It seems like Luis Rengifo has been “generating interest” from around the league for quite some time, and this offseason is no different. Jon Morosi tweeted out a report on November 8th that multiple teams were interested in him and that Rengifo is one of the most underrated players in the league, which is an interesting thing to throw in. He also threw in that the Angels were expected to keep him and make a push for contention this season before Ohtani hits free agency. However, the Angels should seriously consider the possibility of moving on from Rengifo if the interest is as strong as Morosi is suggesting regardless of their hopes to contend next season.
Make no mistake about it, Luis Rengifo had a solid 2022 season for the Angels. After struggling heavily in 2020 and 2021, Rengifo put up a 103 wRC+ and a 1.6 fWAR in 511 plate appearances for the Halos in 2022. That fWAR was good for 4th on the team for position players and the wRC+ was also 4th on the team when you disregard Monte Harrison and Livan Soto’s incredibly small sample size production. The Angels’ offense has many holes and needs every productive position player they can get their hands on, but there are three main reasons they should capitalize on any interest in Rengifo following his best season yet.
The first reason the Halos should be willing to trade Rengifo is because of his poor on-base skills and what those say about his reliability going forward. Rengifo had a .294 OBP last season and a 3.3 BB%, which are both massive concerns going into next season. That walk percentage is in the bottom 1% of the league. His power production did jump last season (his ISO went from .109 to .166), which explains the boost in overall numbers, but there was some luck there. He hit 17 home runs in 2022 but his xHR, according to StatCast, was just 14.2 home runs. Even if he hit 14 home runs, that power boost would have still led to a large increase in his production. However, for a guy barely hovering over the league average 100 wRC+, overproducing even just slightly in power production like that is concerning heading into the future. The Angels were 26th in baseball when it comes to OBP last season, and Rengifo has not shown what it takes up to this point to be relied upon by the Angels when they try to improve in that category this offseason. This puts his floor as a hitter extremely low, which is what we saw out of him in his big league career up until last season. The Angels need solid, reliable hitters in the lineup and I am not positive Rengifo fills that category due to his struggles to get on base.
On top of that, pitchers should be able to adjust easily to his adjustments at the plate last season, which is the second reason I would be quick to move on from him. Last season, Rengifo had a .320 xwOBA on fastballs, but just a .281 wOBA on breaking balls and a .260 wOBA on offspeed pitches. A lot of his production came on overproducing against the fastball, which will probably naturally come down. But when pitchers start to throw more breaking balls or offspeed against him, he has shown little ability to do anything with them, and I would not count on that changing in 2023. One of the biggest changes Rengifo made going into 2022 was just swinging at more pitches, increasing his Z-Swing% by 8.4% and his overall Swing% by 5.9%. With those increases also came increases in his chase numbers, which would hurt his production if pitchers hit him with more non-fastballs as they should. I can easily envision a start to the 2023 season where pitchers attack him with breaking balls and offspeed pitches consistently and he starts the year off slow at the plate, which would take away just about all trade value he seems to have right now.
The third and final reason I would be open to moving Rengifo is his defensive struggles. Defensive metrics are not perfect by any means, but Regnifo had -8 OAA and 0 DRS in total across his three infield positions last season. The Angels were middle of the pack when it came to OAA last season and need to improve their fielding heading into next year. We have plenty of evidence since he came up to the big leagues that he is not a very good infielder, and it may be time to accept that as a reality. The Angels have needs at the positions Regnifo normally plays, which are second base, shortstop, and some third base, but that does not mean they should settle on him. David Fletcher should be healthy and at least be a bottom-of-the-order bat with good defense at second base. They need to bring in a shortstop who can hit and play every day, but they can at least use Livan Soto or Andrew Velasquez as a defensive backup off the bench at that position. At third base, they have Anthony Rendon, who they obviously need injury insurance for, but they can replace Rengifo’s average bat and below-average defense at that position easily if they moved Rengifo. Rengifo is pretty easily replaceable on this roster if you expect some offensive reduction from him and a somewhat large addition to the middle of the infield, which I do on both.
It may seem counterproductive to move off one of their key contributors on offense last season when their biggest need this offseason is probably offense, but it would be better than keeping Rengifo and experiencing his fall in production for ourselves. If the Angels are any serious about contending next season, they need an actual starter at shortstop, which would make Rengifo much less needed for this roster. This offseason will be his first shot at arbitration and he will still be very cheap, so the time to capitalize on his apparent value is now.
I remain skeptical that any team would value him enough to give up anything of real value, but if the Angels got offered an interesting bullpen arm they should pounce on it. Even if they got offered an outfielder who is about league average, I would take advantage of it. The Angels have an absurd amount of holes for a team that is allegedly trying to contend next season, but using Rengifo to plug one of their non-infield holes while replacing him with even just an average everyday starting shortstop would go a long way to making this roster a wild card contender.
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