As the 2020 World Series nears its end, we are mere days away from finishing one of the strangest seasons in baseball history.
With the offseason approaching, the Angels will have plenty of questions to answer in the coming months. First and foremost, they’ll need to find themselves a new GM following the firing of Billy Eppler shortly after the season ended. Secondly, they’ll have to navigate their way to rebuilding a roster that failed to get the Angels above .500 for the fifth straight year. This will be increasingly difficult given the raging pandemic and economic depression that is hitting the sport of baseball hard. While Angels owner Arte Moreno has a history of spending in free agency, he’s also been one of baseball’s most aggressive owners in cutting costs and furloughing and laying off workers this season. The Angels have plenty of needs but it’s unclear what the spending strategy will be for the organization this offseason.
For the Angels to get back into the playoffs, however, there are plenty of needs for a roster that is littered with positions that performed poorly in 2020. In the following exercise, you’ll find every single position on the Angels roster, listed from the highest position of need to the lowest position of need. In addition, you’ll find how big of a need there is at each position (high-to-low) as well as the current internal options and external free-agent options for each position. With that said, here is a breakdown of the positions of need for the Angels, ranked from the highest need to lowest need.
Starting Pitching: Extremely High
- Current options: Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning, Jaime Barria, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, Shohei Ohtani, Dillon Peters, Matt Andriese, Felix Peña
- Free Agent options: Trevor Bauer, James Paxton, Marcus Stroman, Masahiro Tanaka, Kevin Gausman, Jake Arrieta, Corey Kluber (club option), Chris Archer (club option)
Only the Tigers had a worse rotation ERA than the Angels’ 5.52 ERA in 2020. After a historically-bad performance from the rotation in 2019, they didn’t do a whole lot to change the narrative this season. The Dylan Bundy breakout was both legitimate and believable, which gives the Angels a true frontline starter heading into next year. While Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning are fine rotation pieces behind Bundy, there’s a ton of uncertainty beyond those three. Jaime Barria might be a fine #5 starter and there’s always hope for a healthy Shohei Ohtani pitching performance but there’s too much risk in the rotation. With a new GM at the helm this offseason, it’s a safe bet to assume the Angels will be in the market for a big name ala Trevor Bauer (SoCal native) or other quality arms like James Paxton and Marcus Stroman.
Second Base: Extremely High
- Current options: David Fletcher, Franklin Barreto, Luis Rengifo, Jahmai Jones
- Free Agent options: DJ LeMahieu, Cesar Hernandez, Enrique Hernandez, Tommy La Stella, Jonathan Villar, Marwin Gonzalez, Jurickson Profar
The emergence of David Fletcher as a legitimate everyday player who can handle shortstop means there’s a good chance the Angels will plug him in there in 2021. That leaves a gaping hole at second base without an obvious internal replacement. I can’t imagine there is much enthusiasm around some combination of Franklin Barretto, Luis Rengifo, and Jahmai Jones. Luckily, there is a surplus of quality options on the free-agent market that can fill a void in 2021 and likely won’t cost you a whole ton.
- Current options: Max Stassi, Anthony Bemboom, Jose Briceno
- Free Agent options: J.T. Realmuto, James McCann, Yadier Molina, Kurt Suzuki
After an offensive breakout season in 2020, Max Stassi underwent yet another hip surgery following season’s end and may miss the start of the 2021 season. As encouraging as Stassi’s breakout was, he’ll be a 30-year-old catcher on Opening Day ’21 coming off another major surgery. With two surgically repaired hips and an up-and-down track record, the Angels will almost certainly be in the market for another catcher. A play for J.T. Realmuto, arguably the game’s best catcher, has an obvious appeal but it seems unlikely that the club will allocate more resources into yet another expensive position player. Unfortunately, the remaining options in free agency are underwhelming so the club may need to get creative on the trade market.
Relief Pitching: High
- Current options: Mike Mayers, Ty Buttrey, Cam Bedrosian, Noé Ramirez, Matt Andriese, Felix Peña, Keynan Middleton, Justin Anderson, Luke Bard
- Free Agent options: Liam Hendriks, Blake Treinen, Kirby Yates, Alex Colome, Shane Greene, Sean Doolittle, Pedro Baez, Ken Giles, Trevor Rosenthal, Joakim Soria, Jake McGee, Tony Watson
The Angels underwhelming bullpen performance in 2020 can be tied to the declines from major relievers such as Hansel Robles, Ty Buttrey, and Keynan Middleton. With little certainty around any current reliever heading into 2021 and a GM change, it’ll be fascinating to see the next Angels GM’s approach to bullpen construction. Former GM Billy Eppler had some major bargain finds (Robles, Buttrey, Mayers, Ramirez, Peña, Blake Parker, Yusmeiro Petit) but he was also incredibly risk-averse in this department. His largest free-agent signing was a one-year $8.5 million deal for Cody Allen. I’d expect the next Angels GM to be a little more aggressive adding relievers this offseason, especially in a market with some big names (Hendriks, Treinen).
Right Field: Fairly High
- Current options: Jo Adell, Taylor Ward, Brandon Marsh
- Free Agent Options: Joc Pederson, Nick Markakis, Robbie Grossman, Jay Bruce
In my opinion, the corner outfield positions are the hardest ones to project for this club entering the offseason. The right and left field positions combined for exactly zero Wins Above Replacement in 2020. In his first taste of the majors, Jo Adell was an unmitigated disaster, recording the lowest WAR (-1.3) of any player in baseball. As a 21-year-old who absolutely needed more seasoning in the minors, it was fair to expect some struggles. But given how bad he was, it’s fair to wonder if the club needs another safety valve option in the event that Adell struggles in 2021, whether that be internally (Marsh or Ward) or externally (Pederson, Markakis, Grossman).
Left Field: Fairly High
- Current options: Justin Upton, Taylor Ward, Matt Thaiss, Brandon Marsh
- Free Agent options: Marcell Ozuna, Michael Brantley, Joc Pederson, Robbie Grossman
Justin Upton’s strong resurgence at the end of the season was encouraging but the fact remains that Upton has been worth negative 0.2 WAR over the past two seasons. Upton turned 33 this season, his speed and defense have cratered, and his once-prodigious power has fallen to a slugging percentage in the low .400’s. With the uncertainty around both Adell and Upton, in addition to the late-season trade of Brian Goodwin, the Angels will almost certainly be in the market for a strong short-term outfield option for 2021.
First Base: Medium
- Current options: Jared Walsh, Albert Pujols, Matt Thaiss
- Free Agent Options: C.J. Cron, Justin Smoak, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman
I’m buying Jared Walsh as a legitimate everyday option at first base in 2021. There is an obvious risk in reading too much into a 32-game sample but Walsh showed strong contact skills, power, and an ability to handle first base this past season. Seeing what he can do in a full season of at-bats is probably the direction the club should go. With Pujols entering his final year under contract, he’ll likely share duties at both first base and designated hitter.
Designated Hitter: Low
- Current options: Shohei Ohtani, Albert Pujols, Jared Walsh
- Free Agent Options: Nelson Cruz, Marcell Ozuna, Matt Adams
Ohtani’s drastic drop-off at the plate and injuries on the mound make him a much riskier option heading into 2021. It’s hard to tell how much we should read into his 2020 performance at the plate, where Ohtani’s average exit velocity dropped by 3.7 mph and his contact rate dipped below 70 percent. He was so good from 2018-2019 that there’s reason to be optimistic but there are more questions about Ohtani entering 2021 than there were entering 2020. Beyond him, Pujols and Walsh are likely the next guys in line.
- Current options: David Fletcher
- Free Agent options: Marcus Semien, Didi Gregorious, Andrelton Simmons
The only question about the shortstop position is what the Angels decide to do with David Fletcher. If they decide he’s their guy at shortstop for the next half-decade, then they’re fine. If they want to keep Fletcher at second base and explore the shortstop market, they have a handful of strong options in Semien, Gregorious, and Simmons.
Third Base: Non-Existent
- Current options: Anthony Rendon, David Fletcher, Luis Rengifo
Rendon was dominant in his first year with the Angels, finishing as a top-5 position player by fWAR (2.7). It’s hard to find a player who has been as good and durable over the last half-decade. The Angels can pencil Rendon in for 5+ wins in a (potential) full season in 2021, making this position the biggest strength sans-center field.
Center Field: Non-Existent
- Current options: Some guy named Mike Trout
There’s no real need to explore the possible free-agent options for the Angels. Trout is the game’s best player and will enter his age-29 season next year. With that being said, Trout is about to enter his 30’s and his defense fell off in a big way in 2020. This isn’t to say that Trout is about to start declining in a big way; he is, however, likely to move off of center field in the next few years, creating a need for their center fielder of the future (Brandon Marsh or Jordyn Adams).
Thanks for the article.
Naturally I think significant investment needs to be made in both the rotation and bullpen. I think something like the following is needed:
Bedrosian and Barnes are out. Likely to be followed by Robles, Anderson, Andriese and Noe Ramirez.
I think a couple of high end relievers are needed – two of Rosenthal, Hand, McGee or Treinen types. Supplemented by a couple of lower cost minor league contract guys.
A top of the rotation arm is needed. I don’t think Bauer will be within the Angels’ budget at an AVV of $35m+ given the multiple needs that the Angels have. If they don’t get him Tanaka is a decent fall back option – or potentially a trade with the Indians for Carrasco (and Lindor).
Add to that a bounce-back candidate Kluber / Richards / Walker / Paxton OR trade for Marquez / Musgrove.
Might be worth taking a flier on Folty on a minor league deal and see if Callaway can turn him around.
Save the money and bring back someone like Jason Castro at a cost effective deal – 1/$3m?
As mentioned above, a trade with the Indians for Lindor + Carrasco could be worth exploring. Otherwise bring in Semien on a 1 year deal and reevaluate the free agent market next year with the plethora of shortstops available.
If there’s not enough left in the budget Cesar Hernandez could be a fallback candidate at 2B and keeping Fletcher at SS.
Money will be tight to achieve the above. If there was some leftover a RF platoon partner on a short term deal could take some of the pressure off Adell. Maybe a late pick up on a low cost deal could help depending on who is available.
Sorry you waited so long to get your post approved. It’s a little slow here on the weekends.
Thanks for this. I admit that I was pretty disinterested in the 60 game season and the 2020 Angels. Jared Walsh is somebody that I would love to see continue his hitting ways and stick at first base. Hopefully he could be a Mark Trumbo type with better OBP. Then there was Fletcher who I thought had a real good year. Adell was not ready and I think he needs a half season in AAA but we don’t know if there will be minor league ball next year. I wanted to see Marsh so he is a question mark also. I wonder if the team will be gutted and rebuilt from the bottom up hoping to give Trout a chance at a ring when he is 34 or 35 or if the team will continue to try to fix things piecemeal and remain mediocre?
I also wonder what the team’s take is on sabermetrics. We got rid of Soth partially because he was so outdated with metrics but the last two years the team has been worse than ever in terms of winning percentage (admittedly 2020 was a 60 game “season”).
Honestly, I have no idea what to think of this team right now but this article did give me some things to think about.
I honestly think sabermetrics is misinterpreted (although not exactly overrated). Traditional baseball stuff (in talent eval, development, scouting etc) is essential. But sabermetrics can tell you more conclusively what works, what doesn’t, and, most importantly, what we shouldn’t be so sure. Good use of data requires knowing either how “traditional know-how” can help improve use of data, or how data can improve use of traditional know-how, and get the most out of both. I’d imagine the optimal combination varies by the situation (and tbf, I don’t think Soth was nearly anti-sabermetrics in general as he was described to be, but more to certain manner of application, and DiPoto not being the most diplomatic of GMs probably didn’t help.)
Thank you for your reply. I appreciate your perspective.
I basically agree with your assessment. SP should be a fairly high budget item and I think it’s important to get a solid middle infielder, but I agree with others who noted that we can basically wait on the market because there are a lot of MI types that would be fine. I think acquiring a corner OF who can play center is a good idea. That would allow them to have Marsh and Adell develop a little more while having someone who can cover for Trout when he needs a rest or a DH game. That person could mix and match with Upton and Ward while the team waits on the youngsters. I would love to see something in catching, but there’s not much to be excited about past Realmuto. I don’t think they should break the bank on him. James McCann or something perhaps? I would love to sign a relief pitcher, but I have so little faith in them being good from one year to the next. Joe Smith and Scott Downs are about the only good fairly high priced relief pitcher signings I can recall for the Angels. They need to find someone who knows how to identify and develop relievers.
Lots of good stuff here. I think the strong 2B market bodes well for the club. They have a ton of options to choose from.
How much resource do you reckon Arte will make available for 2021? I have a bad feeling about this since I don’t think he’s the sort who’d accept losing (much…if any at all) money on a business and, regardless of whether he wants to win at baseball, it’s business first to him. I have trouble imagining him opening up his wallet given all the uncertainty. As it were, there isn’t that much money coming off the books–it’s just Simba and Teheran, right? I don’t see Arte wanting to sign anyone whom he can’t use for marketing, and filling all the needs with solid role players will eat up pretty much all the money freed up…if the money does get spent on ppl who will not be very marketable in the first place. So more dumpster diving seems inevitable. :/
La Stella and Castro are also gone of course. The way things are going, they might be back, though.
There’s a great chance he will plead poverty. Get a load of this.
Honestly, I am not worried too much about financial constraints Vs pitching. I think the main source of constraint, uncertainty regarding a Trout extension, is gone.
I think signing Rendon may point to this. As much as we may want to play like it, Arte’s not a total moron. When all of the pitchers of actual value (other than guess right plays like Keuchel) were off the board Arte still blew a ton of money on Rendon. Plenty of folks clenched their thighs and wept about “big splashes for marketing” etc but the fact is 3B had been a hole for a long time, we have no one in the pipeline, and we have seen what type of line up it takes to win the WS. Arte blew a ton of money on a useful piece that is NOT pitching since the pitching that was worth paying didn’t want to play here.
BUT, he did it knowing full well he needs pitching. All of the crying about how this FO doesn’t value or want to spend on pitching is pretty unrealistic. Obviously the baseball man’s know that there is this thing called pitching that it is good to have. Arte knew then and knows now he will have to spend on pitching. I think if a guy like Bauer, when approached, actually shows interest in the Angels Arte won’t have any trouble ponying up the money. Same holds true of guys like Stroman, etc.
I don’t think the FO will do anything ridiculous like match Cole’s contract. I also don’t think they will spend ace money on a murky guy like Gausman just to appease people. I’m fine with that. But if a solid arm is willing to come here and wants a fifth year or a large AAV I don’t think money or even a short stay over the Lux Tax is going to sour Arte on paying for an actual good pitcher.
I’ll admit that I am slightly concerned about how Arte will handle things this offseason. If this season is any indication, he’s probably going to continue cutting costs and that may carry over to their offseason spending. Hopefully, there’s a sense of urgency and Arte allows the team to invest heavily and take advantage of other teams spending less.
OF/IF: I actually think 1B is solid with Walsh/Pujols. Nervous about Wlash? Look at his MILB track record. He’s solid. I think that the Angels will bet on Upton and have options with Ward, Walsh, Adell, Rengifo, Barreto and even Fletcher able to spend innings out there. I hate to say it, but I’m not sold on Fletcher at SS. He won’t be BAD by any stretch, but his arm and his range are meh. I think the Angels should sign either Jurickson Profar, Jonathan Villar or Kiki Hernandez to add to the IF/OF mix Maddon has to work with, then sign small time FA/MiLB contracts with an OF and a defensive SS. Just so we don’t get stuck with one look anywhere.
Catcher. Suzuki, Castro, Weiters, Castillo…. any will do.
Pitching: Spend all the moar dollarz here. There is a pretty big pile of NOT big name relief arms that are pretty good. Get some. But before you do that get the best starting pitcher who is willing to take money and come here. Then get some more starting pitching. Then invite 100 pitchers to Tempe. Then draft some starters.
On that last point, I agree that they need to allocate major $$$ into the pitching staff. There’s no excuse to ignore the need for pitching any longer. Signing someone like Bauer would go a loooooong way towards fixing the rotation issues.
Seeing Trout enter age 29 is super depressing knowing the lack of playoff appearances he’s had (and an even more depressing thought of how he’s fared in the few games he’s been there).
This team just flat out sucks and there is nothing to make me excited for next year. Bring the pain.
It’s rather terrifying that he’s about to turn 30 next August
That catch in Baltimore was 8 years ago. Haha…f*ck.
That catch still amazes me. Because he hit the top of the wall on the way DOWN.
Kid had hops before he got fat!
There’s about one week until the free agent sweepstakes opens up. Hopefully we won’t all get a lump of coal in our stockings this year.
We may get a shiny new Xbox but it won’t matter as we still have dial up
We all know my feelings on Arte, so I’ll just say I hope he proves me wrong and we can get some pitching. Some great options there. Stroman seems most likely given some comments towards us he’s made in the past.Finding a way to bring in Realmuto would benefit our pitching even more. Just…no more half measures.
We’ll likely go after Rich Hill and Felix Hernandez, having missed out on them for 2020
Sounds like an oddly accurate prediction
Big names for big billboards.
Felix Hernandez? You mean my grandfather?
I’m not worried about position players. Internal options can cover most of them. The real issue is pitching. I don’t expect the team to handle that m well because Arte Moreno and I’m worried that they will do squat again.
While I agree that the pitching needs major help and is the most important need, there’s also a lot of uncertainty at 2B, C, LF, and RF. At the very least, I think they need to add another catcher, a strong 2B option, and a vet outfielder who can fill a role ala Brian Goodwin.
I still think resigning Simba (at 3/30 or so) solves the IF problems (intriguing to consider LeMahieu at 2B, but he likely costs more than his 12M AAV moving forward, even at 32).
I don’t see how there are big ? in LF – it is Upton’s until his contract is up (like Pujols at 1B) as we all know. RF is a ? I suppose, but I think we can play Ward/Walsh until the Adell/Marsh inevitable callup (and when both are up Jup is in the DH rotation and we have 4 OF for three spots and DH.
We need a temporary C at least (until Stassi is back) unless we want to spend on upgrading there (less important than the big problem – Pitching).
The real ? is how open is the wallet for new pitching talent, where we need 1 Ace and one reliable innings eater to go along with our ‘prospects’ and current rotation. (We need to ignore Ohtani in all calculations and see any production as a bonus, from DH or the pitching side).
Regarding position players I think Profar is our guy. He can play 2B/LF regularly and fill in at SS & in CF/RF if necessary. The left handed bat balances us a bit more and his versatility allows for someone (Jam/Rengifo/Barreto) to emerge as a regular 2B.
Regarding pitching I have a trade with AZ that I was toying with which would give us some arms for the short term and possibly a backup C.
Still gonna need 1 more major arm.
Really like that trade with AZ. Kelly is a boring #5 option but he can fill innings for the club. Weaver would give them a younger lottery ticket who definitely has the stuff to break out. I think that major arm would have to be someone in the mold of Bauer or possibly Paxton. Have to get a surefire frontline dude.
Yeah I really like the match especially because AZ is rumored to be looking to shed payroll. I have a different approach to building a pitching staff and those two guys fit in nicely with my model.
I like the concept: one upside guy one back end guy. I’m completely on board with that. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome scares the crap out of me, though.
I’ve read some about Kelly and his particular procedure which makes me optimistic. His TOS was vascular (not neurologic) so it’s supposed to provide a clearer and less complicated recovery. I also like the 2022 option on his contract. Getting him for essentially 2yr/$9m is a nice bonus
Now that is truly interesting. I like the deal better now.
Not to mention the nostalgia of having a Weaver again!
Very nicely done – no issues with the positional assessments. FWIW – although the focus of the article was players, we can’t get the right players without getting the front office vacancy(ies) staffed correctly.
Absolutely. I’m fascinated to see how the next GM, whoever it may be, approaches this offseason. All signs are pointing to a reduction in free-agent spending this offseason, which may benefit the Angels if they decide to spend some $$$.
Fewer QOs and more non-tenders, player pool should be deeper. You could pull out the individual positions as posts later in the offseason when the available player lists expand, and watch the comment carnage from a safe distance. Thanks for the time and effort.
Evan Drellich had a piece at The Athletic today that talked about more players getting non-tendered. It’ll be a rough offseason for a lot of players but it may benefit teams like the Angels.
Also curious how the MiLB restructure affects team finances. Moar interns.
Great summary. In my mind we will acquire a middle infielder but the type should be determined by the market due to Fletcher’s versatility. Perhaps Simba, I’d love Cesar Hernandez, even a year stopgap of Jonathon Schoop wouldn’t be bad. Maybe a swiss army knife like Kike Hernandez.
Anyway, there are more players than open spots so value should be had.
Pitching is the priority. Sign one starter, trade for another. I have a feeling Tanaka might take a below market deal to be on the West Coast, though, so perhaps two free agent signings.
You could’ve done an article on each position there’s so much to discuss.
“Anyway, there are more players than open spots so value should be had.”
This is what I took from looking through the free-agent market. There are a ton of viable options at the positions of need for the club. My only concern is what I touched on at the beginning re: the economics of this offseason/Arte’s cost-cutting this year. I’d imagine that Arte is fed up with the state of the franchise but I’m also a tad concerned about the way he’s responded to his spending following the pandemic.
Can Carpino and Kuhl, and hope Molly is Jolly enough to find the loose change in the couch cushions.
I can see Arte going either way. On the one hand he has a ton of money tied up in Trout, Upton, Pujols, Rendon and definitely took a loss this year.
On the other hand he did just save about $150 million off his expected purchase price of the Big A (unless he already knew he could work out that deal) and I’d imagine the Angels will make a much nicer anchor tenant if they are winning.
Definitely better than JC Penney or Sears. Probably couldn’t have picked a better time to close the land deal; in time another revenue stream. Just needs a regional sports network, unless I’m missing something.
My mom bought us a gift card to JC Penney’s picture department a Christmas or two ago and I couldn’t believe the place was still in business. Saw more sales associates than customers on a Sunday afternoon.