With 22 games left in the 2021 season, the Los Angeles Angels are done with truly meaningful outings. They are out of the playoff picture, and are now looking to develop their youth and win a few more games in the process.
What has become more important within the organization is looking ahead to 2022. The reason that the Angels have had a franchise record 62 players take the field this season — beyond necessity — is they want to see exactly what they need out of this year’s free agent class.
Free agency is not typically how a team changes their fortunes overnight, but it is still a vital part of building a roster. Here, we’ll look into what the Angels need and don’t need, as well as some names that could fit what they’re looking for.
Projecting Set Positions
In order for the Angels to make quality free agent signings, they have to figure out what positions to emphasize during the winter. Let’s start by discussing the positions they are relatively set at.
Outfield, First Base, Second Base, Third Base. With some renewed health, the Angels will be locked at all of these positions. Mike Trout, Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell, and Justin Upton figure to make up the four-man rotation in the outfield.
Jared Walsh is still in pre-arbitration years, locking him in at first base for the foreseeable future. David Fletcher is entering year 2 of a five-year deal, and has become a fan and locker room favorite. And Anthony Rendon projects to be healthy by the start of 2022.
Projecting Positions of Need
With that settled, now we’ll shift our attention to the positions of need.
Pitcher, Shortstop, Catcher. Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, and Jose Suarez feel like the only starting pitchers guaranteed a spot in the rotation next season. While promoting from within is always an option, it’s hard to see the Angels not pushing for a free agent starter.
The bullpen was a revolving door all year long, but some young players within the organization figure to fill some of those roles. Raisel Iglesias will absolutely be a topic of conversation as he hits free agency. Retaining him has quickly become a must, but it’s unclear how negotiations will go there.
The Angels released Jose Iglesias to get a better look at Jack Mayfield and Luis Rengifo at shortstop. While those two are fine stopgap options, the Angels may look at free agents to fill this need.
Max Stassi is entering an arbitration year, meaning he likely stays with the Angels. But this is a position that likely requires two capable players regardless of Stassi’s status.
Starting Pitchers. There are some big names entering free agency this offseason, many of whom could help the Angels. In fact, they’ve already been rumored to have real interest in L.A. Dodgers starter Max Scherzer. Scherzer is 37, but could absolutely provide the type of ace the Angels have not had in a very long time.
Other potential options include Marcus Stroman of the New York Mets, Kevin Gausman of the San Francisco Giants, and simply retaining Alex Cobb, who was an under the radar great addition to the team this season before injury.
Relief Pitchers. Retaining Iglesias has become the top priority. Meanwhile promoting from within seems to be a solid option. But if they do search for relievers on the market, there are plenty of reliable options.
Kenley Jansen, Trevor Rosenthal, Mychal Givens, Daniel Norris, and Archie Bradley are all relatively younger — as in below 35 — and could provide the Angels with veteran presence in their bullpen.
Shortstops. This offseason’s shortstop market is dangerous. There are five top-tier shortstops available, then a host of cheaper options. Among the five pricey options are Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Javier Baez.
Among the cheaper options are Andrelton Simmons, Freddy Galvis, or simply promoting from within. While the top five could ascend their offense to an even greater level, the risk is not only the money they would command, but the constant question of whether or not they paid the right guy.
With Albert Pujols officially coming off the books and Upton having just one year left on his deal, the Angels may feel alright with spending some money. They also may be content to stick with what they’ve got in their farm system and their current roster.
The Angels can go a number of ways with their offseason approach. Getting healthy remains the top priority, though. A lack of health decimates any chance they have of contending anyways, while a full season of health could put them in playoff contention regardless of their moves this winter.