ANAHEIM -- It was just a dinner in New York City between three people, but it helped change the course of the offseason for the Angels, who found their first critical piece to improving their pitching staff heading into 2022.
Angels general manager Perry Minasian flew to New York to meet with right-hander Noah Syndergaard and his agent, and they ended up having a three-hour dinner with Minasian laying out his plans for Syndergaard for next season. Syndergaard, who has been limited to just two innings over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery, had multiple suitors, including a few clubs who offered multi-year deals, but he believed the Angels were his best fit and signed a one-year deal worth $21 million that became official on Tuesday.
"It was a no-brainer once I had that sitdown meeting with Perry,” Syndergaard said Friday. “He had a really in-depth plan of attack to get me back to where I was in 2015, '16 and '18. Not pitching for two years, he had a great game plan that I'm 100% confident in that's gonna keep me healthy and allow me to flourish and blossom to my true potential."
The idea of pitching in a six-man rotation appealed to Syndergaard, as it’ll help keep his innings total at a manageable level in his first full season back from his elbow surgery. The Angels utilize the six-man rotation to make room for two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who stayed mostly healthy throughout the 2021 season while making 23 starts and throwing 130 1/3 innings.
Syndergaard said his innings total will be limited next season, but he didn’t have a total in mind just yet. But he said more than anything, he was impressed by Minasian’s preparation and knowledge of pitching. The Angels were also the first team to reach out to him this offseason, which showed how much they were interested in him. And they were also willing to lose a Draft pick after the Mets offered Syndergaard the $18.4 million qualifying offer, which he declined.
“From that dinner, I got a sense of his passion and desire to win, and it got me really fired up,” Syndergaard said. “And just being able to talk pitching mechanics with the guy, I don’t really know too many GMs I trust about that. But it was a just breath of fresh air to just hear his baseball knowledge. He was able to break down some of the flaws from the last couple years when I came back.”
Syndergaard, 29, had a 3.32 ERA in six seasons with the Mets and he said it was the toughest decision of his career to leave New York. But with the Mets conducting a general manager search that concluded on Thursday, when they hired former Angels GM Billy Eppler, Syndergaard gravitated toward the Angels given their aggressiveness about bringing him in to help lead the rotation with Ohtani.
Syndergaard said he believes the Angels are ready to compete and he is excited to join a core that includes fellow stars, such as Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Jared Walsh and Ohtani.
“I think if I can get back to my old self, I can form a 1-2 punch with myself and Shohei,” Syndergaard said. “With all the young talent the Angels have, I think we can really make a run at this. When you think of the Angels, you think of the booming offense. They have some of the most exciting players in the game in Mike Trout, Shohei, Anthony Rendon, Jared Walsh. I think just some of their missing pieces was starting pitching, and I just hope I can fill that role."
For now, Syndergaard said he’s already looking at places to live in Orange County and he expects to have a normal offseason training-wise, as he’s completed his rehab from Tommy John surgery. He knows he has a lot to prove next season, but he said he took the one-year deal because he wants to bet on himself going forward.
“Right now, I’m 100%,” Syndergaard said. “Rehab is officially over. So it’s time to get to business.”