With just a short time remaining until the impending Dec. 1 lockout almost certainly puts a freeze on all transactions for a while, the talk around baseball right now is that a flurry of different moves is expected to come in over the next few days.
As a result of this, many different rumors have been swirling around regarding guys that are considered likely to sign before Wednesday’s deadline, and as far as pitching is concerned, the Angels have seemingly been at the center of every single one of them. From available free agents to the trade market, here’s the latest buzz on the Halos from around the league:
The biggest rumor of the day is regarding Max Scherzer, who is expected to pick his next destination within the next few days according to both Jon Heyman and Jon Morosi of MLB Network. Heyman also reported that the Angels are one of the teams in on Scherzer along with the Dodgers, Mets and Giants, and according to Morosi, they’ve been speaking with him and his representatives recently.
Top free agent starter Max Scherzer is expected to make his decision before the impending Dec. 1 lockout. Dodgers, Giants, Angels, Mets among teams in.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 28, 2021
Scherzer, of course, is the best free agent starter on the market even despite turning 37 years old in the middle of last season. The future Hall of Famer had another excellent season in 2021, posting a 2.46 ERA and a league-leading 0.86 WHIP with 236 strikeouts in 179.1 innings pitched. He reached another level following his mid-season trade to the Dodgers, going 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA in 11 regular season starts with Los Angeles and closing out the final game of the team’s NLDS matchup against the Giants out of the bullpen.
Signing Scherzer would be without a doubt the biggest splash the Angels could make this offseason, and it would give them the bona fide ace that they have lacked for the better part of a decade now. It would also make sense for a number of other different reasons, the main one being that a trio of Scherzer, Shohei Ohtani and Noah Syndergaard at the top of the club’s rotation would have the potential to be one of the best in all of baseball. Mike Trout has also reportedly been lobbying the front office to sign the three-time Cy Young Award winner for a while now, so pulling the trigger on a deal would certainly be a way to appease the face of the franchise.
Bringing all of this to fruition, of course, would require the Angels to blow past what is believed to be their remaining budget, as Scherzer is expected to command a deal that comes close to or breaks the average annual value record set by Gerrit Cole a few offseasons ago. The club is about $25 million shy of the $182 million mark that they finished the 2021 season at, so owner Arte Moreno would need to commit to increasing payroll in order to get the deal done, something that they haven’t verbally committed to doing one way or the other as of yet.
Even if the Halos do commit to spending more money, though, it’s not guaranteed that they would be able to bring Scherzer to Anaheim, as they’d still need to outspend the incumbent Dodgers for his services. Doing this is absolutely going to be a tall task, which is why the Angels probably aren’t considered the favorites to sign Scherzer, but the fact that they are among the teams in on him as his decision looms makes the situation something to monitor over the coming days.
If the Angels do indeed miss on Scherzer, they might already have a Plan B in mind, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Saturday night that 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray “remains atop their wish list” in terms of starting pitchers currently on the market.
“The Angels had interest in Jon Gray at the deadline, and for now, [Robbie] Ray remains atop their wish list.” https://t.co/mL2uLyZ7yB— Halos Heaven (@halosheaven) November 28, 2021
Ray had a career year for the Blue Jays after signing a one-year deal with them last offseason, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 193.1 innings while striking out a league-high 248 batters. His outstanding performance in 2021 was largely due to the fact that he finally fixed the walk problem that had plagued him for pretty much his entire career, as he cut his rate of free passes allowed all the way down to 6.7 percent after living above 10 percent for much of his time in the big leagues.
Ray just turned 30 years old last month, so he figures to get a much longer contract than Scherzer, albeit at a much lower price point. It is not clear whether he will sign before the presumptive lockout or after it as of now, and what happens with him figures to be decided by what his old team in Toronto decides to do. The Jays have been linked to former Giants righty Kevin Gausman by multiple sources over the last few days, which suggests that they may have a backup plan ready for Ray’s eventual departure, but the fact that they just lost Marcus Semien—their other big free agent—to the Rangers on a seven-year mega deal might make them more inclined to try to bring Ray back into the fold. Regardless, the fact that Ray appears to be a priority for the Angels certainly means something, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him in Anaheim next season.
The final big rumor surrounding the Angels comes on the trade market, as Morosi reported earlier today that the club has had preliminary discussions with the Cincinnati Reds regarding a deal for starter Luis Castillo. Morosi says that a deal is not close at this time, though, as the Reds have set a high price on Castillo that the Halos have not met as of yet.
The Reds being hesitant to deal Castillo makes sense, as his combination of past performance and controllability makes him one of the more attractive players available for trade out there currently. The 28-year-old righty is coming off a 2021 season where he posted a 3.98 ERA and 1.36 WHIP (those number fell to 2.85 and 1.27 respectively over his last 18 starts) with 192 strikeouts in 187.2 innings, and he owns a very respectable ERA of 3.72 across his five major-league seasons. He is under team control for the next two seasons, with his projected arbitration salary for 2022 being estimated at right below $8 million.
For the Angels, bringing in Castillo would almost certainly mean parting with one of their young outfielders, whether that be Jo Adell or Brandon Marsh. The holdup is likely what comes after those guys, as the Halos might be hesitant to give up too much more beyond them while the Reds would probably want other prospects on top of them. This gap makes it less than likely that a deal gets done anytime soon, but the two clubs could always reignite talks post-lockout if the Angels still feel a need to upgrade their rotation.