Angels and closer Raisel Iglesias agree to terms on four-year, $58-million contract
From the start of the offseason, Angels general manager Perry Minasian made one winter objective repeatedly clear.
The Angels wanted closer Raisel Iglesias back next season.
Turns out, the right-hander could be in Anaheim for a lot longer than that.
On the eve of a likely lockout, the Angels and Iglesias agreed on a four-year contract worth $58 million.
The club made the announcement official on Wednesday night, announcing that the deal will pay Iglesias $10 million in 2022 and $16 million the following three years — a backloaded structure that will preserve extra financial flexibility for the Angels this offseason.
The signing puts the Angels’ projected payroll for next season at just over $172 million, including estimates for arbitration and pre-arbitration players, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That total is about $10 million shy of the Angels’ opening day payroll from last year (though Minasian has indicated the team may be able to surpass that amount).
Iglesias was a revelation last season for an Angels team that desperately needed a closer. After being acquired in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, Iglesias converted 34 of 39 save opportunities while posting a 2.57 earned-run average, striking out 103 batters and walking only 12.
He regularly pitched more than one inning. He mastered a devastating mix of upper-90s fastballs, sliders, changeups and sinkers. And, in his contract year, he emerged as one of the best closers in all of baseball.
That made him an attractive commodity on the free-agent market, which he decided to explore instead of accepting a one-year, $18.4-million qualifying offer from the Angels.
But in the end, Iglesias and the Angels were able to strike a deal — one the sides will have to hurry to finalize if it is to become official before the league’s collective bargaining agreement expires on Wednesday night, which will likely trigger a lockout that would halt all free-agency activity.
Iglesias, who turns 32 in January, began his career with the Reds as a starter before being shifted to the bullpen in 2016. Over the next five seasons, he racked up a 2.85 ERA and 106 saves in Cincinnati, successfully transitioning his varied repertoire to the tail end of games.
The Angels got him in a steal last December, taking advantage of the Reds’ desire to slash payroll in a deal that saw the Angels also get cash considerations in exchange for reliever Noé Ramirez (whom the Reds later released before the start of the season) and a player to be named later.
Keeping Iglesias long term was always going to be more costly. Even though the $18.4-million qualifying offer would have represented the biggest single-season salary for a reliever in MLB history, a longer-term deal offered Iglesias, who was considered the top reliever available this offseason, the chance to secure more guaranteed money.
In 2019, Craig Kimbrel got a three-year, $43-million deal with the Chicago Cubs. Ahead of the 2020 season, Will Smith got a three-year, $39-million deal with the Atlanta Braves. And last offseason, Liam Hendriks signed a three-year deal with the Chicago White Sox (with an option for a fourth) worth $54 million guaranteed.
Iglesias’ new deal, which will be worth $14.5 million annually, would be right in line with all of those. His performance in 2021 warranted it. And there was never a moment the Angels weren’t interested in securing his return.
Aaron Loup excited about opportunity with Angels: ‘It just seemed to be a good fit.’
Aaron Loup had been used to waiting during the winter.
His first time as a free agent in 2019, the left-handed reliever didn’t sign with the San Diego Padres until mid-February.
After missing most of that season with an elbow injury, he didn’t sign with a team for 2020 until getting a minor-league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays days before spring training.
Even after entering last offseason coming off a strong performance in the pandemic-shortened campaign, it wasn’t until the last week of January that he struck a deal with the New York Mets for 2021.
So, when Loup was flooded with early offers this offseason, it made the whole process feel different — a tangible side effect of his emergence as one of the game’s better relievers over the last couple years.
“It’s always typically been later, I’ve always been one of the last guys to go,” he said. “So it’s a nice change of pace to be one of the first guys, to get a deal done early.”
That deal was a two-year, $17-million contract Loup signed with the Angels last week, the first multi-year contract the team had given to a free-agent pitcher since 2013.
The Angels’ offer, which will pay Loup $7.5 million the next two seasons and includes a team option for a third season, wasn’t the only one the soon-to-be 34-year-old fielded after leading all MLB relievers last season with a 0.95 earned-run average.
But it was the one that enticed him the most, leading to an early-offseason signing that the reliever discussed with reporters for the first time Tuesday.
“Over the past few free-agent years for me, they’ve always been a team interested and always been one I’ve had my eye on,” Loup said with a Southern draw and wide smile during a video conference. “It just ended up this year working out to where we were able to get a deal done.”
Loup will be tasked with helping an Angels bullpen that last year ranked 24th in ERA (4.59) and struggled to find consistent middle relief options to place in front of closer Raisel Iglesias (a free agent the Angels remain hopeful of re-signing this winter).
Loup said his exact role in Anaheim remains undetermined, but that he’s open to everything from starting games to closing them — though he’d seemingly be best suited as a set-up option who could face left-handed heavy portions of opposing lineups.
“I’ve never been one to really need a role, per se,” Loup said. “I’ve always been a guy, just give me the ball whenever you need me.”
A side-arm southpaw, Loup’s career began decently during a seven-season stint with the Toronto Blue Jays before being derailed by a forearm injury late in 2018 and the elbow injury in 2019 that limited him to just four appearances.
Loup said that time away from the mound allowed him to “hit a mental reset and figure out what I actually enjoy with the game of baseball.” That, coupled with better health and MLB’s new three-batter minimum rule that gave him opportunities to be more than just a lefty specialist, has helped Loup flourish over the last two seasons.
In 2020, he posted a 2.52 ERA while helping the Rays reach the World Series. In New York last year, he became the first pitcher since Blake Treinen in 2018 to have a sub-1.00 ERA over more than 60 appearances. He also struck out 57 batters (his most since 2017) and walked only 16, a better ratio than any Angels reliever (minimum 20 appearances) last year other than Iglesias.
Another strength Loup showcased in 2021: His ability to pitch to batters on either side of the plate. While he was better against lefties, surrendering a .167 batting average and .440 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, righties still only hit .211 against him with a .547 OPS.
“[I got] the chance to showcase my abilities and what I always knew I could do,” he said. “Just needed the chance to do it.”
It set him up for an offseason unlike any he’d experienced before.
Loup was one of the first targets pursued by teams, not the last. Once accustomed to only short-term deals, he suddenly had a pick of multi-year offers. Angels general manager Perry Minasian, who had crossed paths with Loup previously during his time in the Blue Jays front office, said he even heard the pitcher had three-year deals on the table from other teams.
But in the end, it was the opportunity with the Angels that appealed to Loup the most.
“I like what the Angels have,” he said. “They’ve always had a ton of offense. And I feel like they’ve always needed a little bit of pitching. Hopefully I can be a big part of that answer. It just seemed to be a good fit.”
Angels agree to deal with pitcher Michael Lorenzen, plan to use him as a starter
The Angels’ pursuit of pitching continued on what was a hectic Sunday around baseball, with the looming potential for a work stoppage seemingly accelerating free agency activity.
Their day just didn’t include one of the big-name free agents who picked new teams.
Instead, the Angels reached an agreement with right-hander Michael Lorenzen that they announced was for one year and $6.75 million.
Noah Syndergaard came away from a three-hour dinner with Perry Minasian impressed with the Angels general manager’s baseball knowledge.
Lorenzen, 29, is an Anaheim native and Cal State Fullerton product who amassed a 4.07 earned-run average over the first seven years of his career with the Cincinnati Reds. After starting 21 games in 2015, he was used in a relief role in Cincinnati ever since.
However, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed that the Angels are planning to use Lorenzen as a starter next season, hopeful he can help fill out the team’s rotation.
Lorenzen wasn’t the only starting pitcher the agents pursued Sunday.
The team was also linked with several top-of-the-rotation options, including Max Scherzer, Kevin Gausman and Jon Gray. But Gray agreed to a four-year, $56-million deal with the Texas Rangers, Gausman got $110 million over five years from the Toronto Blue Jays, and Scherzer is seemingly close to a deal with the New York Mets, who reportedly offered him about $42 million annually.
Other pitchers the Angels have been rumored to have interest in, including American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and former Mets right-hander Marcus Stroman, remain on the market.
Lorenzen, meanwhile, could help address a different need for the Angels — providing more veteran depth on a staff that had to use 40 pitchers last season, including 17 different starters.
Lorenzen will be trying to bounce back from his own difficulties in 2021, when he missed the first half of the season because of a shoulder injury before posting a career-worst 5.59 ERA in just 27 appearances, all in relief.
It was the second straight season his statistics regressed following a career-best campaign in 2019, when he posted a 2.92 ERA and struck out 85 batters in 83 ⅓ innings.
With the Angels, the biggest question for Lorenzen revolves around whether he will be able to emerge as a dependable starter next season.
While Lorenzen struggled in his only season spent primarily as a starter in 2015, when he posted a 5.40 ERA as a rookie, and has started just five games since then, he has maintained his desire to return to such a role and was set to open last season back in the Reds’ rotation before getting hurt.
He has a starter’s arsenal too, with a varied repertoire that features an upper-90s fastball, cutter, changeup, slider, curveball and sinker.
The Reds occasionally used Lorenzen as a part-time two-way player, as well, giving him 34 appearances in the outfield over the last four seasons. In 147 career plate appearances as a hitter, he has a .233 average, .710 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and seven home runs.
But the Angels’ real need is on the mound, especially in an expected six-man rotation that currently has only Noah Syndergaard, Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval and José Suarez penciled in.
If all goes well, Lorenzen could add depth to that group. But for a team that is still clearly interested in also bringing in a proven ace, the hunt for more pitching this winter still seems yet to be complete.
Angels reportedly planning to hire Phil Nevin as third base coach
After recently interviewing Phil Nevin, the Angels are reportedly planning to hire the former New York Yankees third base coach for the same role, in what would be the team’s first coaching addition this offseason.
On Saturday, a report by Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic said the Angels were planning to hire Nevin to one of the three open positions on the coaching staff.
Nevin recently interviewed with the team, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, but the team has not yet made any official announcement about any hiring.
Nevin, 50, was born in Fullerton and is a product of Cal State Fullerton and Placentia El Dorado High. The one-time All-Star played 12 seasons in the majors — including one with the Angels in 1998 and seven with the San Diego Padres from 1999 to 2005 — and batted .270 with 208 home runs in his career before retiring after the 2006 season.
Noah Syndergaard came away from a three-hour dinner with Perry Minasian impressed with the Angels general manager’s baseball knowledge.
His coaching career began with an independent league team in Orange County in 2008. In 2010, he became a minor league manager in the Detroit Tigers system. And in 2017, he got his first major league coaching job as the third base coach for the San Francisco Giants.
He was hired by the Yankees four seasons ago but didn’t have his contract renewed at the end of this past year.
Last season, Brian Butterfield was the Angels’ third base coach and infield coach. He was not retained for the 2022 season, along with first base coach Bruce Hines and catching coach Jose Molina.
After the Angels parted ways with those coaches, general manager Perry Minasian said the team was “looking for a different fit” in the roles.
On Tuesday, Minasian said recent signings of Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Loup had to be completed before the coach hiring process, but added that the team would have news regarding their staff “in the very, very near future.”
In addition to Nevin, the team has reportedly talked with San Diego Padres first base coach Wayne Kirby about filling the same role in Anaheim.
Three takeaways after the Aaron Loup signing: Evaluating the payroll, bullpen and more
The Angels haven’t waited long to make major moves this offseason.
After signing starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard last week, the team bolstered its bullpen with the addition of reliever Aaron Loup on Monday to a two-year, $17-million contract, making the Angels one of baseball’s most active clubs so far this winter.
“I’m aggressive by nature, to a certain extent,” general manager Perry Minasian said during a Tuesday video call with reporters. “We’ve probably been one of the more aggressive teams early on.”
As a result, the Angels have two notable new pieces, and also some intriguing questions to answer as the rest of the offseason progresses.
In the wake of Loup’s signing, here are three takeaways about where the Angels stand.
Payroll keeps rising
With the recent signings of Loup and Syndergaard, the Angels now have about $159 million committed for next season (including estimates for arbitration and pre-arbitration players, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts).
While last year’s payroll was about $182 million, the largest in club history, conventional wisdom would suggest that the Angels might need to exceed that total in order to accomplish the rest of their offseason goals — which include re-signing free agent closer Raisel Iglesias (or paying for a potential replacement if he goes elsewhere) and adding, as Minasian put it, more “impactful” and “depth” arms to the pitching staff.
Another starter seems like the most obvious need. Big names such as Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman all remain available. So do some less expensive options, including Steven Matz, whom the Angels have been linked to in recent media reports.
Yet, when asked whether it’s safe to assume the Angels’ payroll will definitely increase next season, Minasian remained noncommittal, reiterating the standard answer he’s given all offseason.
“Again, it sounds like a broken record,” he said, before adding, “but we have an ownership group that wants to compete and wants to win. I would not rule anything out.”
So far, that’s been true. The Angels gave Syndergaard the highest single-season salary for a pitcher in franchise history, then handed Loup their first multiyear contract to a free agent pitcher since 2013.
But as the budget gets tighter and more expensive potential pitching targets begin to field their final offers, the team will have to decide how far it’s willing to go in its bid to build a contender this winter — and whether that means setting a new club payroll record in 2022.
Loup set for high-leverage role
Minasian didn’t specify exactly how the Angels might deploy Loup, who last season led big league relievers with an 0.95 ERA, but confirmed the left-hander will see plenty of “high-leverage, big spots” out of the Angels bullpen.
“Aaron can do a lot of different things,” Minasian said. “He’s one of those guys that has no ego. He’ll pitch in the sixth, he’ll pitch in the eighth, he’ll pitch in the third if you want him to. I think it gives Joe [Maddon, Angels manager] the ability to use a really productive piece in big moments of games.”
Loup’s biggest strengths, Minasian said, are his ability to limit hard contact (last year, he ranked above the league average in average exit velocity against and hard hit percentage, and gave up only one home run in 65 appearances) and retire batters on either side of the plate (he’s better against lefties, but right-handed hitters last year still only batted .211 with a .547 on-base-plus-slugging percentage).
He will headline a middle relief group that will also likely feature several returning options, whom Minasian highlighted on Tuesday, including José Quijada, Austin Warren, Andrew Wantz, Jimmy Herget and Mike Mayers.
The Angels might not be done adding relievers either, with Minasian noting that the team will continue to “try to add to this bullpen.”
He added: “Your bullpen is an everyday player. Very rarely do you not see it perform on an everyday basis. So that’s an area where we’d like to be as strong as we can be. We’ll continue to look to add quality arms.”
Options at closer
The Angels are still trying to prevent the loss of an important bullpen piece, too.
Minasian made it clear once again that re-signing Igleisas is a priority for the team, and that the club remains in contact with the right-hander’s representatives.
“[Signing Loup] does not preclude us from Raisel in any means,” Minasian said.
Still, Iglesias is considered the top free agent reliever on the market, putting him in line for a multiyear contract potentially worth around $15 million annually.
After Iglesias racked up 34 saves last year with a 2.57 ERA, the Angels could face a lot of competition to bring him back to Anaheim.
And in the event Iglesias doesn’t come back, the team will have a big hole to fill at the back end of its bullpen.
Minasian didn’t reveal much about potential fall-back plans for a closer on Tuesday.
While Loup, who only has six career saves, wasn’t signed to be the Angels’ closer, Minasian said he could be one backup option. The GM noted the team could explore other alternatives as well.
“Do I believe Aaron Loup, if given the opportunity, could perform in the ninth inning? Yes,” Minasian said. “I think he throws strikes, I think he keeps the ball in the ballpark, I think he has an ability to put the ball on the ground. There’s a lot of things there that translate to getting out late in games.
“But with that being said, Raisel is a guy we really like, we would love to bring back. And there’s obviously other options out there that have had more experience closing that we’ll take a look at.”
Angels sign reliever Aaron Loup to two-year, $17-million contract
After inking Noah Syndergaard last week, Angels general manager Perry Minasian said the team was still pursuing more additions to the pitching staff.
It only took until Monday for another arrival to be announced.
The Angels signed left-handed reliever Aaron Loup to a two-year contract that includes $17 million guaranteed and a club option for a third season, the first multiyear contract the franchise has given to a free-agent pitcher in close to a decade.
Loup will make $7.5 million next season and $7.5 million in 2023. In 2024, he has a club option for $7.5 million or a $2-million buyout.
Loup becomes the Angels’ first big move in the bullpen this offseason, giving them a 10-year veteran who last season was one of the best relievers in the sport.
In 56 2/3 innings with the New York Mets, Loup led all major-league relievers with a 0.95 ERA (min 50 innings). He struck out 57 batters, walked only 16 and surrendered an impressive .192 batting average and .501 on-base-plus-slugging percentage to opponents.
It was the best season of what has been a steady career for the southpaw, who turns 34 next month. In more than 400 career innings, Loup has a 3.05 ERA.
Loup also has a past connection with Minasian. Like Syndergaard, Loup was with the Toronto Blue Jays during Minasian’s tenure in their front office. Loup was drafted by the Blue Jays in the ninth round in 2009, then spent the first seven years of his big-league career there before subsequent one-year stops with the Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays and Mets.
After his dominant 2021 performance, Loup became the first free-agent pitcher to receive a multiyear contract from the Angels since Joe Smith in 2013.
Loup’s signing raises the Angels’ projected payroll for 2022 to about $159 million (including estimates for arbitration and pre-arbitration players, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts), still $23 million shy of their opening day payroll from last season. Minasian has also left open the possibility that the Angels could surpass last year’s total this offseason.
While the Angels could benefit from adding another starting pitcher, another of their big remaining questions this winter is whether or not they will re-sign free agent closer Raisel Iglesias, considered the best reliever available on the market.
While the Angels have publicly expressed interest in bringing back Iglesias, it could be expensive. In past years, top free agent relievers have fetched multi-year contracts worth close to $15 million in annual average value.
But after Monday’s news, the Angels know they will at least have one proven veteran arm in their bullpen next season. It’s still only the first official month of the offseason. But so far, their promise to dedicate most of their available resources to pitching is coming true.
- In a corresponding move, the Angels designated left-handed pitcher Hector Yan for assignment. Yan appeared in the MLB Futures Game this year, but struggled to find his velocity in spring training and posted a 5.25 ERA in 20 outings in Class High-A.
- The Angels added some depth in their lineup as well on Monday, acquiring utility man Tyler Wade in a trade with the New York Yankees for cash considerations or a player to be named later. Wade batted .268 last season and played six different positions defensively. The Murrieta native also had 17 stolen bases. Infielder Kean Wong was designated for assignment in a corresponding move.
‘A good gamble to take:’ Angels GM Perry Minasian optimistic about Noah Syndergaard’s upside
Perry Minasian didn’t shy away from the fact the Angels are taking a risk by paying $21 million to a pitcher who has thrown only two innings the previous two seasons in the wake of Tommy John surgery.
But Tuesday’s signing of Noah Syndergaard, the Angels general manager insisted, was “a good gamble to take” as the team tries to build a contender in 2022.
Speaking to reporters via video call Wednesday night about the one-year deal the team struck with the 29-year-old right-hander, Minasian asserted his belief Syndergaard will be able rediscover his old form with the Angels next season — the kind that made him an All-Star and one of the game’s best young pitchers early in his career.
“I think it’s huge upside,” Minasian said. “When he’s right, he’s one of the better pitchers in the game. He’s one of those guys that, you want to give him the ball in big spots. His postseason history will tell you that. On top of that, the aggressiveness he pitches with, the moxie, whatever you want to call it, I think complements our rotation really well. It’s something we want to improve. He definitely provides that.”
Indeed, Syndergaard’s history offers reasons for hope.
In his first four seasons from 2015 to 2018, the New York Mets ace had a 2.93 ERA and pitched more than 150 innings three times. His fielding-independent-pitching — a stat similar to ERA that isolates pitchers’ performances from defense and batted ball luck — was a sterling 2.66. And he racked up nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
But then he suffered a career-worst 4.28 ERA in 2019, underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020 and returned only at the end of last season for a pair of one-inning starts.
“Obviously there is risk,” Minasian said. “We’re well-aware of that.”
Nonetheless, Minasian said the Angels are confident in what Syndergaard will be capable of next season.
He described their evaluation process as extensive, saying “I don’t know if I’ve ever done more” work vetting an individual player.
He doesn’t plan to subject Syndergaard to a specific innings-limit, instead opting for a communicative approach to determine what the pitcher’s workload will be.
And he cited Syndergaard’s competitive personality as one of the biggest sources of optimism, noting that Syndergaard had already begun texting him videos of offseason drills that they had discussed during the negotiation process.
“We’re betting on the person,” Minasian said, adding: “For us, it’s definitely the right DNA to take a shot on.”
Minasian said the Angels had targeted Syndergaard from the start of the offseason. They met with his agent at last week’s general manager meetings in Carlsbad. Days later, Minasian flew to New York and had a three-hour dinner with Syndergaard.
The Mets had extended Syndergaard an $18.4 million qualifying offer to return to New York next season, and Minasian said other clubs were interested in Syndergaard.
But the Angels’ increased salary offer and attractive selling points — Minasian said they discussed everything from the appeal of Southern California to the Angels likely use of a six-man rotation — proved to be enough to entice Syndergaard to head West.
“It’s somewhat flattering, the fact that he picked us,” Minasian said. “It’s a partnership. We’re betting on him. He’s betting on us. He did not come here to lose.”
Minasian said the Angels aren’t done looking for more pitching either.
“We’d like to add more starters. We’d like to add, obviously, in the ‘pen,” he said. “That’s something we’re gonna continue to pursue on a day-in, day-out basis. So that’s not going to change.”
Even though Syndergaard’s signing raises the team’s expected payroll next season to more than $150 million — which is about $30 million less than last season’s payroll, and doesn’t include a potential contract for closer Raisel Iglesias — Minasian still refused to rule out anything financially for the club over the rest of the winter.
While he stopped short of saying that owners Arte and Carole Moreno will definitely raise payroll for next season, he indicated that Syndergaard’s signing might only be the start of the Angels’ offseason activity.
“They’re willing to invest in this club,” he said. “They’re willing to make the necessary financial commitment to get us where we want to go.”
Time will tell how much Syndergaard will bolster that effort. His signing is no-doubt a leap of faith, but one Minasian sure sounded comfortable taking.
Raisel Iglesias rejects Angels qualifying offer
If closer Raisel Iglesias is going to return to the Angels next offseason, it will seemingly take a lucrative long-term contract to do it.
Iglesias on Wednesday declined the one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer the Angels extended to him last week.
The free agent closer will instead stay on the open market in search of a new deal with the Angels or someone else after his stellar 2021 season.
Had Iglesias accepted the qualifying offer, he would have earned the largest single-season salary for a reliever in MLB history next year. But, he also would have been sacrificing the chance to sign a contract this winter for more years and more guaranteed money overall.
Because of that, his decision to decline the offer doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Now, the real suspense will be whether or not the Angels are able to re-sign him, or if another club will swoop in and snag the 31-year-old right-hander.
Asked about Iglesias’ decision Wednesday, Angels general manager Perry Minasian said he wasn’t surprised and that bringing back the closer remains one of the team’s goals this offseason.
“Nothing’s changed,” Minasian said. “We’re still in contact with his representation. It’s somebody we would obviously love to have back ... I’m optimistic we can work something out.”
During the league’s general manager meetings last week, Minasian made it clear the team wants Iglesias — who said he enjoyed his first season with the Angels after being traded from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason — to return to Anaheim after he racked up 34 saves and a 2.57 ERA while serving in a versatile, and often multi-inning, role in 2021.
Accomplishing that, however, won’t be cheap. Iglesias is considered the top reliever on the free agent market this offseason. The last three offseasons, the top available relievers earned three or four year deals worth close to $15 million in annual average value (and sometimes even more in actual salary).
Even after signing Noah Syndergaard on Tuesday, the Angels still have the financial flexibility this offseason to make a sizable offer, with about $30 million remaining in available payroll before matching their $182 million mark from this past season.
Minasian insisted “anything’s possible” for the Angels financially moving forward this offseason, and left open the possibility that the team’s payroll could increase in 2022.
Still, a hard-throwing closer capable of pitching multiple innings is a rare and valuable commodity. And the Angels will have to decide how much they’re willing to spend if other teams begin making big offers to Iglesias too.
If Iglesias signs elsewhere this offseason, the Angels will get draft compensation from that team in return (their exact return would depend on who signs him, though teams usually get at least one draft pick within the first several rounds).
The Angels, however, are still hoping Iglesias is back in their bullpen next season. The qualifying offer didn’t prove to be a path toward that reunion. A long-term contract will now become their best option.
After signing Noah Syndergaard, three big questions for the rest of the Angels offseason
The Angels made their first big move of the offseason on Tuesday, agreeing to a one-year, $21 million contract with starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard.
But questions still remain about what other moves they might make, where they stand financially and what the rest of the offseason might hold.
Five takeaways from the GM meetings: Pursuit of pitching, options at shortstop and more
CARLSBAD — With the league’s annual general manager meetings drawing to an end Thursday, here are five takeaways from what Angels GM Perry Minasian said this week, and what the rest of the club’s offseason could hold.
The Angels want pitching, but they’re not the only ones
Since the start of the offseason, Minasian has said over and over again that the Angels need to upgrade their pitching, and will explore all options for doing so.
That certainly appeared to be the case this week. The Angels were linked in reports to most of the notable starters available on the market, from future Hall of Famers such as Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, the latter of whom they scouted during a workout on Monday; to younger options such as Robbie Ray and Steven Matz; to other intriguing names such as Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman, who each were in the Toronto Blue Jays organization while Minasian was part of that club’s front office.
“Pitching is an obvious need,” Minasian said. “As far as improving the team, we need to improve on the mound significantly.”
The Angels won’t be alone in that pursuit this winter. Executives from many other clubs — including the St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners and more — all indicated similar desires to add to their pitching staffs.
It was a reminder that, for as badly as the Angels want to bolster their performance on the mound in 2022, doing so will likely be a competitive (and costly) challenge.
They’re trying to re-sign Raisel Iglesias
Minasian is usually reticent to discuss specific players or contract negotiations.
But every time Raisel Iglesias’ name came up in conversation with reporters, Minasian made it clear how badly the Angels would like to bring the free-agent closer back next season.
“We really enjoyed having him on the club,” Minasian said. “We hope to work something out.”
Iglesias will have until Wednesday to either accept or decline the one-year, $18.4-million qualifying offer the Angels extended to him, though Minasian also noted that a longer-term extension remains possible as well.
If the Angels fail to re-sign Iglesias, Minasian didn’t offer many hints about what their back-up plans for the closer role might be.
“We’d like to upgrade the bullpen,” he said when asked about that possibility on Wednesday. “That’s obviously a major goal, neck and neck with the rotation. I think they go hand-and-hand to a certain extent. I think there’s different ways to do it. We have different options of doing that.
They’re considering internal options at shortstop
One thing Minasian didn’t sound likely to pursue this winter: A high-priced shortstop.
Instead, whenever he was asked about the team’s opening at the position, he repeatedly highlighted the internal possibilities the Angels already have, such as an increased role for Luis Rengifo, to a potential position change for second baseman David Fletcher, or some other combination of their current infielders (a group that was bolstered by last week’s waiver acquisition of Andrew Velazquez).
“That’s an area where we have options,” Minasian said.
Minasian didn’t shut the door completely on pursuing external additions at shortstop, where there are five high-profile free agents available this winter.
But for now, the Angels — who could also explore depth options in the outfield and at backup catcher — still seem more likely to try and commit most of their resources this winter to improving on the mound.
They’ll have plenty of AL West competition
After the Angels went 29-47 against AL West opponents this year (they were 48-38 against everyone else), closing the gap on several of their division rivals could be a tall task this winter.
The Mariners are expected to be one of this offseason’s busier, and more aggressive, teams. The Houston Astros might lose Carlos Correa, but will still look to reload after winning the AL pennant for the third time in the last five years. And even the last-place Texas Rangers have been pegged as potential spenders after a 60-win season.
Only the Oakland A’s seem primed to strip down their roster and begin a rebuild this offseason. They could even be a potential trade partner for teams like the Angels who are looking for big-league pitching help.
While Minasian said on Wednesday he isn’t the type of executive to directly compare his club with division rivals — “I concentrate on this organization and what we need to do to be a more complete team, a more competitive team,” he said — he also acknowledged that “we have a really tough division with some really impressive front offices.”
It’s ‘business as usual’ despite potential lockout
A potential lockout might be on the horizon, with the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and its players union set to expire at the beginning of next month.
But, Minasian joined the chorus of executives who insisted this week’s meetings were “business as usual” and that, to this point, the offseason hasn’t been affected by the looming uncertainty.
“This is very similar to any GM meetings I’ve attended,” he said.
Shohei Ohtani’s agent mum on contract, but says client is ‘extremely happy’ with Angels
CARLSBAD — Angels general manager Perry Minasian this week has repeatedly declined to discuss whether the team will explore a potential contract extension with two-way star Shohei Ohtani, citing a personal policy about not commenting on contract-related issues.
On Wednesday morning, Ohtani’s agent at CAA sports, Nez Balelo, said the same thing.
Citing his agency’s policy against discussing negotiations, Balelo declined to say whether there have been any extension talks between the Angels and Ohtani, who is set to make $5.5 million in 2022 and will remain under team control through the end of the 2023 season.
“We just don’t talk about deals, we don’t talk about extensions,” Balelo said during the third day of the league’s GM meetings.
Balelo did say that Ohtani is “extremely happy” in Anaheim, where he became an MVP front-runner this year after racking up 46 home runs and 100 RBIs as a hitter and a 3.18 ERA with 156 strikeouts in 23 starts as a pitcher.
“He likes being a part of the Angel organization,” Balelo said. “We’ll see where it shakes out.”
In other agent-related news on Wednesday, Scott Boras discussed two of his clients on the Angels during a scrum with reporters.
Asked about Anthony Rendon, Boras said the third baseman is “doing great” during his rehab from hip surgery and reiterated that he should be ready to go for spring training.
Speaking of Jo Adell’s second MLB season, Boras thought the outfielder “established himself as someone who has all the potential in the world ... and showed a level of consistency, in this round of playing in the major leagues, that allowed [the Angels] to look at him & rely on him for the future.”
Angels exploring free agency, trade market in bid to build more ‘aggressive’ pitching staff
CARLSBAD — During a chat with reporters Tuesday at MLB’s general manager meetings, the main topic of conversation surrounding Angels GM Perry Minasian mirrored his club’s primary focus for this offseason.
Pitching, pitching, pitching.
For most of his 45-minute availability, Minasian fielded one question about the position after another, standing at the edge of a courtyard at the Omni Resort in Carlsbad after what he called a “productive day” of meetings with other executives around the league.
While he stopped short of naming any targets specifically — either via free agency or the trade market — Minasian did expound on the type of attributes he’s hoping the Angels pitching staff will possess in 2022, using one adjective in particular to sum up what they’re looking for.
“We’d just like to be a little more aggressive — I think ‘aggressive’ is the right word,” Minasian said. “Certain pitchers set tones, and I think there’s a trickle-down effect. I think we were lacking in that area.”
Three ways Raisel Iglesias’ free agency could unfold after qualifying offer from Angels
CARLSBAD — Perry Minasian leaned back in his chair on Monday and shrugged his shoulders at the $18.4 million question.
A day after the Angels general manager extended a qualifying offer to his free agent closer, Raisel Iglesias, Minasian didn’t reveal much about how he sees the situation unfolding.
As the offseason got underway in earnest this week at the GM meetings, where Minasian spoke with reporters on a resort patio just outside of San Diego, the Iglesias situation represented one of the Angels key early offseason decisions.
The soon-to-be 32-year-old right-hander was the backbone of their bullpen this past season, posting 34 saves and a 2.57 ERA while comfortably handling multi-inning outings and inherited runner situations.
For an Angels team that continues to trumpet improved pitching as a priority for 2022, bringing Iglesias back could help solidify one of the key roles on the staff.
“Obviously, he was outstanding,” Minasian said. “We’d love to keep him.”
How likely a reunion might be, however, remains to be seen.
With a week to go before the deadline for Iglesias to accept or decline his qualifying offer, here are three ways his free agency might play out this offseason.
If Iglesias accepts the qualifying offer …
The Angels would get their closer back, but be on the hook for what would be the highest single-season salary for a reliever in MLB history.
Iglesias would make $18.4 million next season — the mean salary of the major league’s 125 highest-paid players — then become a free agent again next winter.
There are potential drawbacks on both sides if Igleisas accepts. The pitcher would be sacrificing the chance to sign a more lucrative long-term deal, albeit for likely less annual salary. The Angels would also be committing a large sum of money to one player during a winter in which they still have other needs in the rotation, middle relief and at shortstop.
Minasian didn’t say if he thinks Iglesias will accept the qualifying offer (the deadline for him to do so is Nov. 17) but did try to downplay the idea that giving Iglesias $18.4 million would necessarily force the team to cut back its offseason spending in other areas.
Still, at this point, this seems like the least likely scenario.
If Iglesias declines the QO, but re-signs with the Angels …
Iglesias would get the security of a multi-year deal while returning to an Angels organization he said publicly he enjoyed playing for this season, and the team would be getting its closer back but on a more manageable annual salary.
While Minasian didn’t divulge any details about potential contract negotiations between Iglesias and the team so far, he was quick to note that giving Iglesias the qualifying offer “doesn’t deter a longer-term deal in any way.”
The biggest hurdle will be the two sides agreeing on the right price for Iglesias, who is widely considered the top reliever on the market this winter.
For comparison, here were the highest-paid free agent relievers from the last few years:
Last winter, the Chicago White Sox signed Liam Hendriks to an unusually structured deal worth $54 million guaranteed over three years with an option for a fourth. It counted as $18 million in annual average value for luxury tax purposes, but actually only pays Hendriks — who had a lower ERA in 2020 than Iglesias had this past season — an average salary of around $13.5 million per year.
The two prior offseasons, Will Smith got three years and $39 million ($13 million AAV) from Atlanta and Craig Kimbrel signed with the Chicago Cubs for three years and $43 million ($14.3 million AAV) — though Iglesias had slightly better numbers in his contract season than those two did.
Minasian sounded confident the Angels would have the resources to pursue a potential multi-year deal with Iglesias. The question will be how far they’re willing to go if they have to start bidding against other teams.
If Iglesias declines the QO and signs elsewhere …
At the very least, the Angels will get draft compensation back from the team that does sign Iglesias.
That’s part of MLB’s qualifying offer rules, giving the Angels a concession if Iglesias does depart this winter (their exact return would depend on which team signs him, though teams usually get at least one draft pick within the first several rounds).
It was part of the reason the Angels were willing to hold onto Iglesias at the trade deadline this year. And it’s why it wasn’t much of a surprise to see them extend the qualifying offer before Sunday’s deadline.
For now, however, the Angels are still hopeful of bringing Iglesias back to Anaheim.
“He’s mentioned he’d like to be here and we’d like to keep him,” Minasian reiterated. “So let’s see where it goes.”
Angels GM Perry Minasian discusses coaching staff changes, payroll questions and more
CARLSBAD — For the first time since his end-of-season news conference last month, Angels general manager Perry Minasian met with reporters Monday during MLB’s GM meetings.
As the weeklong meetings get underway, here are the key notes from Minasian’s Monday availability.
Angels to make three coaching changes
Minasian announced that outfield and first base coach Bruce Hines will not return to the Angels’ coaching staff in 2022.
Hines joins third base and infield coach Brian Butterfield as well as catching coach Jose Molina — whose departures were previously reported — as the three changes the team is making to its staff.
Minasian indicated the rest of the coaching staff will remain intact, including pitching coach Matt Wise and bullpen coach Dom Chiti. Those two began the 2021 season as interims following Mickey Callaway’s suspension before being elevated into full-time status midway through the year.
Minasian said the club is still going through the hiring process for the three coaching openings.
“It comes down to fit,” Minasian said of the decision. “We’re looking for a different fit. ... Trying to take our time and do it the right way, not rush it. Because we know how important it is.”
Minasian also said there will be changes coming to the player development coaching staff in the minor leagues but the team has not finalized its personnel there yet.
Minasian didn’t specify what the Angels’ payroll will be in 2022 but struck an optimistic tone while discussing the resources the team could have at its disposal during the offseason.
“I wouldn’t rule us out of anything,” said Minasian, who also noted it’s possible the team’s payroll from 2021 could increase if needed.
The Angels had an opening-day payroll of just under $182 million this past season, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, which currently projects the team to have just over $130 million committed to the roster for next year (including estimated salaries for arbitration and pre-arbitration players).
Minasian also reiterated that the team’s top offseason priority is bolstering its pitching staff but that it will also evaluate options at shortstop and other ways to add overall depth to the club.
“There’s a lot of ways we can improve,” he said, adding: “I’m looking forward to this offseason. I think we’re gonna be able to do some things and help this team improve.”
While pitcher Chris Rodriguez will likely miss most of 2022 after undergoing shoulder surgery, the Angels expect the rest of their roster to be ready for the start of spring training.
That includes outfielder Mike Trout, who is going through normal offseason workouts after missing most of 2021 because of a calf strain; third baseman Anthony Rendon, who missed the second half of the season after having hip surgery; outfielder Jo Adell, who is working out in Arizona after missing the final three weeks because of an abdominal strain; and pitchers Griffin Canning and Patrick Sandoval, who are back to working out without restrictions after their seasons ended early because of back injuries.
- The Angels did scout pitcher Justin Verlander’s workout in Florida on Monday. Verlander, 38, is a free agent this winter but was extended a qualifying offer by the Houston Astros. He didn’t pitch in 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
- Minasian said one thing the Angels will do this week is evaluate the trade market for pitching. On Monday, several pitchers were mentioned in media reports as being possibly available to acquire via trade, including Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds and one of Sandy Alcántara, Pablo López and Elieser Hernández from the Miami Marlins.
- The Angels could have the chance to get back a pitcher they lost in the Rule 5 draft last year. Right-hander Jose Soriano was designated for assignment Sunday by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team that drafted him from the Angels last year. If he clears waivers, he will have to be offered back to the Angels. Soriano isn’t expected to pitch in 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery (his second in the last two seasons) in June.
Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani named a finalist for AL MVP award
CARLSBAD — Shohei Ohtani has already racked up several pieces of hardware this offseason.
On Monday, he was officially announced as a contender for the biggest award yet.
The Angels’ two-way star was revealed as one of three finalists for the American League most-valuable-player award, a long-expected development following his historic 2021 season. Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and second basemen Marcus Semien were the other finalists for the award, the winner of which will be announced Nov. 18 on MLB Network.
Pitcher Chris Rodriguez likely out for most of 2022 after undergoing shoulder surgery
CARLSBAD — Heading into a season in which they’ll need improved pitching, the Angels announced Monday they’ll be down one of their best young arms.
Right-hander Chris Rodriguez likely will miss the majority of the 2022 campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery late last month, Angels general manager Perry Minasian said during the league’s GM meetings Monday.
Rodriguez, 23, had right capsule surgery after suffering setbacks while recovering from a right lat strain that ended his 2021 season in August.
“We’re still getting second opinions and those types of things,” Minasian said. “But that’s something where, armwise, it’s gonna take some time for him to get back to where he was.”
A former fourth-round pick who missed most of the 2018 and 2019 minor league seasons with unrelated back injuries, a finally healthy Rodriguez made the Angels’ opening-day roster this year after an impressive spring training and became one of the team’s most dependable relievers over the first month of the season.
But then the rookie missed most of May with right shoulder inflammation, was sent back down to the minors to be stretched out as a starter after struggling in June, and returned to the big eagues for only two starts in August before getting hurt again.
In his 15 MLB appearances overall, he had a 3.64 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 29 ⅔ innings. He seemed likely to play a role on the pitching staff again next year — either as a starter or reliever — before Monday’s injury news.
“They went in there and took a look and there were some things that needed to be repaired,” Minasian said. “That’s where we’re at.”