The Angels’ top off-season target, Gerrit Cole, has now agreed on a record-setting nine-year, $235 million contract with the New York Yankees, ending Halos’ pursuit of the coveted hurler. The good news for Angels fans is that it’s probably the best thing that could have happened to a club in need of multiple starting pitchers. Billy Eppler will continue to work with agents and general managers of clubs looking to move starters throughout Day 3 of the 2019 Baseball Winter Meetings.
The Angel’s priority heading into Wednesday is still landing an ace. Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu are the most qualified free agent starters to assume that role. The Angels have been linked to Bumgarner, but so have many other clubs, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, who also were left empty-handed in their pursuit of Cole. The Angels must now consider the deeper pool of starters such as Rick Porcello, Dallas Keuchel, Julio Teheran, Kwang-Hyun Kim, and Shun Yamaguchi. Assuming the Angels can sign two or more of these pitchers, they will be a much-improved team heading into spring training.
The Angels have been connected to Boston in their search to find a trade partner for starter David Price but negotiations appear to have stalled. The 34-year old Price is still due $96 million over the final three years of his previous record-setting contract. His skills will likely continue to diminish in the coming years and unless Boston is willing to pick-up the majority of the money due to Price will have difficulty finding a successful trade partner. Miami’s Caleb Smith, Detroit’s Matthew Boyd, and Arizona’s Robbie Ray are all possible targets for the Angels to pursue through trade as well.
In addition to starting pitching, the Angels were connected with two power-hitting free agent third basemen on Tuesday. Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson both appear to be targets for the Angels to add to their line-up. Both would provide the Angels a boost to their offense, veteran stability at the third base position, and allow them to move David Fletcher to second base. It does not seem far-fetched for the Angels to sign one of these third basemen as well as acquiring two or more starters with money available for them to spend.
To assure they have payroll flexibility, the Angels went as far as trading away oft-injured third baseman Zack Cozart, who was due nearly $13 million next season to the Giants. In order to get the Giants to pick up Cozart’s entire contract for next season, the Angels also traded 2019 first-round selection, Will Wilson, in the deal. Wilson, a 21-year old shortstop from NC State, was the 15th overall pick in this year’s MLB draft. Cozart signed a three-year deal with the Angels before the 2018 season and was limited to only 96 games in his two seasons in Anaheim.
The Angels also made a minor acquisition in signing middle infielder Arismendy Alcantara to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Alcantara spent last season in the Mets’ farm system hitting .286 with 15 home runs and 21 stolen bases between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse. Alcantara has played parts of four seasons in the majors hitting a career .189 with 11 home runs in 167 career MLB games. Alcantara played for Angels manager Joe Maddon in Chicago in 2015, making him the first former-Maddon player to reunite with him on the Angels. Alcantara will likely begin the year at Triple-A Salt Lake next season but get the call to Anaheim when infield depth is required.
One final thought on the length of Cole’s contract that the Angels must have been considering: the Angels signed ace Jered Weaver to a five-year extension in 2011 as he was heading into his age 29 season. Weaver had just finished second in the Cy Young voting after finishing fifth the year prior. He was one of the best starters in baseball and the Angels saw his skills diminish greatly in the final seasons of that five-year contract. Weaver retired after finishing the 2017 season with the Padres at 0-5 with a 7.44 ERA. If the Angels had signed Weaver in his prime at age 28 to a contract the length of Cole’s, they would still have Weaver under contract going into 2020. That’s some perspective for Angels fans to ponder.