Tony Reagins, harshly criticized for trades that brought the underachieving and overpaid Vernon Wells and Scott Kazmir to Anaheim, abruptly resigned as Angels general manager Friday.
The move came one day after Reagins vowed to be “creative and aggressive” in attempts to upgrade the team this winter.
A statement released by the Angels indicated that Reagins was forced out. “Though we finished 2011 with a winning record, we remained short of our objective in winning a championship,” owner Arte Moreno said. “In moving forward, we felt a change was needed.”
Reagins, 44, was promoted to general manager after the 2007 season, and he had two years left on his contract. He said during a conference call that he had been contemplating the move for a month before informing upper management of his intentions Friday.
“I definitely had thought about this decision over the last 30 days, and it’s something my family and I are very comfortable with,” Reagins said. “I felt the club needed a fresh perspective and different direction.”
John Carpino, the team’s president, said he was “a little bit surprised” by the resignation. Reagins will remain with the club as a special assistant to Chairman Dennis Kuhl.
“Tony and I had a long conversation [Friday] morning,” Carpino said, “and for most part, yeah, this wasn’t the plan.”
Carpino said Reagins’ successor probably will come from outside the organization, an indication the jobs of longtime assistant GM Ken Forsch and special assistant Gary Sutherland are in jeopardy. Carpino would like to have someone in place in early November for the start of free agency.
Two intriguing big names — New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Boston Red Sox GM Theo Epstein — might be available. Cashman’s contract is expiring, but the team’s owners made it clear they want him back. Epstein has one year left on his deal, but his status is unclear in the wake of his team’s September collapse and the resignation of Manager Terry Francona.
The Angels would love to lure Billy Beane from Oakland, but the Athletics GM’s contract runs through 2014.
Other possible candidates are former Arizona GM Josh Byrnes, now San Diego’s vice president of baseball operations; former Dodgers GM Dan Evans, and assistant GMs Jerry DiPoto (Arizona), Thad Levine (Texas), David Forst (Oakland) Rick Hahn (White Sox) and Al Avila (Detroit).
“We’re going to try to get the right person who will be here long-term, big name or not,” Carpino said. “The organization is not broken, by any means. We don’t need to rebuild it.”
In Reagins’ four years as GM, the Angels won two division titles and went 363-285. But they finished two games under .500 last year and, with a record $142-million payroll this year, missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season, going 86-76 and finishing 10 games behind Texas.
“I’m responsible for putting the team in place, and we didn’t accomplish our goals,” Reagins said. “When you make the types of investments we’ve made you’re expected to perform at a high level. If you don’t, you have to be accountable.”
Reagins made some good moves, signing free agents Torii Hunter and Scott Downs, trading for Mark Teixeira and Dan Haren and securing ace Jered Weaver to a five-year, $85-million extension in August.
But there was a perception that Reagins botched negotiations for free agents Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre last winter, and he fired highly regarded scouting director Eddie Bane because of a personality conflict after the 2010 season.
Reagins failed to upgrade a sagging team at the July 31 and Aug. 31 trade deadlines this season, and some thought he allowed Manager Mike Scioscia to make too many personnel decisions.
And then there were the ill-fated deals for Kazmir and Wells.
Kazmir was acquired from Tampa Bay in August 2009 with two years and $22.5 million on his contract. He went 9-15 with a 5.94 earned-run average in 2010 and pitched 1 2/3 innings this season before being released.
Wells, acquired from Toronto last winter with four years and $81 million on his contract, hit .218 with a major league-worst .248 on-base percentage, 25 homers and 66 runs batted in.
Mike Napoli, who was traded for Wells, hit .320 with a .414 on-base percentage and a league-high .631 slugging percentage, 30 homers and 75 RBIs for Texas.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Reagins said. “You make decisions based on the information you have. I’m very comfortable with what we’ve done as an organization. Some decisions worked out, some haven’t. You live with them and you move forward.”