The Los Angeles Angels needed one thing heading into this offseason — starting pitching. The team has not gotten much of that and it does not appear that it will.
The Los Angeles Angels signed the second-biggest star of the offseason in Anthony Rendon and it still feels like this winter as somewhat of a disappointment for the Angels. While Rendon absolutely makes the offense more dynamic, he does not help address the team’s biggest glaring weakness.
Rendon is not going to suit up and make 30 starts for the Angels and fix the pitching staff. The team’s primary target was Gerrit Cole, who would have done that, but after missing out on Cole it seemed like the Angels simply pivoted and signed the next-biggest star.
This may not have been the smartest move. I do not want to downplay how good Rendon is but the Angels have not necessarily had the best luck when it comes to signing big-name position players and now the team has put itself in a pickle.
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You need pitching to win in the Major Leagues, I do not care how you spin it. Joe Maddon can get as creative as he wants with openers and the bullpen but as we see every year with the wild card teams that make the playoffs with that tactic, you cannot win in October that way.
The Los Angeles Angels absolutely could be one of the final 10 teams in the running for the World Series. Do I like their chances against the four other best teams in the American League with the pitching staff they have? Not at all.
Ohtani has been great on the mound, in the 50 innings he has pitched in. We still are not even sure if Ohtani can handle the MLB mileage, especially in being a two-way player. Teheran and Bundy are great innings eaters but should not be the two-best pitchers the team brought in this offseason.
Heaney is who he is at this point: a mid-four ERA guy who can have great games here and there but is rather unreliable both in performance and with his health. Finally, Canning has good stuff and showed some of the same flashes, but he is only a second-year pitcher and we cannot buy in too heavily to the promise he brings, as we did with Heaney.
That rotation is one injury away from serious trouble, two away from completely falling apart. And while the Angels do not need an elite starting rotation to make noise, they certainly need better than what they have.
The problem is and the fact of the matter is that the Angels’ front office is not going to fix this problem. They might bring in one more depth option at a cheap signing rate, but it is not going to be someone who is majorly impactful (see Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill in 2019).
The Angels did not sign Hyun-Jin Ryu nor Dallas Keuchel despite the asking price for both pitchers being relatively low. Ryu is making $20 million over four seasons and Keuchel is making $18.5 million for three seasons with a vesting option in year four.
If the Angels’ front office had as much urgency as we are led to believe then they would have signed one of those two guys for a close price. We have seen it time and time again: when Arte Moreno wants a free agent he tends to get it, I find it hard to believe that they could not one-up the Blue Jays or White Sox.
The problem is that the Angels seem to have a self-imposed budget that they backed themselves right up into with the Rendon contract. The Angels have not gone over $175 million in payroll but have gotten awfully close to it multiple times.
While we have no inside information, solely based on deductive reasoning, it is safe to say that they probably do have an internal budget of somewhere close to $175 million. Right now they are sitting at $162 million with Spotrac’s arbitration estimates.
So, despite having over $40 million in space under the luxury tax, the Los Angeles Angels seemingly priced themselves out of both Ryu and Keuchel. Not only that, but the team is also pricing itself out of making trades for J.A. Happ or David Price.
The only option is to bring in someone and hope they find their old form, like Alex Wood, or make a trade for someone such as Chris Archer. I am not sure that either route necessarily fixes the problems with the starting rotation.