Ten players the Angels could use, besides Trevor Bauer – Press Enterprise
The offseason is rolling on while the Angels are still searching for a general manager.
Because of the pandemic, the GM meetings aren’t happening this week. Also, the uncertain financial state of the game is likely to create a slow free agent market. All of that gives the Angels a little extra time to hire someone without missing too much. They are expecting to hire someone before Thanksgiving.
When they do pick a GM, the first item on the list is likely to be starting pitching. Trevor Bauer is the clear No. 1 starter on the free agent market, so it would seem to be a no-brainer for the Angels to take a run at him.
However, there are other starters available besides Bauer, and the Angels also have other needs beyond the rotation. They could use some help in the bullpen, behind the plate, in the middle infield and perhaps even in the outfield.
Here’s a look at some intriguing options, beginning with the starting pitchers.
Marcus Stroman: After Bauer, the consensus No. 2 free agent starting pitcher is Stroman. He has a career 3.76 ERA heading into his age 30 season. He didn’t pitch in 2020, opting out after coming back from a calf injury. The New York Mets also give him a qualifying offer, so whoever signs him will have to give up a draft pick. Stroman also could still accept the Mets’ offer, taking him off the free agent list entirely.
Joe Musgrove: Although he isn’t a household name, it could be by the end of the winter. Musgrove might turn out to be one of the most attractive options on what figures to be a very thin starting pitching trade market. The key player the Pittsburgh Pirates got from the Houston Astros in the Gerrit Cole trade, Musgrove posted a 3.86 ERA as a 27-year-old in 2020. He struck out 55 and walked 16 in 39-2/3 innings. He has two years left before free agency. The Angels would likely have to give up at least two quality young players, including perhaps someone such as Patrick Sandoval, to get him.
Taijuan Walker: He is the youngest of the free agent starters, having pitched this season at 27. Walker was a top prospect who looked like he was finally putting things together before missing most of 2018-19 because of Tommy John surgery. In 2020, he made 11 starts and posted a 2.70 ERA with the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays.
Jake Odorizzi: Many of the free agent starters this winter have an injury question hanging over them, but Odorizzi seems to be one of the least risky of that group because he didn’t have an arm injury in 2020. He had a back strain during Minnesota Twins summer camp and then he suffered a contusion when hit in the chest by a line drive. He also had blister issues. Because of all that, he pitched just 13-2/3 innings in 2020. Over the previous six years, he had averaged 30 starts with a 3.88 ERA.
Trevor Rosenthal: There are actually a fair amount of closers on the free agent market, including Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand, Mark Melancon and Alex Colome. Rosenthal, 30, is the youngest of that group, and he is now more than three years past Tommy John surgery. Rosenthal was dominant this year, to the tune of a 1.90 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 23-2/3 innings. Former Angels GM Billy Eppler never wanted to spend much on relievers because they are so unpredictable – when he did spend on Cody Allen, it proved why he didn’t spend on anyone else – so it will be interesting to see the new GM’s philosophy on relievers.
Mychal Givens: If the Angels are looking for a solid setup man, Givens should certainly be available from the Colorado Rockies. He has one year left before free agency, and he could even be non-tendered. Givens, 30, pitched his whole career in Baltimore before finishing this season with the Rockies. Despite those hitter-friendly environments, he has a 3.41 ERA and has averaged 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings in his career.
Cesar Hernandez: Although Francisco Lindor would obviously be a great fit up the middle, let’s assume the Angels are going to use most of their trade and financial resources for pitching. How about the guy who played next to Lindor with the Cleveland Indians this year? The Angels tried to get Hernandez from the Philadelphia Phillies a few years back, and when he was non-tendered last year the Angels didn’t need him because they had David Fletcher and Tommy La Stella at second. Now, Hernandez is a free agent again, and the Angels have room to upgrade in the middle infield, with Fletcher penciled in to play either shortstop or second. Hernandez, 30, just won a Gold Glove at second. Offensively, he’s a switch-hitter who has a career .352 on-base percentage.
Kolten Wong: The Angels have reportedly already started doing some groundwork on Wong, who became a free agent when the St. Louis Cardinals declined the second baseman’s option. Wong, 30, has a career .333 on-base percentage, and he’s upped that to .356 over the last four years. Wong has won the NL Gold Glove at second each of the past two seasons, when the managers and coaches were responsible for the bulk of the decision in 2019 and when the metrics determined the award in 2020.
Andrew Knapp: Not the Phillies catcher you were hoping for? Knapp proved to be a more than capable backup to J.T. Realmuto in 2020. Perhaps the Phillies wouldn’t be interested in trading Knapp if they’re going to lose Realmuto. Knapp, 29, is a rare switch-hitting catcher, and in 2020 he produced an .849 OPS in 72 at-bats. He could be a platoon partner with Max Stassi or share the job with Anthony Bemboom if Stassi is slow to come back from hip surgery. Knapp is arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons.
Joc Pederson: Back in February the Angels appeared to have a deal for Pederson and pitcher Ross Stripling, but the trade fell through and Pederson stuck with the Dodgers through their World Series title. Now he’s a free agent, so the Angels have another crack at him. The Angels could probably use a left-handed-hitting fourth outfielder, essentially to replace Brian Goodwin. They would have someone to spell Justin Upton and hold down right field if Jo Adell needs more seasoning in the minors. Pederson will still just be 29 next season, and he’s got a career .806 OPS with a .336 on-base percentage.