Angels agree to one-year deal with RHP Plesac

January 6th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- The Angels added some starting rotation depth Saturday by agreeing to terms with veteran right-hander on a one-year deal for $1 million.

Plesac, 28, is coming off a bumpy season with the Guardians, as he posted a 7.59 ERA with 15 strikeouts and five walks in 21 1/3 innings. He also had a 6.08 ERA with 71 strikeouts and 43 walks in 94 2/3 innings with Triple-A Columbus and was outrighted off the 40-man roster in June. Plesac, though, fared better in his first four seasons in Cleveland from 2019-2022, going 25-26 with a 4.04 ERA, 345 strikeouts and 118 walks in 445 1/3 innings.

“What he's done in the past, obviously '23 wasn't ideal for him and he'll be the first to tell you that, but he was productive in '22 and '21 and has been a productive pitcher throughout his Major League career,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said. “He’s made a significant amount of starts and could also help us in the bullpen.”

Plesac's best year was the shortened 2020 season, which saw him post a 2.28 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings. The Angels are counting on a bounce-back year from Plesac, who has solid control and is a terrific fielder. He also added a splitter to his mix this offseason and worked with a psychologist to channel himself better while on the mound. 

“This is just a new opportunity, a fresh start,” Plesac said. “I think it's just a great opportunity to change the narrative. I got off to a great start, and as things unfolded later in my career, I wouldn't say they went negatively, it was more of a roller coaster that goes up and down. And I'm looking for more of a consistent upward trend.”

Plesac adds depth to a rotation that includes Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers, Tyler Anderson, Chase Silseth, Griffin Canning and José Suarez, but he could also be used in long relief. The Angels are expected to pivot to a five-man rotation after using a six-man rotation to accommodate two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, who signed with the Dodgers earlier this month.

Losing Ohtani is a big blow for the Angels, but they still plan to try to contend in 2024 and have signed relievers Luis Garcia, Adam Kolarek and Adam Cimber to one-year deals, while also trading for first baseman Evan White and reliever Tyler Thomas from the Braves. Kolarek, however, was outrighted to Triple-A Salt Lake to make room for Plesac on the roster.

The Angels, however, have yet to make a big splash to attempt the unenviable task of replacing Ohtani. They remain roughly $70 million under the first competitive balance tax threshold, so they have money to spend if they want to get near or go above that mark. Historically, they get close to that mark and went above it at the Trade Deadline, only to get back under it in late August after losing several veterans to waivers.

The Halos still could go after a top starting pitcher such as lefty Blake Snell and can’t be ruled out on a slugger such as Cody Bellinger. Adding a bat-first player would also make sense to try to replace some of Ohtani’s production at designated hitter. Minasian, though, wouldn’t say where the payroll will end up and wouldn’t discuss the club’s interest in specific players.

“I'm not going to discuss specific free agents, but I think from a market standpoint, there are a lot of players out there,” Minasian said. “And we're sitting here in early January with a lot of different options to help this club improve in a lot of different areas.”

Just because the Angels are signing Plesac doesn’t mean they can’t continue to add to their starting pitching mix. Acquiring relief help is also a priority, as the Halos want to revamp their pitching staff heading into next year under new pitching coach Barry Enright and bullpen coach Steve Karsay.

“There's areas where we can definitely improve, and we'll look to do that,” Minasian said. “It's been one of those offseasons where I think from a market standpoint, it's been a little slower than some of the offseasons I've had in the past. With that being said, there's still a ton of players out there, guys that can help this team, make this team better and that we'll continue to talk to and explore.”