The Los Angeles Angels have been pretty busy this offseason. So far, so good. General manager Perry Minasian and the new front office have made a couple of bold moves to improve the Angels current roster. First, they traded for Baltimore Orioles shortstop José Iglesias. Less than a week later, they traded with the Cincinnati Reds to acquire star reliever Raisel Iglesias. While their biggest need remains improving their pitching staff, it is clear that progress has been made. Much like Minasian’s last organization, the Atlanta Braves, the Angels have been aggressive early on during this offseason.
Angels Current Roster
The Angels have clearly improved with the two trades, a bevy of minor league signings, and yesterday’s Rule 5 Draft. Most of the minor-league signings are about organizational depth. And, that’s a good thing. The most likely of those signings to make the club in 2021, is outfielder Scott Schebler. As for the Rule 5 Draft, the Angels lost young fire-baller Jose Soriano. Not surprisingly, he was the very first pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Yet, Soriano didn’t factor into the Angels 2021 plans. The club did select Houston Astros youngster, Jose Alberto Rivera, who they will slot into their bullpen.
The acquisition of Jose Iglesias clarifies the Angels infield for next season. Superstar Anthony Rendon and Iglesias will man the majority of the innings on the left side. David Fletcher will be the everyday second baseman, as well as back up Iglesias at shortstop. First base will likely be split between Albert Pujols and Jared Walsh. Pujols will also spend a decent amount of time at designated hitter when Shohei Ohtani is unavailable. The battle for the Angels utility spot will likely come down to Luis Rengifo and Franklin Barreto. With Walsh’s emergence, and his ability to play the outfield, it seems unlikely that Matt Thaiss will make the club unless he has greatly improved his outfield defense. At catcher, Max Stassi will be recovering from his second hip surgery in two years. Anthony Bemboom is his current replacement. With a glut of free agency options available, the Angels should sign someone in case Stassi’s recovery is stalled for any reason.
Justin Upton has two years and $51 million left on his contract. So, he’s the left fielder through 2022. Don’t worry, he quietly turned it on at the end of last season. Upton hit .284/.368/.567/.936 in September/October. Sure, it was only 19 games but he only played in 42 total. In center field is Mike Trout. The best player in baseball. A big question going into 2021 is whether Jo Adell would be better off getting more at-bats in Triple-A. Honestly, that’s a difficult question to answer. Right now, the consensus seems to be that Adell will be the starter in right field. If so, the Angels should have him on a short leash. The Angels will look to Taylor Ward or Scott Schebler for their fourth outfielder. Schebler might have the inside track because he’s played over 550 innings in center. Ward hasn’t spent any time there.
While the top-end of the Angels starting rotation is seen as a major issue by people in baseball, it isn’t that simple. The Angels top three starters ranked fifth in the AL in FanGraphs WAR and fourth in the Baseball-Reference version. The average Top Three WAR of AL playoff teams was 4.0125 at FanGraphs and 3.9875 at Baseball-Reference. The Angels were at 4.2 WAR according to both sites. So while it might be easy to say the Angels need an ace, it doesn’t necessarily prove true. What the Angels need is better depth. Unfortunately, the Angels current roster does not have that.
The Top 3 remains Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, and Griffin Canning. That’s a good start. Jaime Barria pitched well in 2020 and is an intriguing rotation option. Shohei Ohtani says he still wants to pitch. In early November the team said it remains committed to him as a two-way player and was encouraged by his offseason work. Ohtani’s best-case scenario would be to pitch once a week, or 26 starts. Yet, he hasn’t thrown more than 51 and two-thirds innings in three years with the team. A more realistic goal is 100 innings. Other options with big-league experience are Patrick Sandoval and Jose Suarez, who both had difficult 2020 seasons.
If the Angels hope their minor leaguers will help they’ll be disappointed. Sure, Chris Rodriguez was just added to the 40-man roster and Reid Detmers was a 1st round pick, but they have a combined 9 and one-third innings pitched in High-A (all Rodriguez). Both players appear a year away. Packy Naughton, acquired last season, wasn’t even thought highly enough to be included on the 40-man roster, despite there being five open spots. Therefore, the Angels are going to need to grab at least one starting pitcher through free agency or a trade.
Raisel Iglesias is a bona fide closer. If he would have been there in 2020 the Angels would not have blown 14 saves and missed the playoffs by three games. Unfortunately, he was not. Yet, in trading Noé Ramirez for him the Angels plugged one hole and created another. Sure, it’s a smaller hole. But, it does need to be filled. The Angels current roster has only Iglesias, Mike Mayers, Ty Buttrey, and Felix Pena slotted into the bullpen. They need another quality late-inning reliever. Plus, they need a lefty.
The current 40-man roster lefty options are Dillon Peters, José Quijada, Patrick Sandoval, José Suarez, and Hector Yan. Peters has a career 5.83 ERA over 132 and two-thirds innings. Quijada looked completely overmatched in 2020. Sandoval and Suarez are still looked at as starters, though that may change with the new regime. Yan has yet to throw a pitch above Low A. Naughton could factor in here as well. Nonetheless, the Angels must acquire someone with big-league experience.
The Angels still need another quality starting pitcher. No, they do not need an ace. Jake Odorizzi would be a welcome addition at the right price. If they don’t think much of the available free agency options, Minasian might look to swing another trade. Maybe he calls up the Reds again to talk about Sonny Gray? They need at least two more relief pitchers, preferably one who pitches left-handed. Jake McGee comes to mind. Lastly, they must shore up their catching depth. The MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported the Angels are in on free-agent catcher James McCann. McCann is apparently looking for a four-year deal. The Angels shouldn’t be so desperate to give it to him with cheaper options like Jason Castro, Austin Romine, and Tyler Flowers available.
The Los Angeles Angels current roster already appears to be noticeably better than last year’s team. Yet, GM Perry Minasian can win the offseason if he can land a game-changing starter OR reliever over the next few months. Luckily for him, and Angels fans, there has been very little player movement so far this offseason. And due to the substantial losses MLB teams sustained in 2020, there also appears to be a longer-than-normal list of quality players available via trade. For a team like the Angels, whose owner stated he wouldn’t lower the payroll, this appears to be the perfect time to bolster their roster.
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