Obstacles in Search for Angels’ General Manager

Theo Epstein has officially joined the Chicago Cubs — which has largely thrown the baseball media into a collective frenzy — but another high-profile GM position remains wide open in Los Angeles.

The Angels’ GM opening is very attractive in many ways. The organization dished out $138.5M in contracts in 2011, ranking ahead of the Cubs as the fourth highest payroll in the majors, so the monetary limitations are relatively non-existent. The farm system also boasts elite prospects — such as Mike Trout, Jean Segura, and Kaleb Cowart — which lays the groundwork for potential sustainable success. The city of Los Angeles also packs a substantial number fans into the stadium, offering a consistent stream of revenue for the organization. The Angels finished the 2011 season with the fifth-highest average home attendance — 39,090 per night.

Despite all of those enticing aspects of the GM position with the Angels, significant drawbacks exist for any potential candidate, and they could deter a current GM from legitimately considering a switch. After all, Theo Epstein actively pursued the Chicago Cubs over the Los Angeles Angels for a reason, and it’s not all about organizational history.

Established GMs, such as Esptein, generally seek out positions in which they are granted tabula rasa to rebuild the organization their way. Chicago offers that opportunity. Los Angeles does not. Any potential Angels’ GM will be forced to mold his or her personnel decisions around the institution that is Mike Scioscia.

Scioscia has managed the Angels since 2000 and is under contract until 2018. He has led the organization to six postseason appearances, as well as their first (and only) World Series in 2002, which helped cement him as a legend amongst the fanbase. There is little doubt that he will have a statue outside Angel Stadium of Anaheim one day.

One baseball executive told ESPN that he feels Scioscia’s immense power in Los Angeles could ultimately undermine a new GM’s authority within the organization. The source said:

“It’s a great job in the sense that it’s in a good city, it has a great owner and a packed stadium every night,” the source said. “On the other hand, you’ve got a manager who makes a lot more money than you who has more power than just about any other manager and he’s supposed to be working for you.”

And while Scioscia freely admits that he is not capable of serving simultaneously as the GM and the manager, the point remains that any new GM will have to appease Scioscia. Roster moves will have to have the Scioscia “stamp of approval”. Free agent or trade acquisitions will be made with Scioscia in mind.

Outside the managerial concerns, however, further drawbacks of the Angels’ job exist. The most egregious of which is the poor contracts that the new GM will be inheriting.

Vernon Wells played 131 games and only managed a .248 OBP, which was the worst in the league. Furthermore, of qualified batters in both leagues, Wells’ 12.3% LD% was the lowest line-drive rate — which is partially due to his IFFB% being a laughable 18.2%. All of that ineptitude, and he still has three-years, $63M remaining on his contract.

Aside from the albatross Wells contract, any new Angels’ GM would inherit a Torii Hunter contract that has $18M on the books in 2012, a potential Bobby Abreu contract worth $9M (pending option), and a Joel Pineiro contract worth $8M.

That is potentially $56M — or 40.42% of the payroll — owed in 2012 to four players who compiled a combined 4.5 WAR this past season. Talk about starting out behind the eight ball.

Then, there is the fact that the Texas Rangers have gone to the World Series in two consecutive seasons and appear poised for sustained success. Jon Daniels has done a wonderful job with the Rangers’ franchise. The farm system is loaded with premium talent, and their payroll is becoming more and more robust. The Angels’ new GM would not be joining the AL East by any stretch of the imagination, but the path to an AL West pennant is no longer a cakewalk.

The final deterrence for an established GM to join the Angels’ organization is that he or she would be captaining the ship of “the other” Los Angeles team. Make no mistake, Los Angeles belongs first and foremost to the Dodgers. Even in a year that was marred with divorce, violence and poor baseball, the Dodgers only lost the attendance battle with the Angels by a mere 200,000 fans.

Los Angeles wants to embrace the Dodgers. They have Vin Scully, Jackie Robinson, and Kirk Gibson. The messy divorce has cast a shroud over the Dodgers’ organization as a whole — and the Angels’ PR department is doing a wonderful job capitalizing on that — but the city wouldn’t be able to jump on the Dodgers bandwagon fast enough with any semblance of success.

The GM position for the Angels certainly has some appeal — with the money, the market, and the minor league talent — but the underlying drawbacks could be the reason existing GMs are shying away from the opportunity and the reason a first-time GM will likely be leading the Angels into the 2012 season.



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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).


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jake
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jake
4 years 8 months ago

First interview question from Scioscia:
“How many games would Jeff Mathis ideally start?
A. All of them.
B. I don’t want this job.

davie
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davie
4 years 8 months ago

idiots got rid of napoli…

Eric
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Eric
4 years 8 months ago

Hindsite is 20/20. He sucked on the Angels. He lead the team in strikeouts and hit a paltry .260. He had to go.

Bill
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Bill
4 years 8 months ago

Don’t forget his low RBI totals. He never topped 68. He’s half the player Ryan Howard is.

Friedman
Member
Friedman
4 years 8 months ago

napoli hit great on the angels (especially for a catcher). very good iso and walk rate

f
Guest
f
4 years 7 months ago

831 OPS from a catcher is sucking? He also averaged 18 bombs in like 350 PAs per year. Jeff Mathis and his overrated defense (and 550 OPS) sure helped the Angels succeed this year.

Eric
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Eric
4 years 7 months ago

Everyone talks about his home runs. I remember watching Napoli hit .180 in 2010 with runners in scoring postion. Usually striking out one of his 90 plus times a year. He was awesome!!

David from DC
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David from DC
4 years 8 months ago

Pineiro’s contract ended in 2011

Adrastus Perkins
Member
4 years 8 months ago

“The city of Los Angeles Anaheim also packs a substantial number fans into the stadium, offering a consistent stream of revenue for the organization.”

Fixed.

And they may have Los Angeles in their name now, but I guarantee you a majority of the fans in the seats every night hail from Orange County. It’s a pretty damn big market itself.

I really think adding LA to the name was an attempt to expand the brand and cut into the Dodgers’ fanbase, not take them over.

All that said, I’ll probably become a Dodger fan if they end up hiring Minaya.

And ditto what David said, Pineiro is gone.

chuckb
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chuckb
4 years 8 months ago

The Scioscia problem is larger than simply dealing with an ostensible subordinate who makes more money and has more stroke than the GM will. It has to deal with having to fit your decisions into the preconceived notions that Scioscia has about building a roster the “old school way” rather than using what we have learned about baseball over the last 10 years. That means having too many utility infielders, having Jeff Mathis or some other “defense-first” catcher play too many games, and having position players who swing first and have little concept of the strike zone or the ability to work counts.

I can’t imagine why a GM who really wants to make his mark on a club would want this position. You’re simply going to be Mike Scioscia’s errand boy and, long term, it’s not going to lead to success. It’s why they trade Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells, sign Torii Hunter to too much money, and play Jeff Mathis behind the plate. Will they keep Trout in the minors so that they can give PAs to Vernon Wells? When Haren and Weaver get a couple years older, they’re really going to decline.

Paul
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Paul
4 years 8 months ago

With you in general on all this, but you lost me here: “…but the city wouldn’t be able to jump on the Dodgers bandwagon fast enough with any semblance of success.”

I’m not really following the comparison to the Dodgers’ situation, partly because it’s not fully presented. A “mere” 200,000 fans for two teams that draw 3 mil per year is almost 7%. I guarantee you won’t find an accountant for either team calling that a “mere” difference. Not to mention that last season the Dodgers lost over 600,000 fans from the previous season. Angels lost almost 100,000.

Did you mean that it would be “hard for the city to jump OFF the Dodgers bandwagon?” Their attendance decline last year was 45% greater than the next largest attendance decliner, the Cinderella Rays. The attendance issue in SoCal may be partly about he economy. Combine that with historic mismanagement, and I’m not sure how a legacy that now belongs to MLB as much as the Dodgers, and history with a guy who now manages for a team that is kicking your teeth in, is putting the Dodgers in any other spot but entirely dire.

Agreed that those contracts are a disaster for the next GM, but I think the market share issue with the Dodgers is the opposite of what you’re presenting.

Richie
Member
Richie
4 years 8 months ago

I’ll disagree with this. Fans are remarkably loyal to ‘their’ childhood team. The Angels are Anaheim’s team, to just make progress at becoming Los Angeles’ team they’d have to put together a run a la the Yankees in the late 90s. And the personnel’s not there for that, never mind all the post-season luck they’d then also need.

I mean, if people were switching from the Dodgers to the Angels, Angels’ attendance would’ve gone up while the Dodgers went down.

Steven ellingson
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

When it comes down to it, there are only 30 GM jobs in the MLB. Only one of them is open. I don’t think it will be hard for them to find a good candidate. They might have trouble prying away a gm with a proven track record of success, but there should still be tons of legitimate candidates who would love the job. The problem will be in choosing the right one.

DD
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DD
4 years 8 months ago

You forgot about Baltimore. But honestly, who hasn’t?

Richie
Member
Richie
4 years 8 months ago

Even if Scioscia somehow acquired Earl Weaver’s acumen to go along with his own people/player skills, few prospective GMs would still want that job. They’ve got egos, probably larger than normal, and few such people want a nominal subordinate, no matter how skillful, who actually outranks them.

And rationally, why take a job where success credit goes mostly to someone else, but failure blame will be overwhelmingly yours? They’ll wind up with somebody who understands this is their only shot at such a position within the next 5 years.

And who may well do a credible job of it.

DD
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DD
4 years 8 months ago

Certainly the Angels have some crummy contracts, but you cannot in any way say they have worse or more albatrosses than the Cubbies. Epstein is absolutely there because of the franchise’s cache and an opportunity to make history.

Danya
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Danya
4 years 8 months ago

I kind of get the sense it is Kim Ng time on this one. Just a hunch.

Malemute
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Malemute
4 years 8 months ago

Another inherent advantage to the GM job in Anaheim is there are only 4 teams in the division.

IvanGrushenko
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IvanGrushenko
4 years 8 months ago

Until the Astros arrive

Harold Reynolds
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Harold Reynolds
4 years 8 months ago

And then they’re’ll only be 4 and one-half.

Angelsjunky
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Angelsjunky
4 years 8 months ago

Good article but I think DD has it right: the Angels aren’t much worse off in terms of prior bad moves than the Cubs (see “Soriano, Alfonso” and “Zambrano, Carlos”). Soriano is almost as bad as Wells and Zambrano is about equal to Hunter. As someone mentioned, Pineiro isn’t signed for 2012, although Abreu’s contract isn’t “pending option,” it is guaranteed. All things tolled, the Angels do have a fair amount of, to use Tony Reagins’ term, “dead money” owed for the next years: $63 million to Wells and $9 million to Abreu; I’m not sure I’d call Hunter’s $18 million “dead money” as he is still a reasonably useful player and has value beyond the field, but we can safely say that the Angels have $72+ million worth of wasted space.

There is no doubt (in my mind) that if you take every aspect of the Vernon Wells trade–from the 1) loss of Napoli, 2) his career year in Texas, 3) the crunch Wells’ contract puts on the Angels, and 4) Wells’ clogging of the outfield and potential blocking of Mike Trout–it is one of the worst in memory, perhaps even in baseball history. But given the large payroll of the Angels, their solid-to-good farm system, their starting pitching and reasonably young core, not to mention the charismatic and very bright Arte Moreno as owner–it is still a desirable position, especially if it was made clear from the get-go that the GM is boss, not Scioscia.

So I agree: there are obstacles and it isn’t a perfect situation, but I would think that the pros outweigh the cons. If nothing else, there is always The Marvel Called Mike Trout.

Angelsjunky
Guest
Angelsjunky
4 years 8 months ago

One more thing. It seems that the Angels just need to clog their payroll with about $30 million per annum of bad contracts. As much as it sucks to have to pay Wells, Abreu, and (to a certain extent) Hunter, at least Gary Matthews Jr, Scott Kazmir, Fernando Rodney, and Joel Pineiro are all finally off the books. As an Angels fan, I just hope they continue shedding bloat instead of adding more by, say, signing Aramis Ramirez for something like 3/$45M.

Richie
Member
Richie
4 years 8 months ago

It is clear from the get-go that Scioscia is the boss.

Kampfer
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Kampfer
4 years 8 months ago

The best a GM can do is to develop a Napoli and promote him to the major. You know what happened. It did not work. If I am not allowed to order Scioscia to play the better player, I would rather work somewhere else.

ettin
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ettin
4 years 8 months ago

Bobby Abreu’s contract option already vested due to his number of plate appearances this year, so he is getting paid in 2012 (although they could trade him and eat some of that money).

Joey B
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

Weak article. I don’t think you bring in a GM for immediate success. Most of the payroll issues disappear in 2012. The only bad contract a year from now will be Wells, and most big market teams will have one of those. Wells obligation is ~ $21M net in 2013, not much different than Soriano. And as mentioned, LAA has more prospects.

Andre
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

While I liked the article, I agree with Joey’s points. Let’s not overstate the mistakes of the Angels. The Cubs are in a far worse position in every way except for one — the amount of control they can offer Epstein. If I’m Epstein, of course I take that opportunity, but if I’m anyone else I take the Angels position, provided I could be assured enough control to actually do the job.

Granted, that may not happen.

aj
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aj
4 years 8 months ago

Hows the cubs situation worse? Basically the new Angels Gm lines up to be a scapegoat when the Rangers pummel them again the next 2 years. Not being able to put in a staff or pick your manager really handicaps the GM. If things go bad over the next 2 years who’s getting the axe the Manager signed thru 2018 with full backing and his WS trophy from 2002 or the Gm on a 3-4year contract making peanuts?

Cubs job he has full control and full backing for atleast 5ish years unless somthing goes horribly wrong. By then with the cubs money and his average/above average eye for talent on the farm the cubs will be atworst a playoff contender in the cent. They put up with hendry for 10ish years to make the playoffs 2-3 times, im sure any average Gm could beat that.

hunterfan
Guest
hunterfan
4 years 8 months ago

WTF is everybody always dogging on Abreu? 2011 was probably the first year he was overpaid in his career in terms of $/WAR. I don’t think it’s impossible he rebounds a bit to post another ~2 WAR season.

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