ANAHEIM -- Spring Training is right around the corner with Angels pitchers and catchers reporting to Tempe Diablo Stadium on Tuesday, and the first full-squad workouts set for Feb. 22.
Angels general manager Perry Minasian held court with reporters via Zoom on Thursday, discussing a wide variety of topics heading into camp.
But the Halos still have a few question marks this spring, so here are three things I’m thinking with camp only a few days away.
1) It’s not too late to add more pitching
Minasian wouldn’t rule out acquiring more pitching before the start of the season, and it would make sense for the Angels to continue to add depth. With the change from a 60-game season last year to a full 162 games this year, clubs are going to need as much pitching as they can get, as starters are likely to get more rest than usual with clubs monitoring their workloads.
Adding another starter is tempting, even though the Angels currently have a six-man rotation that includes Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning, José Quintana, Alex Cobb and Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani, of course, is the wild card and is expected to pitch once a week but needs to prove he can stay healthy. Beyond that group, the club has younger pitchers such as Jaime Barria, Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers, Chris Rodriguez and José Suarez. Notably, Barria is out of options and must remain on the active roster this season or risk being exposed to waivers.
If the Angels acquire another veteran starter, it could be difficult to slot that pitcher into the rotation, but it can be done with some creativity. The club also is roughly $15 million under the Competitive Balance Tax, so there is some wiggle room.
Adding relief help might make more sense, as the bullpen is essentially being completely remade after non-tendering five relievers. The club traded for closer Raisel Iglesias and right-hander Aaron Slegers and signed lefty Alex Claudio, but there’s still room for another reliever to join that group, so it’ll be worth monitoring what Minasian decides to do before the start of the season. He could also decide to wait until the Trade Deadline to acquire more pitching as well.
2) There will be competition for backup outfield spots
Minasian has been adding pieces to the outfield to build around veterans Mike Trout and Justin Upton, with Jo Adell needing more seasoning at Triple-A. The Angels notably traded for Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler, who is expected to be the club’s starting right fielder and can also spell Trout in center field.
Beyond Fowler, Taylor Ward will need to compete for a spot on the roster after the Angels signed two veterans to Minor League deals in Juan Lagares and Jon Jay. Lagares, 32, had several strong years with the Mets, including winning a Gold Glove as a center fielder in 2014, while Jay, 35, is known for his tenure with the Cardinals but also played for manager Joe Maddon with the Cubs in '17. Ward is coming off a breakout 2020 season but won't be handed the extra outfielder job, as Lagares and Jay will both get strong considerations this spring. That kind of competition is a good thing for the Angels, who are trying to make their positional depth stronger.
3) Ohtani will be worth monitoring this spring
The Angels announced a two-year deal worth $8.5 million with Ohtani on Tuesday, and Minasian and Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, said Ohtani is fully healthy after last season’s right elbow/forearm injury that caused him to make just two starts on the mound. Ohtani will return to two-way status in 2021.
Minasian wouldn’t get into detail on exactly how the club plans to use Ohtani as a pitcher and a designated hitter this season, as it’s something the Angels plan to discuss more in Spring Training. It’s likely to be similar to the past with Ohtani pitching once a week, but we’ll find out more in the coming weeks. It’ll also be interesting to see how Ohtani fares while pitching, as he struggled with his command even before sustaining his injury and will have to prove he can be healthy and effective as a starting pitcher. Otherwise, Ohtani could be moved to a full-time position player. Signing that deal and avoiding arbitration was a good thing for both sides, and now Ohtani can simply focus on getting back on track as a two-way star.