As the end of August is upon us, the Angels have enormous work to do if they want to find themselves in the playoff picture when the regular season concludes on October 3. Until the “E” for elimination is next to the Angels name in the standings, the battle ensues for every player that steps onto the field. Undoubtedly, this season for the Halos has been riddled with injuries and at times seems like a Triple-A roster is contending at the major league level. Through the ups and downs though, here are three players that have made a strong case to deserve a contract extension this upcoming offseason to continue embracing the Angels culture in their careers.
DISCLAIMER!!! - Do not think we ignored RHP Raisel Iglesias from the three players listed below. He is by far the most reliable reliever out of the pen and most deserving of a contract extension. No convincing/information needs to be brought to the table since his numbers speak for themself, especially since the All-Star break. The Angels have not had a closer like [Raisel] Iglesias since Huston Street, or dating farther back to Francisco Rodriguez. We can all agree with certainty that the 2021 AL Reliever of the Month (July) should definitely be back next season. Predicted Contract: 4-Year/$44 Million
Raisel Iglesias was named AL Reliever of the Month in July. The numbers are pretty outrageous:— Brent Maguire (@bmags94) August 2, 2021
36.5 K% (19 strikeouts)
1.9 BB% (1 walk)
0.5 fWAR pic.twitter.com/zEnRLKOKoS
#1: Alex Cobb (Current Stats: 15 Starts - 7-3 Record, 3.82 ERA, 26 BB/84 K)
It is absolutely no secret the Angels need pitching this offseason and if anyone disagrees you may be living under a rock. Through 131 games, the Angels pitching staff sits 26th in MLB with a 4.76 ERA and 19th with a BAA of .249. Prior to a blister and right wrist inflammation injury that currently have him on the 10-Day Injured List, starting pitcher Alex Cobb has been a tremendous bright spot in the rotation outside of Shohei Ohtani.
Cobb, a nine-year veteran entering the 2021 season, got off to a rough start in April with a 1-1 record and 7.16 ERA in four starts. He turned the page in May, even though a right middle finger blister sidelined him for 12 days, tossing three consecutive starts of five or more innings, while allowing one earned run once and two shutout performances. June was a funny month as he tallied a 7.32 ERA, but secured two wins in four starts. The 33-year-old rode the wave and got back into dominant shape in July, tossing a 2-0 record with an ERA just above one (1.09) and 21 strikeouts.
For being one of the Angels most consistent pitchers this season, it was a foregone conclusion that Cobb would probably be a tradable piece at this year’s Trade Deadline. To the surprise of many Angels’ fans, the Halos retained Cobb on the afternoon of July 30, stroking confidence that they are the preferred destination when the free agency market opens up.
“I’m thankful to still be here,” Cobb said. “I truly believe this is a team on the verge of winning a championship and would be honored to be part of it going forward. Obviously a lot of other stuff goes into it. But I’m happy to be here.”
No extension talks have been made public, but Cobb has built a solid relationship with manager Joe Maddon that dates back to their time in Tampa Bay between 2011-2014 and throughout the season, it has been noted a relationship with general manager Perry Minasian has flourished as well.
When you look at the starting rotation, Cobb is the exact type of pitcher the Angels need. A veteran presence that can be relied upon to lead and support young arms beginning their journey in the majors, as well as a “dawg” on the mound deadly focused at the job at hand, taking no prisoners each time on the hill.
Watching Cobb pitch draws comparisons to former Angel starter Jered Weaver. Not only because of the long hair hanging around his neck, but you can add an outstretched leg kick in their delivery as well. For two right-handers that use a sinker ball more than 20% of the time, it is eerie how Cobb and Weaver’s statscast numbers/averages on Whiff and Strikeout percentage range between the upper teens and low-to-mid 20’s.
The pitching market will definitely be headlined by Max Scherzer and Noah Syndergard who will ask for top dollar, but to sign Cobb to a favorable contract after the strides he took this season to rejuvenate his career after three subpar years with Baltimore, will be a welcomed sight. A front to middle rotation starter that can eat innings, strikeout opposing batters regularly (with the help of a nasty splitter) and limit home runs is a piece of the puzzle that’s been missing for many years.
Predicted Extension: 3-Year/$30 Million
#2: Max Stassi (Current Stats: 66 Games - .269 Avg., 11 HR, 29 RBI)
Catching may not be a glaring need for the Angels this offseason, but it should be one of the positions addressed early on since a pitcher needs someone on the receiving end behind the plate. Once Max Stassi was acquired by the Angels at the 2019 MLB Trade Deadline, it was a far cry to say he was a “complete” catcher as he batted a woeful .071 average in 20 games.
As Stassi put the work in during the offseason and Covid-19 pandemic delay ahead of the shortened 2020 season, results followed as he posted a .278 batting average, nine home runs and 20 runs batted in through 31 games. Entering the final season contractually before he reaches his third and final year of arbitration, Stassi upped his game even better this season setting new highs in home runs (11), RBI (29) and games played (66).
Throughout his career, the Woodland, CA native shines behind the plate as a defensive technician. His framing and ability to call great pitch selections for every pitcher (starter and reliever) he catches speaks volumes about preparation and communication during the game. Stassi ranks top-10 amongst all catchers in Strike Rate (8th), where 50.6% of pitches he snags are kept in and around the eight different borderline strike zones. Runs Extra Strikes (6th), which is a catcher’s version of defensive runs saved, is another top-10 stat he possesses with five runs saved per/game.
Taking Bengie Molina out of the conversation, who is still one of the best catchers in Angels’ franchise history, the Halos have not had a consistent catcher who can hit and play above average defense since Chris Iannetta. They tried to fill the void with Jonathan Lucroy, Anthony Bemboom, Dustin Garneau, Carlos Perez and Martin Maldonado (who was the most productive out of this group), but they never got their hands on a true number one back stop. Diving into the numbers, Iannetta and Stassi mirror one another as a primary singles and doubles batter who flash pop in chucks during the season and a dead even fielding percentage of .995.
Frankly, the catching market is weak with the exception of Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, however, he has a $22 million club option that he will not squander after yet another All-Star season. The Angels could pussyfoot and simply bait Stassi into his final year of arbitration and pay minimal money to keep him around, but what he has proven on and off the field deserves to be recognized. If the Angels have a reliable catcher under a long-term contract, it may give available pitchers confidence in an organization with a veteran catcher who can firmly support a pitching staff.
Predicted Extension: 4-Year/$24 Million
#3: Jose Iglesias (Current Stats: 114 Games - .251 Avg, 8 HR, 41 RBI)
The first day “Havana Magic” took the field in an Angels’ uniform, you knew he was the proverbial “Energizer Bunny” on the field and in the clubhouse. His defensive prowess is the first area of talent most people focus on and rightfully so. Yes, he’s had moments of unforced errors, but the majority of innings he’s played at shortstop have been dynamic.
For the last five years leading up to 2021, fans were spoiled with the jaw-dropping talent Andrelton Simmons displayed nightly. When he moved on to Minnesota, a vacancy opened and on paper Jose Iglesias was a perfect fit. Following back-to-back resurgent seasons at the plate (2019 with Cincinnati and 2020 with Baltimore), [Jose] Iglesias continues to show productivity at age 31. He is top-five on the Angels in Doubles (23), RBI (41), Stolen Bases (5) and Runs Scored (57). His unique ability to fill in a hole from one to nine in the batter order fits well with Maddon’s managerial style of rolling with the hot hand matchup to matchup even if it is to try something new to ignite a spark for the team or the individual hitter.
The Halos have had their share of notable shortstops in the past two decades such as David Eckstein, Orlando Cabrera and Erick Aybar. All three draw comparisons to [Jose] Iglesias due to size, stature, speed and slap hitting ability for doubles, but the biggest characteristic you can add to the mix is leadership. As a shortstop, you patrol the entire infield and guide the outfielders from play to play. Shortstop is a coveted position that finds a player that is bred with those instincts, not the other way around.
If teams around the league are looking for shortstops this upcoming offseason, they better bring a hauler filled with piles of cash. With names such as Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Javier Baez and Carlos Correa leading the pack, [Jose] Iglesias will be a sure fire steal that does not need to be the main attraction in order to get the job done on both ends of the spectrum.
Predicted Extension: 3-Year/$18 Million
The Angels 2022 Payroll will begin at $111,188,094 with 20 players being retained on the 26-man roster. If these three (well four if you add Raisel Iglesias) extensions actually happen in this manner (roughly $33 million per/year), Minasian and Angels’ owner Arte Moreno will still have around $55 million to play with before approaching the Luxury Tax threshold of $200 Million.