The Los Angeles Angels haven’t reached the playoffs since 2014. In the seven seasons since then, they’ve had either the league MVP and/or the league leader in bWAR four times, but the team still lost anyway. Their last winning record came in 2015, and they finished fourth place in the AL West division each of the past four summers.
One glaring reason for their struggles has been their consistent failure to build a pitching staff. They rarely appear to prioritize that area of the roster at all, instead dumping all their money into mega-contracts for superstar right-handed hitters and then building a discount rotation and bullpen fueled mostly by optimism.
This winter, they might finally be ready to get serious about pitching. Or at least, they’re spending slightly more on it.
The Angels re-signed closer Raisel Iglesias on Tuesday for four years and $58 million, reports insider Jon Morosi and others. That’s the fourth pitcher they’ve signed this month, committing over $100 million in the process.
- RHP Raisel Iglesias — 4/$58m (re-signed)
- RHP Noah Syndergaard — 1/$21m
- LHP Aaron Loup — 2/$17m
- RHP Michael Lorenzen — 1/$7m
Iglesias had a fantastic 2021 season for the Halos, including a monster strikeout rate, low ERA and FIP marks, and a strong record of converting saves. Committing long-term to a reliever is risky, but at least this one has a great track record in terms of both success and annual reliability.
The addition of Aaron Loup further bolsters the bullpen. He’s been a solid lefty for a decade, but last year he posted a career-best performance for the Mets including an 0.95 ERA and 2.45 FIP. Again, A’s fans have seen first-hand how paying for star relievers doesn’t always work out like you hope, but as of now there are two excellent arms to build around in Los Angeles’ pen.
As for the rotation, the Angels are still sticking to starters they can get on one-year contracts, even though that strategy has worked terribly for them lately. That said, Noah Syndergaard is a bigger name than some of the other reclamation projects they’ve auditioned in recent seasons, and also a far more expensive one, soooo ... at least they’re trying harder at their bad idea of only signing lotto tickets for their rotation?
Newcomer Michael Lorenzen will reportedly be used as a starter, after spending most of his career in relief. He had an off-year in 2021 but was above-average for a half-decade before that. He also has experience as a two-way player, with 34 games in the outfield and an 84 wRC+ at the plate.
Perhaps nothing has changed. A long-term contract for a reliever who’s never made an All-Star Game (Iglesias), premium money for a great middle reliever who sometimes works setup duty (Loup), a huge show-me deal for a starter who missed the last two seasons (Syndergaard), and a project to convert a reliever into a starter (Lorenzen), does kind of sound like underwhelming business as usual for the Halos, the kind that so often goes wrong for them.
But the last time they had a pitcher among their top-five highest-paid players was 2017. That year they had Ricky Nolasco from a salary dump trade, and Huston Street played out the final season of his career but pitched only four games. As things stand now, Syndergaard and Iglesias would rank fourth and fifth in salary, behind Trout, Rendon, and Upton. Loup and Lorenzen would be sixth and seventh, until further notice.
Whether they picked the correct pitchers remains to be seen, and perhaps they’d be better off using their financial might to simply land bigger and more reliable stars for their rotation. But at least they’re finally putting heavier resources toward the pitching staff for the first time in a while, and there’s still more offseason remaining if they want to keep adding more.