The Angels were exploring the market for prominent right-handed hitters, checking in with such notable names as Trey Mancini, J.D. Davis, and Luke Voit, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). However, that search may now be limited if not over, as after signing Ryan Tepera, the Angels appear only willing to significantly stretch their payroll for a starting pitcher, rather than a position player.
With Tepera signed for two years and $14MM, Roster Resource projects the Angels for a payroll of roughly $188.3MM, and a luxury tax number of just under $204MM. The latter figure is well under the $230MM luxury tax threshold, and while the Angels have been willing to spend in general under Arte Moreno, it is clear Moreno considers the CBT threshold to be something of a barrier, as the Halos have only paid the tax once during Moreno’s ownership (in 2004, his second year owning the franchise).
In terms of pure dollars, the Angels had roughly $179MM on the books in 2020 before accounting for the prorated salaries of the shortened season, and then around $182MM in payroll last season. So while the current $188.3MM payroll represents some increase, surely some Angels fans won’t be pleased at the idea that this Los Angeles-based team is hesitating about further spending, particularly since the Halos are coming off six losing seasons, and seven seasons without a playoff appearance.
If the club is only willing to spend in one area, focusing on pitching rather than hitting does make sense from a roster-building perspective. In a response to the club’s long-standing pitching woes, the Angels added Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen to the rotation mix this year, though both of those hurlers come with some injury concerns. Plus, the Angels have an even greater need for pitching than most other clubs since L.A. is deploying a six-man rotation — Syndergaard, Lorenzen, Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, and Jaime Barria, and look to be the top six choices, with top prospect Reid Detmers in the wings.
The three names cited by Rosenthal also represent somewhat curious fits for the Angels, considering that Ohtani will get most of the DH at-bats and Jared Walsh is penciled into regular first base duty. Voit is a pure first baseman but presumably no longer an option anyway since the Yankees already dealt him to the Padres. Mancini has some outfield experience but is perhaps best suited at first base. The same could be said of Davis, as while he has spent the majority of his big league career as a third baseman and left fielder, his defensive struggles at both positions could ultimately lead him to a future path as a first baseman/DH type.
Walsh is somewhat in the same boat, as he can play a corner outfield spot in a pinch, but isn’t known for his outfield glove. Walsh also struggles against left-handed pitching, so the Angels are looking for a righty bat who can spell Walsh when a southpaw is on the mound. The Los Angeles outfield picture consists of the returning Mike Trout (who could be moving out of center field), highly-touted young prospects Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh, bench option Taylor Ward, and veteran Justin Upton, who has himself been getting some reps as a first baseman. It could be that in lieu of landing a new right-handed bat to share time with Walsh at first base, the Halos might now be prepping Upton for the role if he can adjust to the new position.
Though recent reports suggested that the Mets were looking to keep Davis, rumors have swirled for months about his trade availability, particularly as New York has added several other position players this winter. Davis missed over half of the 2021 season due to injuries, but he has hit a very solid .288/.373/.472 over 893 PA in three seasons with the Mets. Davis will earn $2.76MM this season, and while his addition wouldn’t necessarily be a big financial hit for the Angels, he would likely come at a notable trade cost since Davis is controlled through the 2024 season.
Mancini will be a free agent next winter, and thus would be cheaper on the trade front. Money-wise, Mancini and the Orioles could be going towards an arbitration hearing, as Mancini filed for an $8MM salary in 2022 while the O’s offered $7.375MM. As the Orioles continue to rebuild, they haven’t shown any inclination towards retaining their veterans, Mancini included — The Athletic’s Dan Connolly reports that the O’s haven’t talked to Mancini about a contract extension. After sitting out of the 2020 season to battle cancer, Mancini made a triumphant return to the field last year, winning AL Comeback Player Of The Year honors while hitting .255/.326/.432 with 21 home runs over 616 PA for Baltimore.