Angels fans may have entered the offseason with visions of big free-agent deals for the likes of Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto and DJ LeMahieu dancing in their heads, but new general manager Perry Minasian made far more modest moves in an effort to improve the roster.
Major League Signings
- Jose Quintana, LHP: One year, $8MM
- Kurt Suzuki, C: One year, $1.5MM
- Alex Claudio, LHP: One year, $1.125MM
- Total spend: $10.625MM
Trades And Claims
- Acquired RHP Raisel Iglesias and cash from the Reds for RHP Noe Ramirez and INF Leo Rivas
- Acquired SS Jose Iglesias from the Orioles for RHPs Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto
- Acquired RHP Alex Cobb and cash from the Orioles for INF Jahmai Jones
- Acquired OF Dexter Fowler and cash from the Cardinals for a player to be named later
- Acquired RHP Aaron Slegers from the Rays for a player to be named later or cash considerations
- Acquired INF Jack Mayfield from the Braves for cash
- Claimed INF Robel Garcia from the Mets (later lost on waivers to the Astros)
Notable Minor League Signings
- Scott Schebler, Jon Jay, Jesse Chavez, Phil Gosselin, Juan Lagares, Junior Guerra, Juan Graterol, Jake Faria, Kean Wong, Jake Reed
- Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran, Cam Bedrosian, Hansel Robles, Hoby Milner, Justin Anderson, Matt Andriese, Keynan Middleton, Jacob Barnes
The Angels’ rotation has been a weakness in recent years, including in 2020, so it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the team court some of the top available starters during the offseason. Bauer, a Southern California native, was atop the free-agent market, though he wanted to play for a perennial contender. The Angels, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2014, don’t fit that description. Plus, there was friction between Bauer and pitching coach Mickey Callaway when the two were in Cleveland, which made it even less likely he would sign with the Angels (Callaway’s future with the club is now in doubt as a result of multiple allegations of sexual harassment that have come to light in recent weeks). In the end, Bauer did sign in Los Angeles, but he went to the Dodgers, thereby leaving the Angels without an elite ace yet again.
Before Bauer headed to the Dodgers, the Angels showed interest in the likes of Jake Odorizzi and J.A. Happ in free agency, and they were among potential suitors for Blake Snell on the trade market. They didn’t bring in anyone from that group, though, instead signing ex-White Sox and Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana to a one-year, $8MM deal and acquiring righty Alex Cobb from the Orioles. Those two, Dylan Bundy (who excelled in 2020), Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and Shohei Ohtani are projected to make up a six-man rotation at the beginning of the season.
Quintana and Cobb, who have each pitched under manager Joe Maddon in the past, come with quality track records. However, no one is going to confuse either one with a top-end starter. Quintana hasn’t posted an ERA below 4.00 since 2016, and injuries held him to just 10 innings and one start last year. Cobb has also battled injuries and mediocrity since a Rays heyday that lasted from 2013-14. The Angels are only paying $5MM of his $15MM salary (the Orioles are taking on the rest), but it’s still somewhat of a head-scratcher that they gave up Jahmai Jones, a decent prospect, for Cobb instead of dipping into free agency and signing a similarly priced hurler without surrendering young talent.
While the Cobb trade may look questionable, it’s hard to argue with the Angels’ decision to send reliever Noe Ramirez and infield prospect Leo Rivas to the Reds for Raisel Iglesias. Although the Angels will only get one guaranteed year out of Iglesias, he’s a clear bullpen upgrade over Ramirez, and he makes a reasonable salary ($9.125MM). Iglesias figures to close for the Angels, who – despite reported interest in Brad Hand and Joakim Soria – didn’t make any other major bullpen additions. Alex Claudio and Junior Guerra (minor league deal) came aboard alongside Iglesias, though, and any of those three could emerge as trade deadline chips if the club’s not in contention around the trade deadline.
Not content to stop at one Iglesias over the winter, the Angels also landed shortstop Jose Iglesias in a trade with the Orioles. That’s probably not the middle infielder Angels fans were hoping for when the offseason commenced. Because David Fletcher is capable of playing both second and short, the Angels could have addressed either position and used him at the other spot. LeMahieu and Kolten Wong were among the free agents at second, while Didi Gregorius, Marcus Semien and Francisco Lindor (whom the Angels would have had to reel in via trade) could have replaced the departed Andrelton Simmons at short. Most of those players would have been more exciting pickups than Iglesias on paper, though it’s worth noting the slick-fielding 31-year-old comes at a cheap rate ($3.5MM) and enjoyed a career year at the plate in 2020. Furthermore, next winter is slated to feature a star-studded class of free-agent shortstops (Lindor, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story and Javier Baez lead the pack), so the Angels may just be biding their time with Iglesias as they wait for any of those players to hit the market.
As expected, along with trying to bolster their middle infield, the Angels made an effort to get better behind the plate and in the corner outfield. The No. 1 catcher available, Realmuto, looked like a fit on paper, but the Angels didn’t seriously pursue him before he re-signed with the Phillies. They did, however, go after James McCann and Yadier Molina in free agency and show interest in trades for Christian Vazquez of the Red Sox and Willson Contreras of the Cubs. But they came up empty in all of those cases, instead bringing in the well-traveled Kurt Suzuki on a one-year, $1.25MM deal. Suzuki’s not an ideal option behind the plate, though he is a good hitter relative to his position. He’ll give the Angels a useful fallback option if Max Stassi struggles in his return from the hip surgery he underwent last autumn.
Center fielder Mike Trout, the best player in the world, leads the Angels in the grass, but they’ve lately struggled to find productive complements in the corners. Justin Upton was part of the solution for a little while, but he’s now coming off back-to-back subpar years. He’s still slated to start in left, though, owing in part to a bloated salary. Meanwhile, much-hyped prospect Jo Adell had a horrid debut in the majors last season, after which Maddon said, “He needs more time in the minor leagues, no question.” Adell is just 21 and was robbed of a Triple-A season in 2020 because of COVID-19, so it’s far too soon to discount him as a potential answer for the Angels in the future. Regardless, they’re not going to gift him a starting role right now.
In light of Adell’s difficult year, the Halos spent a portion of the offseason looking into veteran free agents such as Brett Gardner and Kyle Schwarber, but their biggest outfield transaction came when they grabbed Dexter Fowler in a trade with the Cardinals. Fowler, like Upton, has disappointed since signing a lucrative contract a few years back, but the Halos took little risk in dealing for the 34-year-old switch-hitter. After all, the Cardinals are paying $12.75MM of the remaining $14.5MM on Fowler’s contract, and the Angels only had to give up a player to be named later for him. If Fowler’s able to offer a third straight year of league-average numbers at the plate, he’ll provide a sizable upgrade in right for a minimal cost.
Even though the Angels didn’t have an especially fascinating offseason, it does appear Minasian has put the long-struggling franchise in better position to succeed this year. It helps that they’re in a division where there is no dominant team, as the Astros, Athletics, Mariners and Rangers also come with their fair share of questions.
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