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Know your enemy: Los Angeles Angels

Albert Pujols still has three years left on his contract.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs will visit the Angels this afternoon in Tempe, Arizona, so today’s a good day to have a look at their ballclub for 2019.

Every year, the Angels make a move or two that make you think, “Hey, maybe this is the year they’ll break out of the pack and contend.”

Last year it was Shohei Ohtani, who had a fine year both pitching and hitting, even though he ended it with Tommy John surgery. This year, he’ll DH only, returning to pitching in 2020.

But the team with the best baseball player on the planet, Mike Trout, didn’t make huge moves this offseason. Their biggest one was probably the signing of former Indian Cody Allen to a one-year deal, with incentives, to be their closer.

Allen’s a fine pitcher, but this is not going to place fear in the hearts of the Angels’ A.L. West opponents.

Trout is still awesome. Upton is good. New catcher Jonathan Lucroy is still a decent player, but he’s not a difference-maker. The Angels will be without starter Garrett Richards, who had Tommy John surgery and signed with the Padres, for whom he won’t pitch this year.

There are some decent pitchers in the Angels rotation, including Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney. The Halos are the next stop on the Matt Harvey resurrection tour, which did reasonably well in Cincinnati in 2018. Can Harvey recover his former pitching level and avoid the bright lights of Hollywood at the same time?

The Angels won the A.L. West in 2014 with 98 wins and got swept out of the postseason by the Royals. Since then they’ve had one winning season (2015) and went 80-82 for the second straight year in 2018. Fun fact: The Angels outscored their opponents by exactly one run in 2017, and then were outscored by one run in 2018. Thus their runs scored and runs allowed totals for the last two years combined are exactly the same: 1431. I think if you look in an encyclopedia, book or online, for the term “.500 ballclub” there’s a photo of a random Angels team. In their 58-year history they have won 80, 81 or 82 games nine times.

That’s likely the result again this year. Trout is a free agent after 2020, if the Angels don’t extend him (and I don’t think they will, even though there was a recent report that they have considered a 10-year extension for him). Now that will be an interesting bidding war.

Oh, and then there’s Albert Pujols, who was among the worst everyday players in the A.L. the last two years, and is being paid $28 million this year. That’s the 10th-highest salary in MLB this year, and the other nine are all still (mostly) productive. Pujols isn’t, and is under contract to the Angels for two more years after 2019. They really almost would be better off just paying him, giving him his release and putting Justin Bour, who they signed for $2.5 million as a free agent, in his place.

Lastly, former Cub Tommy La Stella will be a bench player for the Angels this year. I’d expect TLS to get a warm welcome from fans at Wrigley when the Angels head there. Speaking of which, MLB once again didn’t take my advice and keep an A.L. West team away from Wrigley Field in April. The Angels will make their only visit to Wrigley April 12-13-14. If the weather that weekend is anything like it was on the comparable weekend in 2018... brrrrrrrrr.