ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Although the Los Angeles Angels made a few tweaks up and down their roster, they're headed into spring hoping for better results from largely the same players.
After going 85-77 and finishing one game out of the second AL wild card last fall, the Angels' offseason was defined more by what they didn't do.
Owner Arte Moreno and new general manager Billy Eppler declined to make an exorbitant financial commitment to fill the Angels' gaping hole in left field, and they saved their money when looking at big-ticket opportunities to bolster their rotation. Moreno has shown he isn't afraid to spend his vast fortune on the Angels over the years, but the club elected to keep its already lavish payroll below the luxury tax threshold.
So Los Angeles will head into the upcoming season with only a few new names around key contributors Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Kole Calhoun, Garrett Richards and Huston Street. The Angels made no major additions to the offense that declined sharply in production after being the majors' best in 2014, and the deep rotation with just one 10-game winner will return with the same potential members.
Other things to know about Mike Scioscia's 17th season in charge of the Angels:
DEFENSIVE WHIZ: The Angels' most exciting change was made at shortstop, where the club traded veteran starter Erick Aybar and its top two minor-league prospects to acquire Andrelton Simmons from Atlanta. Simmons' static offense in recent years has tempered enthusiasm about his ceiling, but he remains among the best defensive players in baseball, with athleticism and smarts that could transform the way Los Angeles plays the game.
BORN ON THIRD: The Angels declined to write a big free-agent check to David Freese in the offseason, instead giving up promising young reliever Trevor Gott in a deal for veteran third baseman Yunel Escobar. The Angels are the fifth team in six seasons for the Cuban slugger, who batted .314 with 56 RBIs in Washington last year. Third base has been an underperforming position for Los Angeles for several years, and Escobar is the latest to get a shot at fixing it.
OUT OF LEFT FIELD: Still smarting from paying Josh Hamilton over $100 million for two terrible seasons, Moreno decided not to empty his wallet for Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes or another top free-agent outfielder, even though the Angels' left fielders had the worst production in the majors last season. Eppler's current solution is a platoon patch with veterans Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava, who both struggled last year with other teams. The position could remain a major problem for a sputtering offense.
NIGHTMARE WEAVER: Jered Weaver has been a stalwart in the rotation since 2006, but the right-hander is coming off the worst season of his career at 7-12 with a 4.64 ERA. Weaver's fastball velocity has declined in recent years, and he thrived only occasionally last season with deception and location. Scioscia remains confident his longtime ace can still get outs, but unless Weaver regains some measure of his formerly dominant form, this could be a costly farewell: Weaver will make $20 million this summer in the final year of his contract.
ALL ABOUT TROUT: The Angels' middling offseason keeps much of the burden for their success on the shoulders of Trout, who will reach the back half of his 20s this summer without a postseason victory in his transcendent career. Trout posted a career-best .991 OPS last year in his fourth consecutive MVP-caliber season, but the Angels have yet to put together a roster good enough to boost him to October success. The center fielder's burden could be even bigger in April if Albert Pujols is slow to return from offseason foot surgery, but Trout seems capable of handling anything.