The Los Angeles Angels entered the offseason with one goal: significantly improving their pitching staff. We are not talking about bringing a couple of innings eaters and a middle reliever; no: they needed to bring multiple aces, shutdown relievers, and hurlers with a solid mix of floor and upside.
So far, so good for LA: up to this point, the Angels have inked starter Noah Syndergaard to a lucrative one-year deal worth $21 million; relievers Aaron Loup (two-year, $15 million contract with an option) and Raisel Iglesias (four-year, $58 million pact), and swingman Michael Lorenzen (one-year, $6.75 million deal).
The Iglesias deal was completed on Wednesday and it represents a huge investment in a 31-year-old reliever. Iglesias, however, is still dominating big league hitters as evidenced by his 2.57 2021 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 103 strikeouts in 70 frames.
Time will tell if he can perform like the owner of the second-highest contract ever given to a reliever, after Kenley Jansen’s five-year, $80 million pact in 2017. For now, however, he needed to be retained.
The return of Iglesias and the addition of Loup (0.95 ERA in 56.2 innings) will bring some much-needed stability in the back of the bullpen, but besides Mike Mayers and Austin Warren, the unit is not really impressive and will need many more reinforcements. The Angels’ relievers had a 4.59 ERA in 2021, the seventh-worst in MLB.
The ‘Thor’ acquisition was perhaps the most important because it was made earlier in the offseason and it was a good way to let teams know that the Angels are serious about bolstering their pitching staff. He is a career 3.32-ERA pitcher with a 9.74 K/9 ratio, oozing bounce-back potential after a couple of years marred by injuries. There is significant risk in his profile, too, but he offers the Angels upside they were lacking.
The real wild card here is Lorenzen. The owner of a 4.07 career ERA, he is much better suited for relief, but he will reportedly be a member of the starting rotation and be given the opportunity to make it as a two-way player, a la Shohei Ohtani. Odds are against him, but at least, he has some pitching upside.
The Angels need more arms
All in all, the Angels may be one star piece for the rotation, and a couple of effective relievers away from really putting together a solid staff, capable of helping Mike Trout, Ohtani, Anthony Rendon, Jared Walsh, Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, David Fletcher, Max Stassi, and company reach the playoffs. They also need a shortstop, though, as they can’t get away with Tyler Wade getting regular at-bats there.
Bringing in at least one reliable, proven pitcher for the rotation will give the Angels more depth and the chance to develop Griffin Canning and Reid Detmers at their own pace. That missing hurler would also be an insurance policy for Lorenzen, as Jose Suarez and Patrick Sandoval, two very solid pitchers with some upside, occupy spots in the staff. Ohtani and Syndergaard, of course, will be the one-two punch as things stand.
The Angels were reportedly in on Max Scherzer before he signed for the Mets, and are monitoring the trade market with the Cincinnati Reds regarding their three available starters: Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Sonny Gray. Any one of that trio could be the missing rotational piece in Los Angeles.
Besides the rotation and their obvious need at shortstop, the bullpen should be the Angels’ priority for the rest of the offseason. They are off to a great start, and bringing back Iglesias was a smart move (even though it was really expensive), but more help is needed. At least the franchise is dead serious about revamping their pitching staff to take advantage of the remaining of Trout’s prime and Ohtani’s team control years.
If the Angels can somehow get one of the Reds’ arms plus Trevor Story, Ryan Tepera, and Andrew Chafin (just to name a couple of reliable, effective relievers), they may be set up for a deep playoffs run.
Andrés Chávez loves the game of baseball and writes about it at Beyond the Box Score, Pinstripe Alley, and other sites. He is on Twitter as @andres_chavez13