The Angels are in a tough spot. Baseball is a sport in which the team isn’t as good as its best players but one in which the team is as good as its worst players. Hence a team with both Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani not sniffing the playoffs because it is also the team of Andrew Velasquez, Tyler Wade, and a host of others.
A major impediment to raising the floor around Mike Trout is owner Arte Moreno’s payroll restraints. Yes, $190 million per year is a significant amount of payroll. However, when $75 million of that is tied up in two players, there’s not enough to pay 24 other good players plus replacement depth.
When $38 million is going down a black hole and giving you absolutely no value, that problem is amplified. So let’s take a look at shedding Anthony Rendon’s salary and giving Perry Minasian a real chance at building a team.
I realize the odds of this happening are about the same as the odds of me winning next year’s Tour de France, but let’s take a look at what could happen if we jettisoned Rendon’s salary.
The obvious starting point is Ohtani. With a year and a half of control, a huge raise in arbitration looming (further constraining payroll), and team going nowhere, attaching Rendon to Ohtani would significantly reduce the talent return but free up at least $55 million in spending capacity for next year.
Steven Cohen flexes his muscle here and lands the biggest star in baseball. He also picks up Brandon Marsh because nobody can have unlimited payroll. The cost do so is absorbing Rendon’s contract, but Cohen can always commit some more financial fraud to cover that.
Taijuan Walker leads the return to the Angels. He’s pretty good when healthy, pitching to a ERA+ of 157 over 91 innings this year, and has a $6 million player option for 2023 that he’ll likely not take. But if he does, we’re better off for it.
Khalil Lee has had two cups of coffee in the bigs and largely put up solid lines in the minors. He’s 24, under control for six years, and likely profiles as a fourth outfielder, which we need.
I’m going to preface this trade by saying I think the simulator greatly over values Taylor Ward. However, I think Ohtani is likely under valued. Probably enough to about even things out.
Here the Yankees West do what they’ve done before: absorb bad contracts to get premium players. Ohtani becomes a huge star in Hollywood and gets to the post season. The Dodgers shore up their one real weakness on the grass and become runaway World Series favorites for the next two years. Plus they have the financial muscle to extend Ohtani after next year.
The return here is nice. The Dodgers pay a bit of a talent premium and send near MLB ready pitching prospect Bobby Miller to the Angels. He’s likely our 2 or 3 next season. Basically, he replaces the $21 million per year Thor so this trade likely nets Minasian at least $75 million in spending power next year.
Can’t forget about the original Yankees here, either. Ohtani in the Big Apple is every baseball writer’s dream. He immediately makes this juggernaut even more juggernauty and Marsh’s left handed bat would probably crack 20 bombs a year in that Little League ballpark while he covers a ton of ground in left.
The Angels take on Joey Gallo for the remainder of the year. He’s a non-factor here but needs to be moved so NY can add Marsh to the roster.
Beck Way has a good fastball and an effective slider. He’s a two pitch pitcher and could likely be rushed to an MLB bullpen gig next year if a team gives up on trying to make him a starter. Considering his fastball sits mid 90s and touches 99, that might not be a bad thing.
Not pretty, is it? Thankfully the computer screen is keeping the tomatoes from hitting me. However, maintaining the status quo is only going to maintain the status quo.
If the team were to do this, I’d also want to unload Reisel Iglesias $16 million for the next three years. But that’s an article for a different day.
By shedding Rendon’s contract, along with Ohtani’s likely $15+ million next year, the Angels would have significant buying power. Enough to absorb Eric Hosmer from the Padres and add significant prospect capital if they chose. Or sign a full rotation. Or get a legitimate shortstop and save some for the following year.
Trading Ohtani would also allow the Angels to get back to a 5 man rotation, meaning one less free agent pitcher to sign. I really think a team with this little depth would benefit greatly from this. And if one of those pitchers is Miller or Walker, then we’ve added quality while subtracting a need.