The Angels have been one of the more active teams this winter and still have some more moves planned. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that they are looking for upgrades at shortstop. However, he adds that the club’s immediate focus is a back-end reliever.
The club’s interest in shortstop upgrades is hardly surprising, as they’ve been looking for solutions at the position for a while now. Andrelton Simmons held down the spot from 2016 to 2020, largely providing offense near league average alongside his customary excellent defense. After Simmons reached free agency, the club tried José Iglesias at the position in 2021, which didn’t work out.
Going into 2022, they tried some more glove-first options by adding Tyler Wade and Andrew Velazquez to join David Fletcher as players in the mix. Fletcher missed most of the year with injuries, leading to Velazquez getting 100 starts at the position this year. His glovework was rated well, but he struggled at the plate, hitting just .196/.236/.304 for a wRC+ of 50. Even if Fletcher were healthy, it’s not guaranteed he would have been much better since he’s been in the league five years now with his only above-average season at the plate coming in the shortened 2020 campaign. Luis Rengifo had a nice year on offense in 2022 but is probably overmatched as an everyday shortstop in the field, better suited to play second base or a utility role.
Though it’s logical that the club would look for upgrades, they may not be a contender for the top free agents. This year’s crop of free agents features a group called the “big four” at the top of the market: Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson. However, Rosenthal reports that they are more likely to join more obvious contenders and that the Angels are wary of the soaring prices. Turner reportedly signed with the Phillies today for $300MM over 11 years. If the Angels are looking for options outside of the that group, the free agent market features Elvis Andrus and their old friend Iglesias, while players potentially available in trade include Amed Rosario and Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Turning to the club’s bullpen, that’s another area where it’s sensible for them to look for upgrades. Angels’ relievers collectively posted a 3.97 ERA last year, placing them 18th out of the 30 clubs in the league. They also traded Raisel Iglesias to the Braves at the deadline, leaving them without a surefire lockdown closer. Rosenthal didn’t mention any specific targets, but Kenley Jansen is one of the few proven closers available in free agency. Since the Braves have Iglesias under contract for another three years and are getting near the luxury tax line, it’s possibly he will have greater employment opportunities elsewhere. It would make for a fitting endnote to the Iglesias trade if the Angels replaced him by grabbing Atlanta’s closer, but there are other options. Some of the other relievers who are available in free agency include Carlos Estévez, Adam Ottavino, Matt Moore and many more.
2023 figures to be a pivotal season for the franchise, as the team is reportedly for sale and two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani is entering his final season before free agency. The club has been busy so far this winter, signing Tyler Anderson to upgrade their rotation while adding Gio Urshela to the infield and Hunter Renfroe to the outfield. The middle infield and bullpen stand out as the most obvious areas to continue upgrading, and it seems that’s exactly where the club is looking to make their next moves.