Greetings, Perry Minasian. Congratulations on your new job as Los Angeles Angels general manager, a job that you’ve been working for almost literally your entire life.
Being the GM of the Angels, as you certainly know, comes with some wonderful benefits. Namely Michael Nelson Trout, the perennial best player in baseball and potentially the best player ever. And then there’s the pitching staff — which is definitely not the best ever. It’s very far away, actually. Perennially disappointing, a patchwork plan that never comes together, an Achilles’ heel that never heals.
What you inherit with the Angels is like a Ferrari, but it has “Flintstones” wheels. It’s like a glorious mansion with termites no one has been able to exterminate.
Hope you’re ready for a challenge, Perry. The potential is there, but so are the problems. And you will be judged on one thing: Can you get Mike Trout into the playoffs again and, by the glory of all that is right in this world, maybe even win a World Series.
That’s it, Perry, that’s how you win the game.
Good news: Owner Arte Moreno has said the payroll “isn’t going down” — and that’s after signing Anthony Rendon to a mega-deal last offseason. With Trout, Rendon, Shohei Ohtani, young stud Jo Adell, a better-than-you-think David Fletcher and a still-hanging-around Albert Pujols, the Angels lineup could be quite good. Oh, they have Justin Upton, too, although he hasn’t been amazing the last two seasons.
But about that pitching: They ranked 25th last season in ERA and 25th the year before that. A fun tidbit: Before Dylan Bundy (who was pretty good in 2020) got a Cy Young vote this year, no Angels pitcher had even gotten a single vote since 2012. This is what happens when your pitching plans often depend on Tim Lincecum or Matt Harvey getting their groove back.
It’s pretty clear what you need to do here, Perry, get some arms. But how will you do it? Here are some options:
Give Trevor Bauer all the money and make a few other savvy signings
There’s only one sure-thing pitcher among this year’s free agents, and it’s Bauer. After that, the decline is steep. James Paxton is the next best pitcher. So the Angels have to go big on Bauer. Good news is he’s from SoCal and has L.A. written all over him. Maybe Anaheim will do? We don’t know what sort of contract Bauer wants, but the Angels can get creative here — maybe a shorter-term deal with big money? Making him the No. 1 priority is the only way to fix what ails the Angels.
From there, they probably need another infielder to fill Andrelton Simmons’ shoes. A Kolten Wong type could work, which would shift Fletcher over to short. Or even a reunion with Tommy La Stella. They’ll also need bullpen help, but there’s value to be found there, too.
Even if they get Bauer, they still need at least one more pitcher, and that’s where they might need to dip into their old playbook of finding value in castoffs and go for a Jon Lester/Jake Arrieta type. This time, they can’t miss.
Trade for Lance Lynn, roll the dice on another pitcher and get a good bat
Here is where the Angels can take a more balanced approach. Skip Bauer, there will be too much competition for him. Instead focus on Lance Lynn, and work a trade with the Rangers. Perry, you still have some of those old Rangers contacts from when you were a batboy there and later a scout? Put them to use.
Then roll the dice on a free-agent pitcher who might be cheaper this year given their current circumstances. Everyone on this list has upside, some not ideal recent history and (hopefully for you) not a huge contract ahead of them:
• James Paxton
• José Quintana
• Corey Kluber
Part 3 of the plan is to bring in a better bat to replace Simmons. Since you’re not spending money on Bauer, spend some on Didi Gregorius. While everyone chases DJ LeMahieu, swoop in and get Didi.
Buy low and pray for the best
The Angels have often tried to fix their pitching woes with reclamation projects, and it usually doesn’t work. Bundy being the exception in 2020.
This year is full of projects. It might feel like loading up with pitching in the final rounds of a fantasy draft — there are plenty of familiar names who used to be good out there waiting to be signed. Just look at this list:
Lots of buy-low options here, so pick three or four of them and hope for the best. It’s not sexy, but there are times where going to the dollar store makes more sense than going to Crate & Barrel, right?
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