Ranking Best Remaining Free Agent Starting Pitchers By Fit With Angels
Marcus Stroman, 2021 Season
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels have been one of the more active teams in the opening weeks of the offseason. Before the New York Mets went on a Black Friday shopping spree, the Angels had made more big league moves than any other team.

They signed Noah Syndergaard to a one-year, $21 million contract. This was Perry Minasian’s first move and the one he was most passionate about getting done. He flew to New York and issued a “full-court press” to lure Thor away from the Mets.

Lefty reliever Aaron Loup was also signed to a two-year, $17 million deal after a career-best year with the Mets. He helps to add a quality bullpen option while the team still hopes to bring back Raisel Iglesias.

And they’ve looked into filling their hole at shortstop with two smaller moves, claiming Andrew Velazquez off waivers and acquiring Tyler Wade via trade, both from the New York Yankees.

But there is still work to be done, especially with the starting rotation. The Angels need at least one more quality starter before they can feel satisfied, and we are going to rank the best remaining names based on how well they would fit in Anaheim.

All five players mentioned would be excellent fits with the Angels, but there remains a hierarchy of which players make even better fits than others.

No. 5: Alex Cobb

Alex Cobb comes in at No. 5 because he is the least exciting name on this list. However, his time with the Angels in 2021 showed that he can be a greatly productive pitcher when healthy.

His advanced metrics are making him a popular name among MLB teams, and the San Francisco Giants are rumored to be the Angels biggest competition to land him, as they are on the hunt for quality mid-level starting pitching.

If the Angels do retain Cobb after a solid 2021 campaign, it likely wouldn’t be their last move. The rotation currently consists of Syndergaard, Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, and Jose Suarez. Making Cobb the fifth player wouldn’t make this a bad rotation, but it would be one that lacks depth, especially when four of the five names have injury histories.

The Halos also want to employ a six-man rotation, meaning they’d certainly need another option. If all goes well for the Angels, Cobb would be re-signed — along with one of the names in the top four — to be the sixth man to start.

No. 4: Kevin Gausman

Like all the names on this list, the Angels have already showed reported interest in the Giants starter. Gausman is coming off of a career-best year, with his lowest ERA at 2.81 and his highest innings pitched at 192.

The Angels would absolutely be happy to have Gausman join the Angels. However, there is a reason he ranks No. 4. Gausman will be 31 on Opening Day 2022, and while other pitchers on the list might be older, they have stronger histories with more consistent play.

2021 was absolutely his best year, but he’s been somewhat erratic otherwise, with 2019 being his worst year. He had a 5.72 ERA in 102.1 innings pitched. It’s a dangerous proposition to pay a pitcher coming off of a career year when he hasn’t shown signs of sustainability prior.

On the flip side — and why he remains on this list — if the Angels get even 75% of Gausman’s 2021 production, he would still be one of the best starters they’ve had in years. And given where they’ve been in the standings, they absolutely cannot afford to be picky.

No. 3: Marcus Stroman

While Stroman did not have quite as good of a 2021 season as Gausman, he ranks higher due to his history of reliability. The Angels should be all over the Stroman sweepstakes, as they need a guy that they can always trust to be available.

Take away the 2015 season, and Stroman has pitched in at least 102.1 innings every year of his career. He’s pitched over 150 innings four times in eight years, and over 200 innings twice. And when he returned from taking the pandemic-shortened 2020 season off from baseball, he came back with new and better pitches in his arsenal.

Stroman will turn 31 shortly into the 2022 season, but he has shown no signs of inconsistency or slowing down. And if he does join the Angels, it will be a reunion of sorts for all the former Mets in Anaheim, with him, Syndergaard, and Loup.

The Angels have already been connected to Stroman, as well, meaning there is some interest. The reliable starter is active and very open about his free agency on social media, and has on several occasions described the Angels as a great fit.

No. 2: Robbie Ray

The Angels have a history of landing splashy names for big money in free agency. And while that has usually been position players, this feels like the year it happens on the mound. If they do break the bank, Ray is just the type of player worth doing it for.

Ray is coming off of the 2021 American League Cy Young Award. Ray pitched 193.1 innings, collecting a 2.84 ERA, a 1.045 WHIP, and a ridiculous 248 strikeouts. He was flawless in just about every aspect of that game except for home runs. He gave up a big fly on one out of every five hits allowed.

He also has a consistent history. Take away the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and Ray has pitched at least 123 innings in every full season of his career. He’s had sub-4.00 ERAs in four of his six full seasons as well.

The Angels have shown preliminary interest in Ray, like every other pitcher on this list. He is also the youngest pitcher being discussed today, with 2022 being his age-30 season. The Angels would be extremely lucky to land a talent of Ray’s caliber.

No. 1: Max Scherzer

With the signing of Syndergaard, the Angels have a fairly young rotation. Thor is the oldest at 29, meaning the Angels maybe wouldn’t mind taking a gamble on an older player, especially when that player is one of the greatest pitchers of the modern era in Max Scherzer.

Scherzer is 37 and will turn 38 midway through the 2022 season, but you’d never know it by his stats and the way he pitched this past season. The All-Star and Cy Young finalist had a 2.46 ERA and 0.864 WHIP to go along with 236 strikeouts in 179.1 innings.

Those numbers are immaculate in their own right, but his time with the L.A. Dodgers was somehow even better. In 11 regular season starts, Scherzer had a 1.98 ERA and an 0.820 WHIP, striking out 11.7 batters per nine innings.

To land Scherzer, it would likely take something in the ballpark of a three-year, $120 million deal or more. Scherzer has been connected to Anaheim, but the Dodgers appear to be the favorites to bring him back. He has said a three-year deal is what he’s after.

Picking up Scherzer would be the home run signing of the offseason for the Angels. If they can only have one from the top four of this list, Scherzer would have to be the pick.

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