It took losing Bryce Harper for Anthony Rendon to put together the best season of his career. So what will joining Mike Trout do for him? The third and final free agent who was expected to get a historic nine-figure deal this offseason indeed got it from the Angels Wednesday, agreeing to the same terms as ex-teammate Stephen Strasburg's deal with the Nationals: seven years, $245 million.
So after two glacial offseason that saw many of the premier free agents going unsigned into February, the heavy lifting this year is done in plenty of time for Christmas.
But for most Fantasy players, that's neither here nor there. They just want to know how this deal impacts Rendon's 2020 standing. And I gotta tell you, it doesn't hurt. The park might be a little worse, but we're not talking opposite ends of the spectrum here. If Rendon continues to impact the ball the way he did in 2019 — his hard-hit and fly-ball rates both ranking among the best of his career — he'll still be able to park it over the fence.
No matter where he went, that was always going to be the key to Rendon repeating as an MVP-caliber bat: Are his batted-ball gains legit? OK, so there's also the injury factor — only once in the past five years has he played 150 games — but when healthy, does he profile as more of a 25-homer guy or a 35-homer guy?
I can't overstate just how good he was as a 35-homer guy. In terms of Head-to-Head points per game this past year, it was Christian Yelich at the top followed by Trout and then Rendon. Naturally, that's Rendon's better format, as he has always stood out for his plate discipline, but getting on base of course has a direct impact on other aspects of a player's production, namely how many runs he scores. Not surprisingly, Rendon was the No. 5 overall hitter even in standard Rotisserie scoring.
We already know he won't be drafted as such. Early mock drafts show him sliding to the second round, and it's hardly an outrage given the number of first round-caliber bats in the player pool, many of whom have done it more times over than Rendon. But it's worth pointing out that pre-2019 Rendon was pretty studly himself. Even in 2018, he was the No. 1 third baseman in Head-to-Head points per game (again, a bit of an injury history there), ranking ahead of surefire first-rounder Nolan Arenado. And that was with 10 fewer home runs.
That's in points leagues, yes, but even in Rotisserie, the range of outcomes is only so wide. Rendon will either be that same MVP-caliber hitter again and compete for the top spot at the deepest position in Fantasy or he'll drop as far as fourth, behind Arenado and presumably Alex Bregman and Jose Ramirez. Maybe Rafael Devers will be a part of that mix again. Maybe Kris Bryant will surge back into top-five consideration. But Rendon is a safer bet than those two in runs, RBI and especially batting average, which I suspect means he'll finish higher even in a worst case.
Why runs and RBI? Hey, he's never been lacking there, with 81 representing his lowest contribution in either category over the past four years. And while we all recognize heading into 2020 that a player owes much of his success in those two categories to supporting cast, Rendon has never had a partner-in-crime as good as Trout, whose on-base skills will bolster Rendon's RBI potential if he bats in front of the newest Angel and whose power will elevate Rendon's run potential if he bats behind him. And if Rendon gets sandwiched between Trout and Shohei Ohtani, he's in for the best of both worlds.
So stock more or less the same for Rendon, who was already shaping up to be sort of a value pick in the second round and remains such. His acquisition could have a negative impact on a couple of interesting late-round types, though.
As things stood before, David Fletcher and Tommy La Stella were in line to play second and third base, with either fitting at either spot. Now one is seemingly without a job to call his own. That said, Albert Pujols is merely playing out the string on a bloated contract and could easily vacate first base, at least on a part-time basis, for La Stella. Meanwhile, Fletcher has proven capable of manning the outfield, where the Angels presently have an opening (until prospect Jo Adell is ready, anyway) with the departure of Kole Calhoun.
The Angels aren't done yet, but with the personnel currently in place, there's still a path to Fletcher and La Stella getting regular playing time even if it means some mixing and matching and moving around the diamond. That's new manager Joe Maddon's MO, don't you know. And while we never got a chance to see if La Stella's newfound power production would last given that he missed most of the final three months with a broken tibia, he's proven as an on-base guy. If he's batting leadoff, ahead of Trout, Rendon and Ohtani, you bet he'll matter as a player with second base eligibility.
Fletcher is safer but more boring as a high-contact hitter who projects for a high batting average with minimal power and speed contributions. In leagues where upward of 300 players are drafted, he figures to be one of them.