Got It All

Angels GM Perry Minasian has a "desire to win right now,” Noah Syndergaard says – The Washington Post

Perry Minasian never seems to suggest that he has all the answers, but he never gives the sense that he doesn’t like being asked the questions, either.
Instead of punctuating sentences with new-age baseball jargon and subtle implications that he knows more than the next guy, the Los Angeles Angels’ general manager self-deprecates away any would-be air of condescension. He is the show-don’t-tell type, the kind of guy who knows bravado is nothing without results. And for a franchise that has reached a nearly indefensible state of annual futility, he knows results are the only thing that will change that.
Last week, Shohei Ohtani was named the American League MVP, the fourth time in the past eight seasons that award has gone to a member of the Angels. Despite owner Arte Moreno’s annual willingness to spend, despite doling out huge contracts to Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon and others, the Angels have no playoff wins (and just one appearance) in those eight years.
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Several offseasons before this one have brought a supposed reckoning, a change in manager, a new general manager in Minasian and so on. But the stakes seem higher with each passing year.
Trout, now 30, isn’t getting any younger. Manager Joe Maddon was openly critical of the team’s roster construction in late September, when it had long since been clear that his Angels were out of contention again. And perhaps most strikingly, the transcendent, once-in-a-lifetime talent that somehow landed in Anaheim (not Trout, the other one) is not obligated to remain with the franchise beyond the next two seasons. And that player seems to know it.
The normally reticent Ohtani has made his disappointment with the Angels clear this offseason, wondering aloud whether the team would even make the playoffs during his tenure and explaining that the current state of affairs was not one he enjoyed, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“I like the fans. I like the atmosphere in the organization,” Ohtani said at the end of the season when asked about staying with the Angels for the long term. “But my feelings [of] wanting to win are stronger.”
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For Trout and Ohtani and others, the Angels have been something of an all-consuming quicksand, a franchise where elite talent slips into oblivion. Minasian’s task is to yank Trout, Ohtani and the rest of what promise is left out of the depths, though his first season at the helm ended the way of those before it: without a legitimate postseason chance, with squandered star power and with resignation that preempted disappointment.
His approach to this offseason has been steady and dogged: He signed right-hander Noah Syndergaard to a one-year deal, betting that the hard thrower can reemerge as an ace after Tommy John surgery cost him most of the past two seasons.
Minasian also acquired discarded infielders Andrew Velazquez and Tyler Wade from the New York Yankees, stockpiling athletic players who could help bolster an infield that already includes steady David Fletcher, potential MVP candidate but injury-prone Rendon and potent first baseman Jared Walsh. On Monday, Minasian pounced on one of the more coveted left-handed relievers on the market, giving a two-year, $17 million contract to Aaron Loup.
Besides building depth, Minasian has been clear about what he feels this franchise has been lacking. He believes, and has said publicly, that the Angels’ rotation must not only get better but also grittier and more competitive.
“We’d like to be a little more aggressive,” Minasian said. “What we currently have, certain pitchers set tones, and I think there’s a trickle-down effect. We’re lacking in that area.”
The market is not lacking in starting pitching moxie, loaded with veteran starters known for the kind of competitive fury Minasian seemed to be hinting at. One of them, Justin Verlander, signed with the Houston Astros soon after the general managers’ meetings. Another, Max Scherzer, has yet to make a decision on his destination, but people close to him make clear that he will not go anywhere he doesn’t see an imminent and immediate path to the World Series.
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But instead of hoping one of those types comes his way, Minasian made sure of it. He and his staff began offseason planning meetings the day after the regular season ended. They identified Syndergaard as a risk worth taking.
The Angels were the first team to call Syndergaard. They didn’t hedge or play it safe. Minasian flew across the country to have dinner with Syndergaard and his agent in New York just to convince him to come to the Angels for one year, something other executives typically do only for much longer, much more expensive deals.
“I’d like to thank ownership for allowing me to take this risk. We’re going in eyes wide open,” Minasian said when he addressed the signing. “. . . As far as man hours, the amount of work, I don’t know if I’ve ever done more on an individual player. We feel good where he’s at in his rehab. The physical went really well. I think it’s a good gamble to take.”
During that Zoom news conference to discuss the signing, Minasian praised Syndergaard and his agent. Syndergaard praised Minasian, explaining that while he would have to listen to the Angels’ pitching coaches, of course, Minasian’s breakdown of his mechanics was enlightening and spot on. He felt the six-man rotation Minasian is plotting would help him manage his post-surgery workload without limiting him. And Syndergaard noticed more than that.
“I could just sense his passion, his desire to win right now,” Syndergaard said. “That got me really fired up.”
Minasian admitted that he was relieved when he heard other teams were in on Syndergaard, competing for his services. The shared consensus about Syndergaard’s bounce-back potential increased the comfort Minasian had that he was making the right decision by outspending others — including the Mets’ qualifying offer of $18.4 million — and surrendering a draft pick to get him. Few other general managers admit doubt like that at all, let alone admit that they take sideways glances at their peers to make sure they aren’t too crazy. But Minasian isn’t hiding his intentions.
Even after Syndergaard signed, creating a potentially maddening top-of-the-rotation duo with fellow fireballer Ohtani, Minasian didn’t use the moment to declare the return of the Angels or foretell a prolific offseason that would change the trajectory of the franchise forever. No, he explained, signing Syndergaard — like everything else the Angels do this offseason — would have to speak for itself in terms of the franchise’s trajectory, in terms of convincing other players that this team is finally, actually headed somewhere.
“At the end of the day, I like what we have to sell. I like the groups of guys we have in that locker room. Players talk to players, so what the experience is for each and every player in our locker room has a big impact on possible additions,” said Minasian, suggesting that nothing he could say would matter as much as what the players tell one another.
“I think some of their missing pieces was starting pitching,” Syndergaard said. “I hope I can fill that role, and when I’m able to get back to where I used to be, I think the Angels are going to have a real shot to make a big run at this.”
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