Everything coming out of the Los Angeles Angels franchise strongly suggests that they will be targeting 1-2 frontline starting pitchers in free agency. Among some of the best free agent starters are Cy Young finalists Max Scherzer and Robbie Ray, as well as other nice names like Marcus Stroman, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Kevin Gausman.
As of Monday, teams were allowed to begin negotiating and signing with other teams. The biggest deal to already occur is former Angels starter Andrew Heaney taking a one year, $8.5 million deal from the L.A. Dodgers. However, given the lofty aspirations of the Angels, it’s possible they’ll have to wait some time before inking their first big name to a contract.
For the first time since general manager Perry Minasian and manager Joe Maddon expressed the hope for 1-2 top-level starters, there are specific rumored names with links to Anaheim.
Left-handers Ray and Rodriguez have reportedly been linked to the Halos this offseason, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network:
Sources: The #Angels are working to add at least one and possibly two impact starting pitchers this offseason. They’re already showing interest in free agent left-handers Robbie Ray and Eduardo Rodríguez. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 9, 2021
Let’s start with Rodriguez, who isn’t considered a frontline starter so much as a reliable one. At age 28, Rodriguez is coming off his sixth season, all with the Boston Red Sox. In 2021, he started 31 games in the regular season and three in the postseason.
In his 31 regular season starts, he held a 4.74 ERA, a 1.389 WHIP, a 3.32 FIP, and struck out 185 batters in 157.2 innings. He ranked in the 90th percentile of average exit velocity against and is primarily a fastball/changeup pitcher.
Again, his numbers are not Cy Young-worthy, but he has pitched over 100 innings in every season of his career. The Angels would do well to have that type of stability in their rotation.
Moving to Ray, who had by far the best season of his eight-year career. At 29 years old, he is in his prime and was completely dominant for the Toronto Blue Jays, his third MLB team.
He started 32 games and pitched 193.1 innings. In that time, he put together a 2.84 ERA, a 1.045 WHIP, a whopping 248 strikeouts, a 93rd percentile strikeout percentage of 32.1, and an 87th percentile whiff percentage.
Ray is a Cy Young finalist, and even if he doesn’t achieve this level of excellence if he signs with the Angels, he has been a reliable starter his entire career. Outside of his rookie season and the pandemic-shorted 2020 season, he has never pitched less than 123 innings and has just once had an ERA higher than 4.50.
Should the Angels acquire Ray, they would walk into next season with him as the ace, followed by Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, and Jose Suarez. They would still need 1-2 more starters, but could easily bring back an Alex Cobb type or try to land another top-tier name.
Ohtani named MVP finalist
With the BBWAA award finalists being announced on Monday night, it was yet another opportunity to celebrate Ohtani’s historic 2021 season.
He was the only Angels player to be nominated for an award, and he shares AL MVP finalist honors with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien, both of the Toronto Blue Jays.