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How Billy Eppler has been quietly constructing a winning ball club

Mike Trout is just the glue for a larger project. 

MLB: Los Angeles Angels-Workout Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Signing Mike Trout to a twelve-year, $430 million dollar contract extension is the equivalent of the Green Bay Packers’ contract extension of Aaron Rodgers. They are no-brainers because both players could be considered the greatest and most talented at their position ever (relax Patriots fans). Trout is worth every penny of his contract extension, regardless if he ever wins a World Series title or not.

When anybody mentions the Angels, it will now be about Mike Trout’s new contract, which is the largest contract in the history of American sports. What is not often mentioned are the moves that Angels GM Billy Eppler has been making to create a legitimate contender in the AL West. Just take a look at his most recent offseason moves:

Mar. 19, 2019: Signed OF Mike Trout to a twelve-year $430 million extension

Jan. 20, 2019: Signed RHP Cody Allen to a one-year $8.5 million deal

Jan. 11, 2019: Acquired INF Tommy La Stella from the Chicago Cubs

Jan. 11, 2019: Signed SP Tyler Skaggs to a one-year $3.7 million contract (avoiding arbitration)

Dec. 29, 2018: Signed C Jonathan Lucroy as free agent to a one-year $3.35 million contract

Dec. 22, 2018: Signed RHP Matt Harvey on a one-year $11 million contract

Dec. 20, 2018: Signed RHP Trevor Cahill on a one-year $9 million contract

These aren’t necessarily premium all-star players, but they are capable of making a big impact for the Angels in 2019. It’s apparent that Eppler is prioritizing pitching (and obviously Mike Trout) to solidify his rotation and bullpen. He’s has been very thorough at everything he’s done since coming to the Angels in October of 2015.

Yes, he inherited maybe the greatest baseball player we’ve ever seen in Trout, but he also inherited one of the worst farms systems in MLB. He set out to build an infrastructure based on player development, domestic and international scouting, and an innovative analytics group whose sole job is to do baseball research on future competitive advantages.

He even made current manager, Brad Ausmus, complete a nine-hour written test during his managerial interview process. This test consisted of several statistical probability questions, but it was the candidate’s reasoning of how they came up with their answer that Eppler was interested in, thus proving once again why it’s always important to “show your work.”

Even with the loss of pitcher Shohei Ohtani (perhaps the biggest acquisition of Eppler’s career) due to Tommy John rehab, he’ll still remain a hitter who will help protect Trout in the lineup in 2019. Eppler is hiring more scouts and analysts for what he calls “the information race” to help his front office’s decision making. The Angles shifted the least out of any team in baseball last year, so he’s looking to lean more on his analytics team this season.

He turned one of the worst farm systems into one that recently produced MLB Pipeline’s 16th overall prospect, 19-year-old prep outfielder Jo Adell. It’s clear the Angels need to score more runs in 2019 than they did last year as they ranked 15th in MLB. Adell’s .897 OPS during his time in Double-A will certainly help the team create more runs.

The Angels could actually make a run in the postseason and if they do, it won’t be because of Mike Trout. It will because of their improved pitching and ability to put more guys on base for Andrelton Simmons, Kole Calhoun, and Albert Pujols to drive in.