Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The lockout starts with the Angels still needing a starting pitch.

On the first day of the offseason, Angels general manager Perry Minasyan set the bar high for his club this winter.

Yes, they had a vacancy at the bus stop. Yes, their composition needed more depth. But more than anything, he set out to fix the ever-disappointing pitching team, aiming for a transformation that he hoped would turn the Angels into real rivals as early as next season.

“We understand that the embankment is a place that we would like to significantly improve,” Minasyan said in early October at his press conference at the end of the season. “Don’t just improve. But to improve significantly. “

Two months later, the pitching of the Angels definitely looks different from last season. They attracted two players who, in their opinion, have great growth potential. They signed a seasoned left-handed mid-hand defender. And they achieved the return of their dominant closer.

But when leeway ended amid a lockout between MLB and its player union, it remains questionable whether the Angels have really “significantly” improved their staff – or have assembled a military force capable of securing a legal playoff entry.

After all, a conscientious ace has not yet appeared. There are still holes at the top of the spin. And while there will be opportunities to add more after the lockout ends, most of the best aspiring free agents have signed up elsewhere.

For a team looking for more than just minor improvements, the scope for another impressive addition is diminishing.

The angels have undoubtedly produced encouraging surges, but the tidal wave, seemingly necessary to wash away years of poor work on the hill, has yet to materialize.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday night, Minasyan remained optimistic in touting the Angels add-ons, but reiterated that the hunt for additional jocks would continue whenever the offseason resumed.

“We feel like we’ve added some strong hands and the offseason is not over yet,” he said. “It’s time to keep improving. We will try to do it. “

When asked if he considered the Angel staff “good enough,” Minasyan gave the familiar response that he always strives to improve the group.

“I don’t think there are enough good pitchers,” he replied. “I think if you ask any team, they all want to get better.”

The most obvious improvements to date are in the bullpen.

After signing left-hander Aaron Lu to a two-year $ 17 million deal following the 2021 season in which he led all MLB powerhouses in average earned performance, the Angels have signed a closer four-year $ 58 million deal with Raisel Iglesias. ended hours before the lockout, securing the right-hander for a long time after he had previously turned down the team’s offer to qualify for a year.

Saving Iglesias has always been a top priority for the Angels, who have had a different reliever lead the team’s saves every year since 2017. Engaging Lou should broaden their lineup opportunities in front of Iglesias, an area they’ve struggled to find consistency in the past season.

“Having two veterans behind the bullpen that you really feel good about giving the ball is comforting,” Minasyan said.

However, it is less clear what to expect from the rotation.

So far, the team has added two players: former All-Star right-hander Noah Sindergaard with a $ 21 million one-year contract and former pitcher Michael Lorenzen with a $ 6.75 million one-year contract.

But they also lost Alex Cobb to the San Francisco Giants and Dylan Bundy to the Minnesota Twins. Despite being capped at 18 starts last season, Cobb had a decent 3.76 ERA (with even better extended numbers). Bundy became a staff stalwart in 2020, but he fell badly in 2021.

The Angels also missed out on several major free agent agents they were associated with. Max Scherzer signed a record $ 130 million three-year deal with the New York Mets, which Angels doesn’t come close to, according to someone familiar with the situation. Robbie Rae, Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman and John Gray, however, were more affordable options, all reportedly pursued by the Angels before they signed elsewhere last week.

While Minasyan declined to say how close the Angels were to signing any of these players, he argued that it is still “realistic” for the team to add to the top half of their rotation this winter.

“We are exploring every area,” he said. “For the top half of the rotation, the bottom half of the rotation, the bullpen, the back, the front, I think there are different ways to improve.”

However, when the offseason resumes, the Angels will have far fewer main goals.

The top remaining free agents are Carlos Rodon, Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke and Yusei Kikuchi. It is rumored that quality pitchers are also available in the trading market, led by Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds.

But the Angels are already close to their club record of $ 182 million in salaries from last year – they are currently projecting about $ 172 million in salary for next year, according to Kota’s baseball contracts, although Minasyan indicated the team could surpass last year’s amount. – and you don’t have a deep farming system from which to transact potential trades.

There is still reason to believe that the current starter group, which will also include Shohei Otani, Patrick Sandoval and Jose Suarez, all three should have increased workloads, could take a step forward from the 2021 results.

The Angels also believe that both Sindergaard, who has thrown only two innings in the past two seasons since Tommy John surgery, and Lorenzen, who will be transitioning out of bullpen, could be poised for breakthrough performances.

“I have always admired the powerful leverage, the composition of the material, the combination of fields,” Minasyan said of Lorentzen in his first public comments on the signing. “We feel that the transition to the starter, which he wanted to do so badly … was justified.”

But without additional reinforcement, the likelihood of error still seems insignificant – this offseason, the Angels have a lot of flags, marked, but not yet the most important.

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