Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Angels were on top of the world. They had the best record in the AL West. Mike Trout was healthy and playing at the level we’ve come to expect. Shohei Ohtani had gotten off to a rocky start on the mound, but he’d lowered his ERA to an incredible 2.82 after his May 18 start against Texas. There were certainly areas to improve, but after years of wasting Trout and Ohtani, the Angels were finally starting to look like contenders.
Then Trout suffered through the longest hitless streak of his career, Ohtani had two consecutive starts giving up four or more earned runs, Anthony Rendon and Taylor Ward both suffered injuries, and the Angels suffered a 12-game losing streak.
The team fired manager Joe Maddon and replaced him with third base coach Phil Nevin, who lost his first game as manager as well, pushing the losing streak to 14 games — the worst such streak in franchise history. Nevin is not the long-term answer for the Halos. As we speak, they’re likely scouring the baseball world for someone worthy of managing both Trout and Ohtani, but who? Here are a couple guys we think could help elevate the Angels to what we know they can be.
Joe Espada: Bench Coach, Houston Astros
Joe Espada is the obvious choice for this vacant managerial spot. Not only did Espada interview for the position in 2018, but he’s spent the last few years overseeing the strong decision-making that has helped vault the Yankees and Astros to the pinnacle of the American League.
Espada has been a hot commodity for coaching positions for a while, but his connection to former Angels’ GM Billy Eppler, who served as the Yankees’ assistant GM at the beginning of 2015, when Espada was hired as the team’s infield and third base coach, could make the Angels a more appealing target for Espada. Sure, Eppler is now with the Mets, but the Mets aren’t going to look to replace Buck Showalter anytime soon as long as he keeps winning.
Espada’s experience has made him one of the most highly-touted coaches in MLB. The only job missing from his resumé is manager. Not only does Espada have the potential to stick around for a long time, but as it stands, he’s probably the favorite to replace Dusty Baker in Houston when Baker retires. If the Angels could snag Espada away from Houston, they’d most likely be stealing the man who would’ve become Houston’s manager, and you can never put a price on screwing over a division rival.
Andrew Bailey: Pitching Coach, San Francisco Giants
I know, I know. Pitching coaches don’t have the most remarkable resumé as MLB managers, but Andrew Bailey is a “different breed of pitching coach”. Not only does Bailey have experience as a coach for the Angels, but he spent the final year of his career in their bullpen. Furthermore, the last time the Angels’ bullpen ranked in the top-20 in team ERA (2019), Bailey was the team’s bullpen coach.
Since joining the San Francisco Giants, Bailey has been at the forefront of one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, and it hasn’t been because of the talent in the Giants’ staff. Many of their pitchers (Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Kevin Gausman, etc.) saw career resurgences with the Giants, and much of their success can be pointed back to Bailey and his partners in crime, Brian Bannister and J.P. Martinez.
That being said, Bailey is rather young to be a manager. He’s only 38 years old. That’s older than anyone on the Angels’ 40-man roster, but not quite old enough to immediately instill respect from them.
The Angels need a pitching guru if they want any hope of reaching the postseason this year. Prior to their 13-game losing streak, the Halos boasted a team ERA of 3.36. However, that number has ballooned to 6.15 during their losing streak. Their offensive struggles are also playing a major factor, but it’s hard to imagine Trout going on another 0-for-30 streak any time soon. The Angels’ biggest need has long been their pitching, and unless they don’t think Bailey is ready, he’d likely be worth a look. Although, the Giants could very well deny the Angels permission to interview Bailey, just like when they refused to let the Mets talk to Bailey about their open bench coach position earlier this year.
Walt Weiss: Bench Coach, Atlanta Braves
Everyone deserves a second chance, especially if that second chance comes less than a year after helping the Braves win a World Series. Although Weiss didn’t have the greatest first stint as a manager, when he led the Rockies to just 283 wins in four years and never finished higher than third place in the NL West. However, the baseball world has seemingly forgiven him for that miserable stretch as he’s become one of the most highly sought after managerial candidates recently.
While other members of the Braves’ organization could be considered for the Angels’ job as well (Ron Washington and Eddie Perez), Weiss has the most experience, a background in pitching, and is young enough to stay with the Angels’ for a long time should he end up being their solution.
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