draft. That means they retained right-hander Jeremy Rhoades, outfielder and infielder Jared Walsh and infielder Roberto Baldoquin, all of whom were eligible for selection.
In the minor-league portion of the draft, the Angels selected right-handed starter Matt Esparza from the Indians. Esparza, 24, was a 14th-round pick in the 2015 amateur player draft.
He has a 3.73 earned-run average in 73 minor league games. He reached double-A in 2017 but an injury limited him to four games last season.
In the double-A portion of the draft, the Angels lost shortstops Julio Garcia, Alberto Triunfel and Riley Unroe and catcher Mitch Ghelfi.