The move came one day after the Chicago Cubs parted ways with Joe Maddon, the manager who led that team to its first World Series championship in 108 years and previously led the Tampa Bay Rays to their lone World Series appearance.
Maddon is interested in the Angels’ position, according to a person who has spoken with him, but the Angels have not been in contact with him. Technically, Maddon remains under contract through the end of October, so the Cubs would have to grant him permission to engage with other teams regarding potential jobs.
“I still have a good three to five years in me,” Maddon told reporters Sunday.
Maddon, 65, never finished a season in Chicago with a record below .500. Until the Cubs (84-78) swooned in August and tumbled out of first place, Maddon had never managed a team there to fewer than 92 wins.
Although Maddon’s reunion with the Angels would be a match made in heaven, it is not guaranteed. There are four other teams — San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals — with managerial openings who could very well sway Maddon to them. It would not be shocking if a few other clubs, such as the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, begin managerial searches of their own.
However, Maddon’s ties to Anaheim run deep. Maddon joined the Rays after working in the Angels organization for three decades. He was the Angels’ bench coach under Mike Scioscia in 2002, when the team won its only World Series championship. Maddon last worked for the Angels in 2005, but he still owns a home in Long Beach.
The move might put general manager Billy Eppler in an uncomfortable position. Angels owner Arte Moreno declined to grant Eppler a contract extension, instead picking up a one-year option last month. Maddon presumably would join the Angels on a long-term deal, meaning that he would have more job security than Eppler, who inherited Scioscia as manager, waited three years for his contract to run out, then hired Ausmus.
In 19 years under Scioscia, the Angels never lost more than 88 games. In their last year before Scioscia, in 1999, Maddon went 19-10 as the interim manager on a 92-loss team. In their first year after Scioscia, Ausmus led the Angels to a 90-loss season.
Under Eppler, the Angels have had four consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1974-77.
The Angels are desperate for starting pitching and are expected to be willing to spend to get it, with Orange County native and Cy Young award candidate Gerrit Cole as the top target. The potential arrival of Maddon, who made $6 million a year with the Cubs, could signal to free agents a renewed commitment to championship contention in Anaheim.
The Angels won the American League West in five of the first six full seasons of Moreno’s ownership, ending in 2009. They have not won a postseason game since then; they were swept in their lone appearance in 2014.
That means Mike Trout, a perennial MVP candidate who could win the award a third time, never has won a postseason game in his nine years with the Angels. However, it was Eppler’s vision for the Angels that inspired Trout to forgo free agency and sign a $426.5-million extension to remain with the Angels through 2030.
Trout said last week he enjoyed his first year playing under a new manager.
“I love playing for Brad,” Trout said. “This is not the way we wanted it to end up, being out of it, but the coaching staff has been great.”
Ausmus, 50, was dealt a tough hand in the first year of a three-year contract he signed last October. Starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs died July 1 from choking on his vomit after ingesting fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol, and the team spent the remainder of the season grieving the loss.
Significant injuries peppered the roster. The season ended with the team’s top three sluggers — Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton — on the injured list. The starting rotation was in shambles all season, forcing the Angels to bring up several rookies before they were ready.
Additionally, none of Eppler’s free-agent signings panned out. Pitchers Matt Harvey ($11 million), Trevor Cahill ($9 million) and Cody Allen ($8.5 million) were ineffective, and Harvey and Allen were designated for assignment.
Rather than allow Ausmus another chance with a revamped roster, the Angels will search during a second consecutive offseason for someone they think will help them end their five-year postseason drought.
“I want to thank Brad for his hard work and dedication to this organization over the last two seasons as both a special assistant and field manager. He navigated this franchise through one of its most difficult seasons with class and professionalism,” Eppler said in a statement. “This was an incredibly difficult decision, but after significant consideration, we’ve decided it is necessary to go in another direction.”