All offseason, Diamond Digest writers will be taking a look at each team’s 2020 season and looking forward at what moves each team might have to make to set themselves up for improvement in 2021. Today, Grant Carter takes a look at the Los Angeles Angels!
The Angels entered the season with a lot of pressure to finally win, but the results did not come with it. They signed superstar Anthony Rendon and brought in veteran manager Joe Maddon in an attempt to end their playoff drought. Despite a late-season surge, a 26-34 record could not get the Angels back into the postseason despite having 8 American League teams make the postseason. They have holes, but the top-end talent is there for new General Manager Perry Minasian to work with this offseason.
2020 Record: 26-34, 4th in the AL West
Team MVP: Mike Trout
Team Cy Young: Dylan Bundy
Biggest Positive Surprise: Jared Walsh
Biggest Negative Surprise: Shohei Ohtani
The Angels kept the season interesting until late, but their abysmal start was just too much for this flawed roster to make up in a 60 game season. Just like every year of the recent past, Mike Trout was the star that shined brightest for the Angels. He even had a slight “down” compared to the ridiculously high standards he has set for himself, but he still put up a 2.6 fWAR and a 164 wRC+ through 53 games this season. Other players such as Anthony Rendon and David Fletcher were huge bright spots, but Trout reigned supreme as usual.
Another constant for the Angels that repeated itself in 2020 was a lack of pitching production. Pitching was a need for the Angels last offseason as well, and after missing out on Gerrit Cole they turned to lower level acquisitions Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran. Bundy broke out in a big way while turning in a 3.29 ERA, a .263 opposing wOBA, and a .331 xSLG against. He dropped his fastball usage by about 8% while throwing a slider that held hitters to a dominant .159 wOBA. Bundy also finished 9th in Cy Young voting, which would have shocked everyone coming into 2020.
The Angels never seem to have very many positive surprises, but Jared Walsh was one of them this year. He crushed it at the plate with a 155 wRC+, .393 wOBA, and a .971 OPS. Walsh also cut his K% down from 40.2% in 2019 to a 13.9% rate in 2020. It was just a 108 plate appearance sample in 2020 and an 87 plate appearance sample in 2019, but the Angels are going to have to hope he can produce next season at first while they focus on other holes around the roster. Two other big positive surprises were Max Stassi and Mike Mayers, both putting up much better results than expected. The bigger story was the disappointments for the Angels. On top of his lack of contribution on the mound due to injury, Shohei Ohtani was not what we saw in 2019 at the plate. An 84 wRC+, .657 OPS, and 0.1 fWAR is not the kind of production the Angels need from Ohtani at the plate if they want to have a good enough lineup to make up for their lack of pitching. They could really use his arm on the mound next season, but if Ohtani does not at least mash at the plate the Angels are probably in deep trouble. Other players struggling such as Luis Rengifo, Jo Adell, and Julio Teheran gave the Halos trouble as well.
I strongly believe that had the season been 162 games, the Angels would have been buyers at the deadline and had a pretty good chance to sneak into the postseason. But after starting 9-22 through their first 31 games, their season was done. Now new General Manager Perry Minasian has the task of filling out the holes that showed themselves in 2020.
2020-2021 Offseason Preview
Key Losses: Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran, Cam Bedrosian.
Areas of Greatest Need: Starting Pitching, Bullpen arms, Middle Infielder, Catcher, Overall Depth.
Teheran is a notable name, but his dreadful season will not be missed. Simmons only played 30 games this season due to injury and a late-season opt-out, but his defensive presence at shortstop will be missed. His departure and Luis Regnifo’s bad season makes a middle infielder a priority behind pitching this offseason for the Halos. The Angels should non-tender at least Hansel Robles, Matt Andriese, and Noé Ramirez as well. Andriese was decent in 2020, but his estimated 2 million can be better spent.
With the free agency starting pitching market expected to still demand heavy money investments, the Angels could properly take advantage of saturation at other positions. The reliever and infield market seems to already have plenty of options, so it would make sense to find value deals in those departments and focus on starting pitching in trades. Unless Arte Moreno adds money to the budget, signing Trevor Bauer would probably hinder their ability to upgrade at other holes too much. After letting these 3 free agents walk, the non-tenders, and factoring in the salary raise for all of the arbitration-eligible players (~5 million total) and bumps in the veteran contracts (~4.5 million), that leaves the Angels with about 24 million to work with this offseason assuming the budget stays about the same from last season. It would be incredible if Arte Moreno increased the budget widely to open up a Trevor Bauer pursuit while filling other needs, but I am not going to assume that is going to happen.
Kolten Wong, Robbie Grossman, Andrew Chafin, Tyler Clippard, Tyler Flowers
Kolten Wong would be a nice value signing at middle infield for the Halos. Fangraphs predicts his next contract to be about 2 years and $15 million, which is a great value for Wong. He is widely regarded as one of, if not the, best defensive second baseman in the game and has been about average at the plate his whole career. He’s coming off a little bit of a down year at the plate, but he still posted a .350 OBP with a wOBA of .305. If he could bounce back into his 2019 offensive numbers, that’s nearly a 4 fWAR player added for about 7.5 million.
A player that can help fill the Angels’ lack of lineup depth is Robbie Grossman. He would provide insurance for when Ohtani is on the mound or if Adell produces as he did in 2020 and needs more time in the minors. Fangraphs projects him at about a 1-year deal worth $6 million, which is an incredible value. He is coming off of a season with a 126 wRC+, .344 OBP, and a .345 wOBA. Sure, his exit velocity was not great and his expected stats show hints at some regression, but he is still an above-average bat that was really good on defense this season. He would be a huge upgrade over the current depth the Angels have.
The Angels should look to take advantage of the suppressed reliever market if the winter goes as insiders are saying it is going to go. One cheap reliever that I think the Angels should target is Andrew Chafin. Chafin misses bats at a great rate and was really good in 2019 with a 3.24 xFIP and a 30.2 K%, so he is a decent rebound candidate that should be cheap. Another relief option that could add stability to the bullpen is veteran Tyler Clippard. 2020 treated Clippard right on the field, where he held hitters to a .233 wOBA and just a 27.9 Hard Hit %. His changeup and splitter are still really good, so I think he has another year in him. They need multiple relievers, so digging through the non-tenders and lower-cost free agents is probably the plan for the rest of the bullpen until the trade deadline. Neither of these relievers is in FanGraphs top 50 free agents, so they will be cheap.
Tyler Flowers has been a productive catcher every year since about 2014, so he would be a good addition. Flowers had a 86 wRC+ last season and has been consistently good in framing, so he should be solid in 2021. His numbers declined a bit in 2020, but his average exit velocity was actually his highest since 2016. Max Stassi had an incredible 2020, but the rest of his career indicates that he will not provide much with the bat so the Angels should not go into the season depending on him repeating his 2020. On top of that, Anthony Bemboom was solid in 2020 but he is probably better suited for the 3rd catcher spot in case of injury. Flowers is 34 and coming off a bit of a down season, so he will be available for a pretty cheap deal.
Trade #1: Joe Musgrove to the Angels in exchange for Jordyn Adams (Angels #3 prospect, #79 overall, 50 FV), Arol Vera (Angels #5, 45 FV), Jahmai Jones (Angels #11, 40+ FV).
(rankings and future value via FanGraphs)
The biggest no-brainer this offseason for the Angels should be to trade for Joe Musgrove. Not only is he a really good starting pitcher, but he is projected to make just about $4 million and is controllable for 2 seasons. He’s coming off a 3.86 ERA season where his K% jumped 11 percent to 33.1%, let up an xwOBA of .268, and was in the top 7% of the league in exit velocity allowed. Adams and Vera both are extremely talented and fit the Pirates timeline. This package has the upside that might intrigue the Pirates enough to pull the trigger, and it helps the Angels massively this season and the next. Maybe Moreno is willing to throw in some money to entice the Pirates owner who surely will be looking for some to seal the deal.
Trade 2: Kyle Hendricks to the Angels in exchange for Brandon Marsh (Angels #2 prospect, #36 overall, 55 FV), Jeremiah Jackson (Angels #7, 45 FV), and Patrick Sandoval (Angels #6, 45 FV).
With Buster Olney’s report that the Cubs have told teams they are expecting “significant turnover” this offseason, the Angels should jump on the chance to acquire Kyle Hendricks. A trade would require a huge haul due to Hendricks’ contract being just $14 million for the next 3 seasons and then the fourth season at $16 million. $14 million for a starting pitcher with Hendricks’ consistent value is an absolute steal. Hendricks had a 1.9 fWAR in 81.1 innings and a 3.55 FIP last season. There are not many trades involving Marsh that I think the Angels should do, but Hendricks’ production and friendly contract would be too much to pass on. From the Cubs’ perspective, Marsh would be a near-ready impact bat along with a high upside middle infield prospect in Jackson. Sandoval is a big-league arm that could fill out the back of a rotation right now.
2021 Projected Roster
- David Fletcher, SS
- Mike Trout, CF
- Anthony Rendon, 3B
- Shohei Ohtani, DH
- Justin Upton, LF (Robbie Grossman LF, Upton at DH on days Ohtani pitches/rests)
- Jo Adell, RF
- Jared Walsh/Albert Pujols, 1B
- Kolten Wong, 2B
- Max Stassi/Tyler Flowers, C
Mike Mayers, Ty Buttrey, Felix Pena, Andrew Chafin, Tyler Clippard, Keynan Middelton, Jake Reed
The lineup has marginal additions because I think the Angels have to hope that at least one of Adell or Ohtani plays up to their talent in 2021. The starting pitching would be much improved, especially if Canning improves and Bundy repeats his last season. The pitcher version of Ohtani should not be counted on much because of his health, but if he proves to be healthy and effective that could be a very good rotation. Perry Minasian is going to have to get creative in the bullpen and find some production from cheap places, but adding veterans such as Chafin and Clippard would at least provide stability.
Overall, I feel like this team would be legit contenders for the Wild Card at worst if they can stay healthy. The Hendricks and Musgrove trades would really deplete the top of the farm system, but being legit contenders is absolutely necessary for the Angels, and adding two really good starters that are controllable would be massive. The Angels owe it to Trout to spend resources and put the best team on the field possible after all the years of losing he has been through, so it’s time to go all-in on starting pitching.