Inbox: SP trade targets, Bauer, bullpen

November 24th, 2020

ANAHEIM -- The Angels head into Thanksgiving after having accomplished their first goal of the offseason in hiring new general manager Perry Minasian.

Minasian now must get to work on improving the Halos, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2014 and have suffered through five straight losing seasons. Of course, improving the pitching will be the club’s top priority, which brings us into the first question of this week’s Angels Inbox:

Starting pitching is always mentioned as the Angels biggest need, but based on the amount of blown saves they had last year, is the bullpen or the starting rotation a bigger priority this offseason?
-- Mike W. (@soundoffsports1)

It’s an interesting question because the Angels starters did combine to post the second worst ERA in the Majors, while the bullpen also had an MLB-worst 14 blown saves. Owner Arte Moreno specifically mentioned the bullpen woes as one of the club's biggest issues in 2020 and something it needs to fix. So, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Angels add several relievers this offseason and possibly even a closer, as Hansel Robles' struggles could lead to him be non-tendered.

The Angels, however, haven’t historically spent big on the bullpen, so Minasian might need to get creative. Liam Hendriks is the best reliever on the market, but he could command $10 million or more per season on a multiyear deal. Other targets could include Trevor Rosenthal, Trevor May, Kirby Yates, Greg Holland, Brad Hand or Blake Treinen. Brewers ace reliever Josh Hader is also reportedly on the trade block. So, there are options out there. It’ll just be up to the Angels on how much they are willing to spend to improve the bullpen.

Given that Angels need more than one SP, would it make more sense financially to go for Bauer and someone, or give him up and go for multiple "second tier" SPs? It seems there are many potential No. 3 or higher starters on the market this year.
-- Chaz K. (@ChazK3)

Trevor Bauer is the lone ace available in free agency, and the Angels have been looking for a frontline starting pitcher for years now. The 29-year-old is coming off a National League Cy Young Award-winning season and is a local product who attended Hart High School in Santa Clarita and UCLA. He’s also going to attract plenty of interest from other clubs, including the Mets, who are reportedly looking to make a splash under new owner Steve Cohen.

So, the question for the Angels is whether it makes sense to go all-in on Bauer as their ace and then fill in the rest of their roster with lesser deals, or if they should spread their money around on the different holes in their roster, including on more starting pitching, the bullpen, middle infield and possibly catcher. It’s still unclear what Minasian’s philosophy will be, but Moreno hasn’t shied from offering large contracts in the past, like signing third baseman Anthony Rendon to a seven-year, $245 million deal last offseason.

How realistic is it that we trade for starting pitching?
-- Charlie H. (@chess73)

It certainly can’t be ruled out, though there are some free-agent starting pitchers who could be intriguing, such as Masahiro Tanaka, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Minor, Jose Quintana, Taijuan Walker, Garrett Richards, James Paxton and J.A. Happ. As for starters on the trade market, targets could include the Rangers’ Lance Lynn or possibly even the Rays’ Blake Snell, if he’s made available. If the Angels want to make a big move for starting pitching, they could trade one of their outfield prospects, as it’s a position of strength in the organization.

Is Keynan Middleton still on the Angels?
-- Tristan (@FletchWRLD)

Keynan Middleton remains on the roster, but the Angels must decide whether to tender him a contract by Dec. 2. Middleton is coming off a rough season that saw him spend time at the club’s alternate training site, so there’s a chance he could be non-tendered.

With Jared Walsh in line to be the primary first baseman in 2021, has he expressed any interest in returning to the mound considering he was not able to pitch in '20?
-- Kevin C. (@K24Cao939)

Walsh, who had a breakout rookie season at first base in 2020, also pitched a bit in '19 at Triple-A Salt Lake and threw five innings in the Majors. But he didn't pitch last season because of an arm injury that he suffered in Spring Training, and it doesn't seem very likely he'll do it again in '21. He's expected to be the club's regular first baseman, and the new position-player pitching rules limit when he could be utilized.