The Los Angeles Angels have decisions to make at all levels of their organization this offseason. Given the talent flooding the top of their roster, another year below .500 is simply unacceptable.
Fans will likely look to outside free agents or trade targets for the Angels to acquire — and L.A. may look at those as well — but part of being a good franchise is retaining the important free agents they have each year.
Going into the 2021-22 offseason, the Angels have 11 free agents. This number sounds daunting, but some of these players didn’t spend much time with the big league team, or were not very productive during their time.
This makes it much easier to narrow down our list. Here, we’ll rank our top three Angels free agents based on a mix of who they should re-sign and who we feel they are most likely to re-sign. For the eight free agents who don’t make this list, it’s not that they will not or should not be re-signed, simply that it’s less likely.
3. Steve Cishek
Steve Cishek signed a one-year deal with the Angels just three days before the beginning of the 2021 season. In need of bullpen depth, Cishek provided the Halos a dependable and durable bullpen arm.
He built up somewhat of a negative reputation among fans for his difficulties with inherited runners, but the numbers tell a much different — and more positive — story. In 68.1 in 2021, Cishek held a 3.42 ERA, a 131 ERA+, an 8.4 K per-9 ratio, and a 0.9 WAR. His major issue was walks, as he walked 5.4 batters per nine innings.
But overall, these numbers are not anything to be disappointed about. And entering his age-36 season, he should be relatively cheap to retain. As the Angels try to revamp their pitching staff, Cishek might be worth keeping around in a lower leverage role than he had this season.
2. Alex Cobb
The Angels have made it known that they are pursuing two front-line starters in free agency this offseason. If they succeed, they’ll have five starters between the two new players, Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, and Jose Suarez.
Normally, this would be good. But with Ohtani’s workload restraints, L.A. will need a sixth starting pitcher, and who is better than Alex Cobb to fill that role. Cobb was brought in via trade prior to the 2021 season in search of a rebound year. He got that and more, having one of the better years of his career.
In 18 starts and 93.1 innings, Cobb had a 3.76 ERA, a 1.264 WHIP, a 2.92 FIP, a 2.5 WAR, a career-high 9.5 K per-9, and a career-low 0.5 HR per-9. If you want to find a flaw in Cobb’s 2021 season, the only legitimate issue was his availability.
Between two IL stints, he missed nearly three months of action. However, if his role is to be a sixth starter, there’s some wiggle room for him to get injured, and it would be worth it to get this level of production.
There should have been no doubt that Raisel Iglesias would be at the top of the list. In 2021, Iglesias was by far the Angels’ best bullpen arm, a top-5 closer in baseball, and the best closer the Angels have had since Huston Street in 2014.
In 70 innings of work, Iglesias put together a 2.57 ERA, a 0.929 WHIP, a ridiculous 13.2 K per-9 ratio, a K-to-BB ratio of 8.58, and a 2.0 WAR. His only flaw was — and has always been — the home run ball, but with 34 saves, it didn’t seem to matter all that much.
Iglesias is likely the only Angels free agent that it may take breaking the bank to re-sign. For reference, Liam Hendriks was the best closer on the market last winter, and signed a 3-year, $54 million contract. This could be what Iglesias costs as well, maybe slightly less due to career numbers.
But even if it is $18 million per year, it may be necessary for L.A. to hang on to him. They need a shutdown closer if they plan on really competing for a championship in 2022.