Year in and year out, if you look at the bottom of the standings you will usually find teams with low payrolls. Organizations who decided spending less and “rebuilding” will give them the best shot at future success.
Well, take a peep at the bottom of the American League standings. The Athletics, Tigers, Royals, and…Angels. The Angels?
A team ranked in the top 10 in payroll is currently down with the bottom-feeders. Unlike most losing teams, the Angels have spent money in attempt to field a competitive team, it just has not worked. Since 2010, the Angels have made the playoffs once (2014) losing in the first round.
After years of trying, and failing, is it time for the Angels to finally try a proper rebuild?
The decision needs to be made quickly as their unicorn and prized asset, Shohei Ohtani, is set to become a free agent after next season.
Before we just decide to ship off a top-five player, let’s walk through the thought process of why the Angels should or should not trade Ohtani with three simply questions.
Can the Angels Afford Ohtani?
The short answer is; yes. Technically they can. Ohtani’s currently making $5.5 million in 2022 and will get a sizeable bump in 2023, his final year of arbitration. An extension for a players of Ohtani’s caliber and unique abilities has never happened before making it hard to predict. What we do know, the deal will be massive. Likely in the 10-year range with record-setting money.
As you can see, the Angels already have two massive, long-term deals. Both to players who have struggled to stay healthy leading to questions about their future. Anthony Rendon and Mike Trout make up 40% of the Angels payroll. Adding a $40 million plus per year contract would certainly make filling out the roster significantly more difficult. Especially because two of the top players are often replaced due to injury.
With the uncertainty around Rendon and Trout’s future, the Angels need to be careful with any contract they hand out. It’s looking more and more like Rendon, 32, will not bounce back to an All-Star level. It’s only fair to ask if Trout’s injury history will slow him down sooner than later. The front office needs to decide if adding another massive contract will bring them closer to a championship, or criple their ability to round out the roster and build a winner.
Do the Angels Have Enough Talent for Ohtani’s Prime?
Winning in baseball is often about capitalizing on windows. Finding the sweet spot between expensive star players and emerging talent under cheaper team control. Of the current lineup, David Fletcher (through 2025) and Max Stassi (through 2024) and the only guaranteed contracts outside of Rendon and Trout. Both are fine players but more of secondary pieces.
This lineup needs major upgrades going forward. Breakout Taylor Ward and infielder Luis Rengifo are looking like options going forward with Jared Walsh as the only other sure thing. The farm system does not rank particularly high, leaving the Angels in a spot where young, homegrown talent might be more difficult to bank on.
During the Trout era, pitching has always seemed to hold the Angels back. They currently have four young lefties with promise but limited upside. Patrick Sandoval and Reid Detmers have flashed at times and the need to add to the rotation is still there.
Should the Angels Trade Ohtani?
The Angels window with Ohtani might not be opened as long as we all wish. The 2023 Angels would need a complete roster turnover and a lot of luck to be contenders. Likely, you are hoping to contend for 2024 and beyond. Rendon would be 34 years old, Trout 32, Ohtani right around 30. I have no doubt Ohtani will still be producing, but have my questions about Trout and Rendon’s production.
I think the time has come for a real attempt at a rebuild. The Angels should trade Ohtani for a massive return that will help lead to a more well-rounded roster in the near future. It stinks to say, but the Angels have not produced with two of the best players in the game. It takes a full roster to win at this level, and the Angels do not have it.
If the Angels get back a massive haul of prospects, it will help them build a contender and hopefully get Mike Trout some playoff success. No matter what the Angels decide, you simply cannot let him walk in free agency. A trade or extension needs to happen this winter.