Are Scott Boras and MLB colluding to distract us from the ignominious one-two punch of a sign-stealing scandal and the league-sanctioned execution of a multitude of minor league teams? I’m not saying it’s true, but I’m also not saying it’s not true. Consider the evidence.
Exhibit 1: Strasburg breaking the record for a free agent pitcher contract in his seven-year, $245 million deal with the Nationals on Monday. Exhibit 2: The Yankees shattering said deal with their nine-year, $324 million deal to Gerrit Cole on Tuesday. Exhibit 3: Anthony Rendon signing a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Angels on Wednesday.
Three days. Three Boras clients. The top-three free agents off the board. 23 years. $814 million. That’s enough to make us all forget about a whole mess of terrible baseball things in the news. Or maybe there were just many, many West Coast IPAs consumed in San Diego this week.
Removing the old tin foil hat, though, we need to talk about the latest signing to go down this week. Like the pitchers who signed before him, the 29-year old Rendon was more than deserving of a mammoth contract this offseason. He’s coming off a season where he hit .319/.412/.598, played solid defense at the hot corner and notched 6.3 bWAR/7.0 fWAR and finished third in MVP voting. Like the other pitchers mentioned, we all saw him in action in the postseason, where he hit 328/.413/.590 on the biggest screen and earned himself a place in Nationals’ lore in propelling them to their first title.
Unfortunately, that will likely be the end of said lore, because Washington’s penchant for deferring cash kept them from locking him down long-term and now the player who’s been the fourth most valuable position player in MLB by fWAR (19.9) over the past three seasons, behind only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich, ended up with Trout in Anaheim.
Trout’s team was ostensibly focused on starting pitching heading into the offseason, as well they should’ve been. Their rotation came in 29th in MLB by both ERA (5.64) and FIP (5.41) and dead last by fWAR (3.3). Cole and Strasburg were both in their sights, given their need, the pitching prowess they provided and the fact that they both hailed from Southern California. But when those players headed elsewhere in a matter of two days, the Angels did an about-face and went for the best position player instead. Rendon gives Trout some protection in the lineup that he’s never really had before, and the Angels are also hopefully due for a full year of Shohei Ohtani, both at the plate and throwing to it.
While their new offense might be top heavy, it’s certainly not far-fetched to think it’ll provide them with enough firepower to propel them from a 90-loss team into the realm of a Wild Card spot, if they can just scrounge up a little luck. Throw in a couple of bounceback seasons from Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons, mix in a breakout year from top prospect Jo Adell, all of sudden this offense looks like it could hang with pretty much any offense in baseball. Houston’s losing Cole certainly moves the needle a bit, too.
But the Angels are still hurting in the pitching department. Last season, the pitching in general was a kick in the balls, and the death of Tyler Skaggs was a dagger in the heart. The Halos might have enough to get Trout his first postseason win, but they’re likely going to need more to give Rendon that sweet, sweet series win he’s grown all too used to this past October.
Was Rendon the best use of their many, many millions, in terms of maximizing the possibility of their winning now, while they have said Trout? I’m not sure. They might have increased their chances of winning next year had they signed, say, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner and, I dunno, can you squeeze in a Dallas Keuchel and not go too far north of that $245 million total?
But the contract is definitely reasonable from a dollar perspective. It’s probably not going to be “worth it” at the end of the deal, but that’s the price you pay if you want to contend right now, which should probably be the goal for any Trout-wielding team. And I’m not convinced that Rendon isn’t necessarily a better bet over the life of his contract than signing a trio of pitchers around his age. Rendon has been very good for quite a while, after all.
So, I dunno, I’m just going to shut up and stop overanalyzing because, frankly, I’m just happy that we’ll get to see another great hitter in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lineup. But please, don’t let the Angels be done for the winter, because they still need to find room for some starting pitching, whether it comes from shelling out in free agency and going over the faux-salary cap or trading away some of their infield prospect depth.
Grade for Angels Fans: A
Grade for Rendon and Boras: $
Grade for Angels: Incomplete