The following acknowledges injury concerns and operates on the assumption that this trio will not miss 30-40%+ of games every season (jokes aside, this may seem like a pipe dream but is actually reasonable — and mathematically expected. This post also assumes a best case scenario on most/all ends of the discussion to come — after all, this is how you win — I.e., things go well. This post will touch on players who made positive contributions in 2023, and is not overly concerned with the handful of players — mostly relievers and a few declining/expiring bats) who are not highly likely to factor in the team’s plans or success moving forward.
Mike Trout – 7 years/$245m remaining
Anthony Rendon – 3 years/$115m remaining
Shohei Ohtani – Free Agent (Projected 10yrs/$400m)
I’m going to address this trio within the context of the ideology behind this comment in particular, suggesting we plan for 2027 by trading Trout, eating $100m of his contract, and trading Patrick Sandoval & Taylor Ward for prospects. Here’s why this doesnt make sense:
- You’re still stuck with Anthony Rendon’s contract, whether you like it or not. If you’re trading Trout and eating $100m, getting rid of Rendon means eating another $115m (whether he’s riding your bench or playing for someone else — which defeats the purpose, imo, given the pros and cons of our roster) or, trading away the last few decent prospects from a farm system that is already dry moving forward, given the recent promotions of our young studs (more on them shortly). A healthy Rendon should be a net positive, and that’s all we can hope for the next 3 years, whether competing, partly rebuilding, or completely rebuilding. Main point here: you’re really just shooting yourself in the foot if you want to dump $200m and drain the last bit of the farm just to start putting together a string of 100-loss seasons and hope things get better.
- I don’t think that Mike Trout’s contract from 2027 to 2030 is going to make or break the future of this team. Re: performance for the remainder of his contract –> Trout’s physical tools have showed no signs of slowing down. In 2023 he was 90-96th percentile in the following statcast metrics: xwOBA, xSLG, xISO, xOBP, BRL%, EV, Max EV, HardHit%, BB%, Chase Rate, and Speed. Surprisingly to some, even his defense has improved, with OAA in the 85th percentile the last 2 seasons. As an outfielder myself, I can tell you that slotting a player in LF/RF does not make a significant difference in wear and tear. You’re still on your feet all season long, you’re still tracking fly balls, covering your outfielders (and infielders, as a corner OF-er). This is to say, it will be difficult to slot Trout at DH while Ohtani is still on the team. The solution for the short-term would be to keep Trout everyday OF and Ohtani everyday DH (unless he’s able to play a a little bit of competent first base in 2024 – little to no throwing, and allowing Trout to stay off his feet for a couple cumulative months).
- Ohtani. The team will make every effort to re-sign this man. He slashed ~.290/.850 in the 8 games after his torn UCL, and all indications are that he will continue to produce MVP-type numbers at the plate moving forward. All else equal, I think this injury helps the Angels’ odds of keeping Ohtani. For one, the contract will still be expensive, but not as expensive as it could have been. And second, Ohtani initially chose the Angels because of their plans to allow him to develop as a 2-way player; the team has supported him through the ups and downs of this process, and a reasonable person would expect this to hold weight in negotiations and future plans. Either way –> If we hold on to him, we have a potent DH in the lineup. If we don’t, the Angels have $40-70m+ to spend on free agents (listed later) and Trout gets plenty of rest, so it becomes easier to preserve the health of Mister .300/1.000. To finish the Ohtani convo, the Angels could have traded him for a haul of prospects earlier in the year. Since they didn’t, I think (and Perry has confirmed) it doesn’t make sense to start tearing the whole house down now. A healthy Trout (and average roster elsewhere) gets you near/over .500 alone. There’s also the fact that despite trying to win, the Angels have been a middle-tier team and have thus been going through something of a minor rebuild this entire time. So the conversation turns to the rest of our roster; namely, our young guys..
The other guys, OFFENSE:
Brandon Drury: 1 year/$8.5m
Taylor Ward, Luis Rengifo: Arbitration Eligible
Logan O’Hoppe, Zach Neto, Nolan Schanuel, Mickey Moniak, Michael Stefanic: Team Control
What do the above 8 players have in common with Ohtani, Trout, and Rendon? All of these players contributed positive WAR during the 2023 season. The older trio showed they can contribute to a winning team in the short-term, and the younger core-4 showed that they can do the same, but with a lot of room for long-term growth and stability/team-control.
This is to say: The Angels, even before any off-season moves, may be rostering 10+ players that are all net positives. The younger core will continue to get playing time and show us what they have, with or without Trout/Ohtani/Rendon.
This is part of the argument against a bottom-up rebuild: you can dump Trout, Rendon, Ohtani, Sandoval, Ward, and hope that whatever scraps you get in return turn into the 2nd comings of Pedro, A-Rod, and Bonds. But an overwhelming majority of rebuilds dont turn out that way.. Windows, however short or questionable, arent always there. So why not make the effort to keep the trio around and see if the pieces around them can put things together and make a run?
The other guys, PITCHING:
Patrick Sandoval, Griffin Canning – Arbitration Eligible
Reid Detmers, Chase Silseth – Team Control
Tyler Anderson – 2 years/$26m
Carlos Estevez – 1 year/$6.8m
Again, what do the first 4 names on this list have in common with the eleven players listed in the offense section above? All of them contributed positive WAR during the 2023 season. All of them are affordable/controllable and have the tools & skillset to put up quality starts on a consistent basis and put together a cumulative ERA in the 3.xx range. Following a similar theme as above, why not put them back out there in 2023 (even before any roster moves) and see if they cant piece things together with the rest of the talent?
Tyler Anderson is a toss-up. He eats innings and has shown he can stay healthy. Perhaps a reliable 5th starter if the above 4 play to potential and no other FAs are signed? Perhaps you trade him? I’ll let you decide.
Bullpen: Another toss-up. Estevez is the only sure thing. The rest of it is pieced together with a combination of our young talent (Soriano, Bachman, Joyce, etc) and free-agents/trade-acquired arms.
Roster Conclusion: The way Perry (and I) see it: You make another run with your 3-headed IL monster and hope that the rest of the roster continues to produce/develop the same way. If Ohtani leaves, its entirely possible a healthy Trout and Rendon return to form and pick up the slack to ultimately match what the trio put up in 2022 and 2023. So its possible — even if unlikely — that you have an equal or better offense next season without Sho, so long as the vets are healthy and the kids continue to play to expectation/potential. And now you have some house money to play with, which leads us to…
I see the following players as either (A) expendable or (B) dead space. I would probably let them all go or trade/dump them all to clear up a little bit of cap space:
Aaron Loup – $7.5m club option ($2m buyout)
Eduardo Escobar – $9m club option ($500k buyout)
David Fletcher – 2 years/$12.5 + 2 club options ($1.5m buyout)
Max Stassi – 1 year/$7m + club option ($500k buyout)
The following players are no longer on our books for 2024:
Randall Grichuk – $10.4m
Gio Urshela – $8.4m
CJ Cron – $7.5m
Assuming you re-sign Ohtani @ $40m AAV and get rid of Fletcher/Stassi/Loup/Escobar, the core of your roster (consisting almost entirely of competent players and promising youth) looks like this for 2024 payroll:
Ohtani – $40m
Rendon – $38.6m
Trout – $37.1m
Anderson – $13m
Drury – $8.5m
Estevez – $6.8m
Sandoval – Arb, Salary Unknown – Estimating $3-5m AAV
Canning – Arb, Salary Unknown – Estimating $2-4m AAV
Ward – Arb, Salary Unknown – Estimating $3-5m AAV
Rengifo – Arb, Salary Unknown – Estimating $3-5m AAV
Reid Detmers – Pre-Arb, Likely < $1m
Zach Neto – Pre-Arb, Likely < $1m
Logan O’Hoppe – Pre-Arb, Likely < $1m
Matt Thaiss – Pre-Arb, Likely $750k
Nolan Schanuel – Likely $740k
Michael Stefanic – Likely $740k
Total projected 2024 salary among core roster: $160m – $170m
2023 Payroll: ~$205m (+$45,000,000 – $55,000,000)
2024 Notable Free Agent Pitchers that you can pursue (more so if Ohtani leaves):
Some of you will have opinions as to why trying to hold onto Trout/Ohtani is the wrong way to go, and thats fine. Either way, I think there isn’t much more to say about it; you either want to keep trying with the kids and few OGs, or you want to start fresh and bet everything on prospects/rebuild.
I am, however, interested in what you guys think about the rest of the roster and what you’d like to see the Angels do if $40-70m clears up this off-season.