The Angels are looking to add to their rotation and have been “mulling” whether to make a run at Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery, reports Jon Heyman of The New York Post, though Heyman adds that they’re more likely to go after a back-end guy like Michael Lorenzen. The club has been loosely tied to Snell and Montgomery earlier in the offseason but without anything seeming close or particularly viable.
The club’s current rotation projects to be fronted by some combination Reid Detmers, Patrick Sandoval, Tyler Anderson and Griffin Canning. Options for the fifth spot include Chase Silseth, José Suarez and Zach Plesac. That competition also would have had Sam Bachman in it, but Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports that Bachman had arthroscopic surgery last fall and won’t be ready for Opening Day.
That rotation mix has talent but plenty of question marks. Detmers had a 3.77 ERA in 2022 but it jumped to 4.48 last year. Sandoval went from 2.91 to 4.11 while Anderson jumped from 2.57 to 5.43. Canning was healthy enough to get to 127 innings pitched last year but that was a new high for him, thanks to injuries and the pandemic. Suarez missed most of last year due to a shoulder strain. Silseth has just 81 innings of MLB experience and only 45 2/3 at Triple-A. Plesac’s ERA shot up to 7.59 with the Guardians last year. There was some bad luck in there but he was nonetheless passed through waivers and outrighted off the roster.
Given those question marks and the inevitable pitcher injuries that arise in a long baseball season, there’s plenty of logic in adding to that group. A run at Snell or Montgomery would be interesting, as there are reasons to doubt the possibility. MLBTR’s Contract Tracker shows that the largest contract the Angels have given a starting pitching since the start of 2012 is the three years and $39MM they gave Anderson. That historical lack of spending on starting pitching and owner Arte Moreno’s recent comments about operating with a lower payroll this year would make it surprising to see the Angels suddenly splurge on Snell or Montgomery.
Even with a lower payroll, it’s possible they have some powder dry. They opened last year with an Opening Day payroll of $212MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, and also flirted with the luxury tax line. This year, Roster Resource pegs them at $173MM, almost $40MM below where they were a year ago. Their CBT number of $188MM is almost $50MM below this year’s $237MM threshold. That could leave some wiggle room for them to make a notable signing while still having lowered their spending slightly.
Coming into the offseason, MLBTR predicted Snell for $200MM over seven years and Montgomery for $150MM over six. The fact they are still on the open market in mid-February suggests they may be having difficulty getting into that range, so perhaps there’s an opportunity for the Angels to make something work, despite their past resistance to long-term deals for starters.
Either would immediately become the best pitcher on the staff, if added. Snell is coming off his second career Cy Young victory, posting a 2.25 ERA with the Padres last year. He’s had his ups and downs but is obviously one of the best in the league when he’s throwing well. Montgomery has continued to build his innings totals and lower his ERA since returning from Tommy John surgery. He tossed 44 innings in 2020 with a 5.11 ERA, then got to 157 1/3 frames with a 3.83 ERA in 2021. He followed that up with 178 1/3 innings of 3.48 ERA ball and then 188 2/3 innings with a 3.20 ERA last year, then adding another 31 postseason frames with a 2.90 ERA.
But signing someone like Lorenzen would be more the Angels’ style and they have, in fact, done it before. After years of being pushed to the bullpen by the Reds, the Halos gave Lorenzen a one-year, $6.75MM deal and let him try starting in 2022. It went reasonably well, as he made 18 starts and logged 97 2/3 innings with a 4.24 ERA.
He was able to parlay that into a one-year, $8.5MM deal with the Tigers and pushed himself even farther in terms of workload and results. He had a 3.58 ERA in 105 2/3 innings with Detroit before getting flipped to the Phillies. He made two excellent starts for his new club, the latter being a no-hitter, but seemed to run out of gas after that. After completing his no-hitter, he was sitting on a 3.23 ERA through 122 2/3 innings on the year. He was lit up the rest of the way and finished the season with an ERA of 4.18, but it seems possible that was a result of him pushing his innings tally into new territory.
MLBTR predicted he could secure a two-year, $22MM deal this offseason. He remains unsigned and is arguably the best starter in free agency apart from Snell and Montgomery. Unless the Angels plan to make a pivot and open themselves up to the idea of a mega deal for a pitcher, Lorenzen would be their best path to solidifying the rotation. Other notable remaining free agent starters are Mike Clevinger, Hyun Jin Ryu, Eric Lauer, Noah Syndergaard, Rich Hill, Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto.