Coming off their fifth straight non-playoff season and their fourth consecutive sub-.500 campaign, the Angels were expected to be one of the majors’ most active teams this winter. They haven’t disappointed.
Not only did the Angels sign free agency’s No. 1 position player – former Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon – to a seven-year, $245MM contract, but they’ve also strengthened their much-maligned starting rotation. Granted, the Angels’ acquisitions of ex-Oriole Dylan Bundy and former Brave Julio Teheran haven’t bowled anyone over, but at least the two of them have shown themselves to be durable, major league-caliber starters in recent years. That’s more than can be said for the majority of starters the Angels have run out over the past couple seasons.
With Rendon in the mix, an Angels position player group that finished 2019 middle of the pack in fWAR (16th) and runs scored (17th) suddenly looks imposing. Rendon and three-time AL MVP-winning center fielder Mike Trout could be the best one-two punch in baseball. Beyond them, there’s shortstop Andrelton Simmons, designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, left fielder Justin Upton and second baseman David Fletcher. Brian Goodwin’s the team’s starting right fielder for the moment, but his days at the top could be numbered with super-prospect Jo Adell not far from making an impact in the bigs.
While the Angels clearly have a legitimate offensive core, there are concerns, namely at catcher – which they need to address before the offseason’s out – as well as at first base. Unfortunately for the Angels, they could be stuck with a deteriorating Albert Pujols (he of the bloated $29MM salary) playing a key first base role.
Meanwhile, even with Bundy and Teheran in the mix, the Angels’ rotation still appears to need work. Neither one of those right-handers is a world-beater. Ohtani, a fellow righty, has front-end ability, but he only threw about 50 innings in 2018 before Tommy John surgery kept him off a mound last season. Like Ohtani, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and Patrick Sandoval – although promising – haven’t really established themselves so far. Another problem for the Angels: They don’t seem likely to land a bona fide front-end type before the season, as Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Zack Wheeler are gone from free agency, and nobody’s aggressively shopping a No. 1 or 2 starter via trade.
Elsewhere, there’s a case the Angels need to better their bullpen, which finished last season in mediocre territory. Aside from claiming righty Mike Mayers from the Cardinals last month, they haven’t done much to address that area. Hansel Robles, Ty Buttrey, Noe Ramirez and Cam Bedrosian will all be back, however, and the Halos should get a full year from Keynan Middleton after he missed most of 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
It’s hard to argue that the Angels haven’t taken significant steps forward this offseason. Plus, the two front-runners in the AL West – the Astros and Athletics – have been pretty quiet since last season ended. That said, after going 72-90 and finishing 35 games back of the Astros and 25 behind the A’s in 2019, the Halos still look as if they have more ground to make up if they’re going to be any better than a third-place team in 2020. With $20-some million left in spending room before they reach the first level of the luxury tax, the Angels just might make another splash or two before the offseason’s out. Right now, though, how many games do you expect the Joe Maddon-led club to win next year?
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