As the 2021-22 MLB offseason unfolds, we'll be running through wish lists for teams that are active on the hot stove. Right on the heels of a big signing, let's check out the Los Angeles Angels.
Pitching, pitching, pitching
The Angels have made little secret that they are after pitching this offseason. They could spend a lot, too.
We know the Angels have the financial capability to spend as much as anyone. They've outspent for big names before, from Albert Pujols to Josh Hamilton to the recent Anthony Rendon signing. They do have plenty of money on the books, but there's room to add. Right now the estimated payroll for 2022 including arbitration raises, the Thor deal and everything else is $148.1 million, per Baseball-Reference. If owner Arte Moreno is motivated to keep throwing money at this thing, they could easily top $200 million, which means they absolutely have the wherewithal to shop on the top shelf.
In light of the Syndergaard deal, would they still do this? It's possible. Heading into the offseason, we knew they needed at least two starters and it felt like they needed a proven ace along with a depth piece.
Let's say they end up with something like Shohei Ohtani, Gausman, Syndergaard, Patrick Sandoval and José Suarez as a season-opening rotation. With Jaime Barria, Griffin Canning and Reid Detmers providing depth, this would then be a group in fairly good shape, especially since they want to use a six-man rotation in order to protect Ohtani.
There's also the trade route. The Angels actually have the outfield depth to trade someone from the Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh and/or Jordyn Adams group. Perhaps if they lose out on the ace tier in free agency, this is the route.
Regardless of how they get there, the Angels need to add at least two starters to the rotation this offseason. Syndergaard doesn't totally solve the problem. They need to do more.
Of course, then the bullpen needs to be addressed as well. Raisel Iglesias was one of the best relievers in baseball last season and he's hitting free agency, unless he accepts the qualifying offer. If he doesn't, the Angels need to be ready to spend big to retain him. If Iglesias gets away, the Angels need to figure out the back end of the bullpen. Maybe, knowing how volatile relievers are, the answer is signing a group of mid-tier relievers and seeing which ones stick. In fact, they should probably add several others even if they retain Iglesias.
The bottom line is the Angels need a lot of pitching from outside the organization this offseason, even after landing Thor.
On the position-player side, the Angels are pretty well set almost everywhere on the diamond -- assuming stars Rendon and Mike Trout return to full health -- except shortstop.
This offseason is a good time to be looking for a shortstop, because the free agent options are Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story and Javier Báez. Of course, with the focus being on pitching, surely that's where the bulk of the money ear-marked for free agency goes. That means the Angels are either hoping one of the five above (Story?) ends up needing to take a cheap deal like Semien did with the Blue Jays last offseason (that worked out OK, no?) or to shop the lower tier. Would they give it another go with Andrelton Simmons or Jose Iglesias? Could they make Chris Taylor work -- maybe shifting David Fletcher to short and playing Taylor at second? -- and would he come in cheap enough? Do they roll the dice with someone like Freddy Galvis or Jonathan Villar?
The trade market could also be explored. Perhaps the home run swing is for Diamondbacks star Ketel Marte, putting him at second and Fletcher at short, would work. On the buy-low front, it's possible Paul DeJong has fallen out of favor with the Cardinals. He hit 30 homers in 2019 and plays good defense, so maybe he's worth a shot.
No matter how they do it, they must address shortstop, though.
In his fourth go-round in MLB, we saw what a fully healthy Ohtani can do as a two-way player. And holy smokes. He hit 46 homers. He drove home 100 runs. He led the majors with eight triples. He stole 26 bases. He was 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA and struck out 156 hitters in 130 1/3 innings. Talk about an all-around superstar.
Ohtani did all this for $3 million. He's set to make $5.5 million in 2022 and then have one final year of arbitration in 2023. He's worth exponentially more to the Angels than he's currently making. Fangraphs estimated his 2021 performance was worth $41 million and he's worth even more than that due to his world-wide, mega-star status.
Can the Angels afford to let Ohtani get close to free agency? This seems like the opportune time to set that final arbitration year in stone with a hefty raise before buying out a good chunk of his free agency years with an extension. On the Ohtani side, it's entirely possible his value will never be higher, too, so it seems like a mutually beneficial time to get together on a deal.
In all, a successful Angels' offseason sees them adding at least one more legitimate rotation arm, preferably ace-caliber, bringing back Raisel Iglesias, grabbing a starting shortstop from outside the organization and getting a long-term extension done with Ohtani.
The Syndergaard move was a good one, but it shouldn't be the big move. It should be the beginning.