I started jotting down a list categorizing what the Angels need vs. what they currently have and don’t have, based on the performances in 2021, to contend in 2022, and started thinking that it might be something worth sharing with others who have surely been thinking the same thing, too. It’s very much a work in progress, so read on with due skepticism.
What the Angels have:
The starting lineup: I think the starting lineup is pretty much set. Especially with Adell and Marsh showing that they can adjust to MLB level of play, it seems that we can fairly safely slot some variation of Adell, Trout, and Marsh in the OF. Despite not having a set shortstop, I think the IF is also pretty much set: given the plethora of shortstops available, we’ll have someone fairly competent there, hopefully one of the “second tier” ones who won’t break the bank. Catching and DH are also set, obviously, although there are caveats (to be explored below).
Back of the rotation: I think the young starters have shown enough promise that we can cautiously expect them to occupy 2 (3 if you are far more optimistic than I am) spots in the rotation in some form, but no more. Young pitchers are young pitchers. They’ll be inconsistent and may need to ride the Salt Lake shuttle as necessary and no one should be surprised if they don’t pitch like a top of the rotation or even mid rotation types.
A working philosophy for the bench: I like the logic that went into the bench for 2021 was finally constructed and would like to see a similar mix of players back (but not necessarily the same ones). I think every team should plan on having a catcher who can catch 1/3 of the games as a matter of principle anyways and given that Stassi has not been consistently available, that should go double for us, and we did sign a player fitting that role in Suzuki (even if he didn’t quite live up to the expectations–hopefully, we’ll do better next year). A good glove first IF who can play up the middle is something every bench should have and someone like Mayfield has been useful. While I like the idea of having a glove first OF like Lagares on the bench, given the likely OF makeup for next year, this may be something we can dispense with, since all three can play CF. Finally, a good bat off the bench that can play corners (IF and OF) decently, preferably RH (especially since Walsh does seem to struggle against lefties), and here, we have a couple of solutions in-house (Ward, who, for all the vitriol he generated while playing CF, has developed into a good bat first reserve who can play corners passably–and can back up Rendon and Walsh; and Upton, who probably/hopefully will not be the “regular” LF next year, but likely to be used frequently to let an OF or Ohtani rest and be used as a RH power bat off the bench. I think we’ll be pretty good if we can find a few good defensive middle infielders and CF’s who can be signed to cheap minor league deals (basically, equivalents of Lagares and Mayfield next year–but also a couple more spare parts that can be stashed in SLC.) I think those players are not too hard to find.
Top/middle of the rotation arms: I’m a bit of Ohtani skeptic: as long as Ohtani is a full time DH, he can’t be used like a real “ace.” 90 pitches a start is likely the maximum that can be reasonably expected from him and he is probably only good for 120-160 innings. He will put up ace numbers over those innings, but he just won’t be available. So we need an arm that can be used like an ace, who may not need be “ace good” (we can get that out of Ohtani), but who will at least be consistently above average and remain available more readily.
Also, since I don’t trust the young pitchers to be reliable enough to be anything other than back of the rotation arms next year, we will probably need a middle of rotation type arm (or arms) to slot between Ohtani/quasi #1 arm and the kids–more of innings eater type(s). Cobb is a good example here, but doesn’t need to be him.
Finally, we could use a back of the rotation insurance policy for the kids that can slot into the bullpen if the youth turn out to be reliable enough. These should give us 6 starters: Ohtani, 2 kids, 3 acquisitions, including 1 “pseudo” ace, and 1 or 2 “mid rotation types” and/or 1 insurance policy.
Closer: I don’t think there’s much of a question here. I think we need to re-sign Raisel and gamble. He should be good next year and probably 2023. We have a fairly short window while Trout is still young and good, Ohtani can do his two-way thing, and Rendon (hopefully) can play a lot of games.
The rest of the bullpen: I actually thought I could slot the bullpen (or potential bullpen) as something that we already have, then last two Baltimore games happened. For all the stories of bullpen collapses, the relief corps has actually been fairly competent last few months. A lot of interesting arms who should be major league (bullpen) ready shortly have been injected into the system, especially from the trades (I don’t think most of the new draftees will be ready next year, although some may be by ’23), and I’m a big believer in dumpster diving for bullpen arms anyways–for lots of arms that are “interesting,” even if flawed, and can be stashed in AAA as necessary. I like what Minasian has done so far and I think this is something we can be cautiously optimistic about going forward.
So I figure we need 1 “pseudo-ace”, 2 middling starters (or, one middling starter and a project), a less expensive shortstop, a super-backup catcher, a few glove first players signed to minor league deals; re-sign D-Cell, and whatever arms that can be scavenged for the bullpen. It’s not as short a list as I had hoped and it will be somewhat expensive. (If we try to find a pseudo-ace among FA (say, Scherzer), the cost will be at least 25 mil per year, I expect (unless we pay a big price in prospects to swing a big trade). D-cell will be expensive (poss, at least 15 mil per year) Middling starters might cost around 10 mil a year each and still not pan out (I do envy what Giants pulled off with Desclafani and Wood and get unhappy at the Quintana deal–I’ll confess that I was rather optimistic about that, alas). Even a “mid-tier” SS will cost at least in the neighborhood of 10 mil a year. So we are looking at about $50-60 million on new players to compete? Does this seem realistic?