Free agency is here, and the Angels need help. They also need a general manager, and should probably take care of that first. If the rash of declined options across MLB can tell us anything, this offseason figures to be a slow one, so there will likely be plenty of time to add players, by any route.
Let’s take a look at the various free agent rankings and projections, and how it relates to the Angels this winter.
The Angels only had two major league free agents in shortstop Andrelton Simmons and pitcher Julio Teheran. a It won’t surprise you that Teheran, after a lost season that saw him post a 10.05 ERA, did not rank in any of the top lists, no matter the length. But Simmons did.
Keith Law at The Athletic is the highest on Simmons, ranking him as the 14th-best free agent on the market. “Simmons is the best defensive player in baseball, and one of the best defensive players in MLB history, but he comes to free agency with a weaker offensive resume than he would have had two years ago,” Law wrote.
At ESPN, Kiley McDaniel wasn’t as bullish, ranking Simmons 37th and saying, “Simmons has regressed a lot defensively from clearly the best shortstop in baseball to now about average.”
Craig Edwards at FanGraphs ranked Simmons the 16th-best free agent, adding, “He can help a contending team as an everyday starter if healthy, but he’s not likely to play at an All-Star level over the next few years.”
MLB Trade Rumors ranked Simmons 17th, and are the only site to project signing teams for their top free agents. They have Simmons getting one year and $12 million from the Yankees. Contract projections for Simmons were two years, $17 million at FanGraphs, and one year, $7 million at ESPN.
The Angels didn’t make Simmons a qualifying offer, which this year is an $18.9 million, one-year deal. That means they won’t receive draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.
The interest in Simmons returning to Anaheim remains to be seen from both sides, but it stands to reason the Angels could use some help in the middle infield. David Fletcher is capable at just about any infield spot, and can play either second base or shortstop depending on which players, if any, the Angels add.
To that end, the MLBTR projections have shortstop Marcus Semien signing with the Angels for one year, $14 million. The former A’s shortstop had a down year in 2020, hitting just .223/.305/.374 in the truncated campaign, and his defensive numbers plummeted after being one of the best-fielding shortstops in the game in 2018-19. Semien finished third in AL MVP balloting in 2019, and even if that season is an outlier he would present a tremendous upgrade for the Angels over having to play Franklin Barreto or Luis Rengifo every day. If the Angels could sign Semien on that one-year deal, they should jump at the chance.
What about the arms?
The Angels’ biggest need, as usual, is pitching, ranking 26th in ERA (5.09) and 17th in FIP (4.49) in 2020, while leading with 14 blown saves. They need all the help they can get.
MLBTR has the Angels signing three pitchers, the biggest swing being Marcus Stroman, which if the MLBTR projections come true would give the Angels both major league players named Marcus (not counting Markus “Mookie” Betts, that is). Their projected contract for Stroman is four years, $68 million, which seems like a lot considering he did not pitch in 2020.
Stroman suffered a calf injury and ultimately opted out of his final year with the Mets, but he had pretty consistent underlying numbers in the previous four years, posting a 3.86 ERA (113 ERA+) and 3.80 FIP in 116 starts from 2016-19 with Toronto and New York. Stroman turns 30 next May.
Trevor Rosenthal, on a two-year, $14 million deal as MLBTR projects, would upgrade a shaky bullpen, especially after striking out 41.7 percent of hitters with a 1.90 ERA in a fully healthy bounce-back season in 2020.
MLB Trade Rumors’ final projected pitching addition for the Angels is Mike Minor at one year, $6 million. The soon-to-be 33-year-old had a 5.56 ERA in 2020, and hasn’t posted a FIP below 4.25 in the last three seasons. There is an old adage that there’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract, but you could understand if Angels fans are gun shy after the quartet of Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill, Cody Allen, and Teheran signed one-year deals in the last two seasons for a combined $37.5 million to produce a cumulative 6.91 ERA in 216⅓ innings. No thank you.