In my last piece I advocated for letting the kids play. In the long term, that’s probably a good idea. However, Arte doesn’t think long term and considering this year’s shallow class of both free agent and non-tender candidates, I think it is time we set our sights so far West they are actually East.
So, inspired by the 1980 jam that has a touch of the punk roots of this site, here’s plan 2:
The Angels desperately need a legitimate ace to top the rotation. There isn’t one on the farm, probably not one on the US market, but there is one pitching for the Orix Buffaloes squad that just won the NPB championship.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto, come one down. This 25 year old is absolutely filthy and would immediately slide into the spotlight Ohtani created here. He’s young, he’s vibrant, he’s everything the Angels need. Just look at these highlights.
But the Angels need far more than just an ace. The back end of the rotation is unreliable and the bullpen is in flux. Nothing stabilizes the back end of a rotation more than pushing everyone back a notch in that rotation.
Shota Imanaga we have a place for you. The lefty you might remember from the World Baseball Classic has pitched to a 3.24 ERA in Japan and sports a tidy 7.3 walk rate. Limiting free passes is a great way to go deeper in games and keep the bullpen rested. He’s projected as a 3 to 5 on a good team but he’d be no worse than our 3 here. At 29 he won’t get nearly the coin Yamamoto requires but should still have plenty of good years ahead of him.
And now for the perennial Achilles heel of the Angels, the bullpen. Carlos Esteves looked pretty good early but ran out of gas. That probably doesn’t happen if the Angels have multiple guys who are filthy and can cover for each other. And this guy is absolutely filthy.
Yuki Matsui has 7 consecutive seasons of ERA’s under 2.00. He strikes guys out, he doesn’t walk them, and he can get out hitters on both sides of the plate.
This is already a team that is far more exciting to watch than the one currently constructed, but while I’m living in fantasy land, let’s take it one step further and resign Shohei Ohtani to a ridiculous deal. If I’m Arte I’ll consider it a good problem to have trying to figure out how to pay for all of this as I become an octogenarian.
An ace, a middle rotation arm, a closer, and a unicorn. The Angels would be the Team Japan of the WBC on a nightly basis and create fans out of an entire nation. Most importantly, the team would be electric and much deeper and much more fun to watch.
This piece is a little tongue in cheek but the international free agent market is intriguing this year; perhaps more intriguing than in any recent year. I think the list of players who have made the transition from Japan to MLB is long enough to feel confident.
Even if/when Ohtani leaves I would want the Angels to target these players. If they did pull this off, or even part of it, the Angels would be far better on the field, at the box office, and on TV for it.