How the MLB lockout is affecting the Angels’ offseason plans
Their former communications director was just found guilty of giving Tyler Skaggs the drugs that caused the Angels pitcher’s death in 2019, they’re being sued by the Skaggs family for wrongful death and a fired clubhouse manager for defamation, and the purchase of their stadium from the City of Anaheim is on hold because of legal challenges.
And then came a late-Thursday report from the Athletic that the Angels’ Arte Moreno was one of four hawkish owners — Cincinnati’s Bob Castellini, Detroit’s Chris Ilitch and Arizona’s Ken Kendrick were the others — who objected to raising the luxury tax threshold to $220 million, which was eventually included in the league’s last proposal in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
The Angels would love nothing more than to shift their focus and their fans’ attention toward the field, but a lockout that has dragged into a fourth month, forcing spring training to be postponed and the first week of regular-season games to be canceled, has prevented that.
The Angels signed free-agent starters Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen, closer Raisel Iglesias and left-handed reliever Aaron Loup before the lockout began on Dec. 2, but they still appear to be one front-line starting pitcher and perhaps a reliable shortstop away from American League West title contention.
The ninth work stoppage in baseball history put their planning for 2022 on hold. As the lockout drags on, here are five ways it is impacting the team:
In the dark
Baseball’s lockout rules prohibit injured players from receiving treatment at club facilities or from the team’s medical staff and athletic trainers. Team personnel are not allowed to contact any players.
So the Angels have been unable to monitor the winter rehabilitations of two of their most important players, Mike Trout, the center fielder who suffered a season-ending right calf strain last May 17, and Anthony Rendon, the third baseman who suffered a season-ending right hip injury in early July.
Trout, 30, a three-time AL most valuable player, appeared close to a return last September, but with the Angels out of contention, he decided the risk of aggravating the injury going into the offseason wasn’t worth it.
His agent, Craig Landis, said Trout, who was limited to 36 games in 2021, is “100%” and is expected to be a full participant when spring training begins.
Rendon, 31, underwent surgery to repair a right hip impingement in early August, ending an injury-plagued season in which he hit .240 with a .712 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, six homers and 34 RBIs in 58 games.
Anaheim asked the state housing agency to rescind declaring that the Angel Stadium land sale violated law. The agency said the city’s response “doesn’t change anything.”
A person familiar with his recovery but not authorized to speak publicly about it said Rendon should be a “full-go” when the lockout ends.
The Angels need Trout, in the fourth year of a 12-year, $426.5-million deal, and Rendon, in the third year of a seven-year, $245-million deal, to return to full strength and form a lethal middle-of-the-order trio with Shohei Ohtani, who hit .257 with 45 homers and 100 RBIs and won AL MVP honors last season.
The Angels bet $21 million that Syndergaard’s career path will take a dramatic turn for the better when they signed the 29-year-old right-hander and former New York Mets standout to a one-year deal in November.
Syndergaard has thrown two innings in the last two seasons, his career derailed by Tommy John surgery in 2020 and several setbacks in his recovery in 2021, but when healthy, the 6-foot-6, 242-pounder was one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers, combining a 98-mph fastball with a slider, curve and changeup.
If Syndergaard can approach the form that helped him go 47-30 with a 3.31 ERA, 775 strikeouts and 166 walks in 716 innings from 2015-2019, he would team with Ohtani to give the Angels a formidable one-two pitching punch.
But the Angels won’t know what they’ll have in Syndergaard until they lay eyes on him in spring training and see him pitch in exhibitions.
The shortstop void
Carlos Correa, who will be one of baseball’s most sought-after free agents when the lockout ends, raised eyebrows in December when the shortstop posted a picture on Instagram in which one of his relatives donned a red Angels jersey over her Christmas sweatshirt.
Correa likes to troll fans on social media, so perhaps he was having some fun at their expense, but Moreno also has a history of stealthy pursuits of high-priced position players — see Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton — so the idea can’t be ruled out completely.
A team-by-team look at the billionaire MLB team owners who are behind the lockout that could delay the start of the 2022 season.
Acquiring the slick-fielding, power-hitting Correa seems unlikely. The Angels already have $186 million in competitive balance tax payroll for 2022, and Correa could command a deal of $300 million or more. Trevor Story would be an attractive, less-expensive option.
A more likely scenario: Second baseman David Fletcher moves to shortstop and the Angels backfill at second with such utility players as Andrew Velazquez, Tyler Wade or Luis Rengifo. Either way, the Angels, thanks to the lockout, won’t have much time to sort out the middle of their infield.
A call to arms
The Angels will also be scrambling to bolster the rotation, but the best starters — Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman — have signed, leaving Carlos Rodón, Drew Smyly, Yusei Kikuchi, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, who is recovering from an elbow injury, as the top free-agent options.
Oakland starters Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt and Cincinnati starters Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo could also be available in trades.
If the Angels are unable to add a starter, they will fill out the six-man staff with Ohtani, Syndergaard, Lorenzen and three from a group of Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, Griffin Canning and Reid Detmers.
One potential benefit of the lockout: The Angels could get more bang for the buck in the bullpen, where plenty of front-line relievers — Kenley Jansen, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Miller, Joe Kelly, Archie Bradley, Jimmy Nelson, Jake Diekman, Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand, Yusmeiro Petit, Adam Ottavino — will be scrambling for jobs.
The back end of the bullpen looks to be a strength with the signing of Iglesias, who went 7-5 with a 2.57 ERA and 34 saves last season, to a four-year, $58-million deal, and Loup, who went 6-0 with an 0.95 ERA in 65 games for the Mets, to a two-year, $17-million deal.
But the relief corps thins out considerably from there, and if the Angels can’t add another starter, they would do well to bolster their bullpen.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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