3 questions Angels hope to sort out in new year

December 27th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger's Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- The Angels have been active in improving their depth this offseason, signing left-hander Tyler Anderson, potential closer Carlos Estévez and utility man Brandon Drury to multiyear deals, while also adding infielder Gio Urshela and outfielder Hunter Renfroe via trades.

One of the club’s biggest issues last season was not having enough depth, especially when key players such as Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Taylor Ward, David Fletcher and Jared Walsh sustained injuries. So general manager Perry Minasian made it a goal to add quality veterans to the roster, and he was able to do that early in the offseason. On Dec. 22, he added Drury.

Even after the Drury signing, the Angels aren't necessarily done improving the roster. They’re still looking to add to their rotation and bullpen this offseason, and they could also be in the market for a catcher.

There’s still plenty to sort out before Spring Training, so here are three questions facing the Angels next year:

1. What is the middle infield going to look like?
Drury, whose two-year deal is worth $17 million, appears likely to see most of his time at second base. That means that Luis Rengifo and Fletcher are likely to split time at shortstop, with Andrew Velazquez and Livan Soto also in that mix. Urshela could see some limited time in the middle infield, although he’s more likely to play both corner spots based on matchups and to give regulars Rendon and Walsh a break. Rendon and Walsh are both coming off injury-plagued seasons, although they’re both expected to be fully healthy heading into Spring Training. The Angels also signed veteran corner infielder Jake Lamb to a Minor League deal to further increase their infield depth.

The club lacks a true everyday shortstop, but it appears likely it will mix and match in the infield this season with the quality veterans it has added.

2. Who will be the sixth starter?
The Angels have five starters with guaranteed spots in the rotation after signing Anderson, as he joins Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers and José Suarez. But the Halos are going to go with a six-man rotation again this year, with some shuffling to keep Ohtani pitching every sixth day in an effort to get him a few more starts this season. The Angels could sign a veteran in free agency or swing a trade, but they also have several internal options. Right-handers Griffin Canning and Chris Rodriguez are both coming off injuries that kept them out of action in 2022, but they are expected to be healthy in time for Spring Training and could be intriguing options. Other candidates include Chase Silseth, Tucker Davidson and Jaime Barría, while Los Angeles also has several prospects considered close to the Majors, such as Davis Daniel, Ky Bush and Sam Bachman.

Adding a veteran to bring some stability to that group would make some sense, however, even if it’s a starter on a one-year deal -- much like they did last year with Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen.

3. Who will be the closer?
Estévez is the favorite to serve as closer, as he has some experience in that role with the Rockies (25 career saves, including 11 in 2021). It’ll be intriguing to see how his stuff plays away from the altitude at Coors Field, as he’s been a much more effective pitcher on the road throughout his career. He’s tougher on righties than lefties, however, so the Angels could use matchups in the ninth inning, deploying lefties Aaron Loup and José Quijada when needed. Right-handers Jimmy Herget and Ryan Tepera also have limited closing experience and could fill that role when necessary.

Estévez, though, still has to win and then keep the job, so nothing is guaranteed just yet. There’s also still a chance the Angels could acquire a veteran closer, although signing Estévez made that less likely.