5 key questions facing the Angels this winter

October 11th, 2021

It’s been the same story for the Angels for nearly a decade, as a lack of quality pitching has continued to be their biggest issue and is a major reason why they’ve suffered through six straight losing seasons.

Angels general manager Perry Minasian said on Oct. 4 that "pitching is always going to be a priority," but now it’s on Minasian and the front office to follow through and improve the roster this offseason. The Halos have star players such as Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon, but the front office must build around those players and improve their depth.

Every offseason is an important one, but this one feels more significant, as the Angels have several big questions looming. With that in mind, here’s a look at five of them:

1. Will the Angels acquire top-tier starting pitching?
There are some big pitching names in this year's free agent class, such as Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Marcus Stroman, Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman and Carlos Rodón, but the list quickly drops off. Will the Angels be able to sign one or more of those players this offseason? Or will they go the trade route? Minasian hasn’t been afraid to make trades early in his tenure, as that’s how he acquired players such as Raisel Iglesias, Alex Cobb, José Iglesias and Dexter Fowler last offseason.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of starting pitchers will be available via trade this offseason and whether the Angels would part with one of their young outfielders such as Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell or Jordyn Adams. Marsh and Adell appear likely to be part of the club’s future, but Adams, ranked as the club’s No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline, could be an attractive trade piece. The Angels need to acquire at least two starters this winter, and possibly three, so Minasian has a lot of work on his hands to improve a six-man rotation that’s expected to include Ohtani, José Suarez and Patrick Sandoval.

2. Will Raisel Iglesias and Alex Cobb be re-signed?
Iglesias was one of the best closers in baseball in 2021 and is a major reason why the Angels were 66-0 when leading after eight innings. But he’s set to be a free agent and will command a multi-year deal this offseason. Iglesias, 31, has a long track record of success, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a three-year deal worth more than $15 million annually. The Halos have a lot of needs, but he’s a lockdown closer and the club doesn’t have an obvious in-house solution.

Cobb, 34, dealt with injuries that limited him to 18 starts and 93 1/3 innings. He was effective in those innings, posting a 3.76 ERA and giving up just five homers all season. He’s indicated that he’d be open to returning and it would make some sense to bring back the veteran, possibly on an incentive-laden deal. But the Angels will need to add two durable starters in addition to Cobb if they are serious about competing in 2022.

3. What will the Angels do to improve at shortstop?
The club’s trade for José Iglesias turned out to be a flop, and now they must address the position again this winter. They could go internally with a combination of Luis Rengifo and Jack Mayfield -- or could even move second baseman David Fletcher over to shortstop -- but they seem likely to add a veteran shortstop. Signing a top shortstop such as Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Corey Seager or Javier Báez doesn’t appear as likely, as the club is expected to divert more resources to improving the pitching.

4. How much are the Angels willing to spend?
Minasian hasn’t said publicly what the budget will look like this offseason, other than saying that owner Arte Moreno wants to win. The Angels had a payroll of roughly $180 million this past season, and they have Albert Pujols’ deal coming off the books. Even after arbitration raises, the Halos would have about $50 million to spend this offseason if they keep the payroll roughly the same as last year. But it’s unknown if they are willing to go past that threshold.

5. Will Shohei Ohtani agree to an extension?
Ohtani is expected to be the 2021 American League MVP after an incredible two-way season and remains under team control for two more years. The Angels are expected to try to sign him to an extension, much like they did with Trout in 2019, two years before his deal was set to expire. Ohtani said he’d be “very open” to a contract extension, but he seems likely to wait it out until late in the offseason to make his decision. There’s still time to come to an agreement with Ohtani, so it’ll be interesting to see what he decides to do.