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Angels built to contend following big offseason

@RhettBollinger
February 12, 2020

ANAHEIM -- With the intention of making their first postseason berth since 2014, the Angels were aggressive throughout the offseason, making several major moves, including hiring Joe Maddon as manager and signing Anthony Rendon to a seven-year deal. It’s become clear the Angels should have one of the better offenses

ANAHEIM -- With the intention of making their first postseason berth since 2014, the Angels were aggressive throughout the offseason, making several major moves, including hiring Joe Maddon as manager and signing Anthony Rendon to a seven-year deal.

It’s become clear the Angels should have one of the better offenses in the American League to go along with above-average team defense, but the big question this spring and this season is -- do the Angels have enough starting pitching to get to the playoffs for just the second time since superstar Mike Trout joined the roster? Angels fans have endured a long wait for postseason success as their last playoff win came more than a decade ago in 2009.

Angels starters combined for the second-worst ERA in the Majors last year and the club used openers many times throughout last season in an attempt to give their starters a better chance at success. The one benefit was that several youngsters such as Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, José Suarez and Jaime Barria received Major League experience, but it was clear to general manager Billy Eppler that the rotation was due for an overhaul this offseason.

The Angels went after the top free agent starters available such as Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Zack Wheeler only to see them elsewhere, they instead signed Rendon to his mega-deal worth $245 million during the Winter Meetings. The Angels could’ve used that money on more pitching with starters such as Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel available at the time but they felt Rendon was too good to pass up as a long-term pairing with Trout.

They had already acquired right-hander Dylan Bundy in a trade with the Orioles in early December and later in the month signed right-hander Julio Teheran to a one-year deal. Stripling will be the final piece added to the rotation.

So the Angels did improve their depth but didn’t add a frontline starter to join two-way star Shohei Ohtani atop the rotation. Ohtani also won't be ready to pitch at the start of the season after completing his Tommy John rehab in December, and once he’s healthy he’ll pitch once a week.

It’ll force Maddon to get creative with the rotation once Ohtani is ready to pitch, as he could pitch only on a designated day of the week like his rookie year when he pitched on Sundays. The Angels will then need to lean on their depth as they build the rotation around Ohtani.

After Ohtani, the Angels now have five starters in veteran Andrew Heaney, Teheran, Stripling, Bundy and Canning. Teheran and Bundy have been innings-eaters in recent years, which is important given that Heaney and Stripling have had durability concerns and Canning is coming off a rookie season that ended with elbow inflammation.

The club also has some depth beyond that group with Matt Andriese, Dillon Peters, Félix Peña, Sandoval, Barria and Suarez all in the mix. Having starters who can be optioned freely to the Minors will be key, as there could be spot starts needed given the way the rotation will be structured around Ohtani.

This should be an improved rotation but there are still plenty of question marks, as it doesn’t stack among the best in the AL and there’s no true ace beyond Ohtani. But the infield defense that includes shortstop Andrelton Simmons, second baseman David Fletcher and Rendon should be top-notch, while Trout remains an above-average defender in center.

The Angels, though, could be headed into a season where they’ll need to win some slugfests with their powerful offense, as their starting pitching is better but remains their weakest link. So it’ll be up to the new additions to prove their worth and not flop like last year with the club’s failed signings of Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.