ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Angels are about to make Mike Trout the highest-paid athlete in North American team sports history. Once his contract is signed, the most productive baseball player of his generation will get $432 million to stay in Orange County through 2030.
This franchise’s cornerstone is cemented in place. It’s time to construct a championship team on top of that cornerstone, and the Angels plan to continue the work all summer long.
Trout’s record commitment sent a jolt of optimism through the Angels this week as they completed their preparations in Arizona. The homegrown two-time AL MVP has given an unequivocal vote of confidence in the notion that Los Angeles will be a World Series contender again soon.
The Angels aren’t among the favorites this season, not while Shohei Ohtani recovers from Tommy John surgery and Albert Pujols spends another expensive year attempting to recapture his youth. But with a retooled pitching staff and moderate lineup additions, the Angels expect progress after finishing with three consecutive losing records for the first time since 1992-94.
Los Angeles has made incremental improvements to nearly everything about the franchise during general manager Billy Eppler’s three years in charge. The latest big change is in the dugout, where manager Mike Scioscia’s 19-year tenure has ended and Brad Ausmus has replaced him.
Ausmus and a completely revamped coaching staff will bring a new perspective. Yet the Angels are in even bigger need of consistent health after two straight injury-plagued years, particularly on the mound.
If Ausmus makes an impact and his pitchers stay healthy, Trout could lead a quick revival in the Angels’ fortunes. It might not be enough to get past Houston or even Oakland in the AL West, but Trout believes the Angels are on the right path.
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1-2 PUNCH: The Angels made their biggest offseason additions to a starting rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Former Mets ace Matt Harvey and veteran starter Trevor Cahill will be counted on for durability and consistency while the rest of the rotation falls in line behind them. Cahill will start on opening day, while the 29-year-old Harvey is showing signs of continuing the career revitalization that began last season in Cincinnati. The Angels are long overdue for a little bit of pitching good fortune, and maybe Harvey and Cahill will provide it.
ON HIS WAY: Ohtani won’t be ready for opening day, but the AL Rookie of the Year is on track to return to the lineup as the Angels’ designated hitter early in the season. Nobody has put a timetable on the Japanese star’s return, but he will impact the playing time of the 39-year-old Pujols, who must stay in shape to play first base.
HISTORY ON DECK: Speaking of Pujols, he starts the season sixth in baseball history with 633 homers. Willie Mays is fifth with 660. Pujols is coming off another offseason surgery, but he hopes to improve on his 19 homers and career-low 64 RBIs last year. He still has three seasons remaining on his 10-year, $240 million contract.
NEW FACES: Harvey and Cahill are important, but the Angels also added Cody Allen, Cleveland’s career saves leader, to anchor an inconsistent bullpen that could feature several new arms, depending on who sticks on the roster. The Angels’ biggest position player additions were slugging first baseman Justin Bour and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, the immediate starter behind the plate.
ROOKIES TO WATCH: For the first time in years, the Angels might actually have a couple of these. Eppler’s farm system is headlined by Jo Adell, the 19-year-old outfielder who suffered a weird leg injury during a spring training game. He’ll be back on the fast track to the big leagues this summer alongside right-hander Jose Suarez, shortstop Luis Rengifo and UCLA product Griffin Canning, who looks ready to help the major-league staff soonest of all.
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