Spurned earlier this week by Gerrit Cole, the Los Angeles Angels did what everyone expected on Wednesday. They absorbed the blow and quickly countered by signing third baseman Anthony Rendon to a seven-year, $245 million contract.
In a flash, the Angels can now boast one of the most formidable lineups in the Major Leagues now that they have Rendon to protect Mike Trout, their three-time American League MVP.
“We’re within some structure of a budget and a payroll forecast that you relatively want to be near, and then we just take those opportunities to Arte (Moreno, the team owner) and see if he’ll grant us the permission to do those things,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler told the media before the Rendon agreement. “There’s good players out there, and players that warrant some sizable contracts. I know the players that he likes.”
The Angels came to the Winter Meetings searching for starting pitching and had their sites on Cole, a California native. With the $80 million they saved when the Yankees signed him Wednesday, the Angels can now look elsewhere for pitching help, perhaps in the direction of Hyun-Jin Ryu or Madison Bumgarner. They might also pursue a trade with the Cleveland Indians for Corey Kluber.
The Rendon deal has an average annual value of $35 million, which is just below what the Angels will pay Trout through the 2030 season. It also means the Angels are the first team in Major League history to sign three players to deals worth at least $200 million. Albert Pujols is nearing the end of the 10-year, $254 million deal he signed in 2011.
The Angels are getting one the Majors best hitters. He’s coming off a career-high 126 RBIs with the Nationals in 2019. Rendon also produced career-highs in home runs (34), batting average (.319) and slugging percentage. He is also considered one of the game’s slickest fielding third basemen. Rendon was particularly influential in this year’s World Series. He homered in both Games 6 and 7 for the eventual World Champions.
Rendon’s departure was not unexpected. Nationals ownership had made it clear it would be able to afford only Stephen Strasburg or Rendon – not both. On Tuesday, the team re-signed Strasburg, the World Series MVP, to a seven-year, $245 million deal.
Like they had with Bryce Harper after the 2018 season, the Nationals extended an offer to Rendon in hopes or retaining him. The Washington Post said it was a seven-year deal for between $210 and $215 million. Now we know Rendon was easily able to exceed that.
By the way, it’s been a great week for Rendon’s agent, Scott Boras, who also represents Strasburg and Cole. Those players signed for a combined $814 million this week.
It’s no secret the Angels want to win now. They’re coming off a 72-90 season which cost manager Brad Ausmus his job after just one year. Moreno replaced him with the veteran Joe Maddon in hopes he could change his team’s karma.
It’s their hope a lineup featuring Rendon, Trout, Justin Upton, Shohei Otani, Andrelton Simmons and top rookie prospect Jo Adell will provide the firepower the team needs to make that happen. Consider Rendon: During his career, which began in 2013, only seven position players have a better fWAR (wins above replacement) than Rendon’s 32.7.
Should the Angels not be able to sign Ryu or Bumgarner, it’s conceivable they might take a step down and try to trade for one of Maddon’s favorites, David Price, whose salary the Red Sox would be interested in unloading. They might also try to sign free agent Dallas Keuchel.
“I can say that when Arte trusts his baseball department and trusts us with his resources, I take that as a compliment. I take that very seriously. I want to make good on those investments,” Eppler told The Athletic. “The bigger they are, and the longer term they are, I really want to try to capture some certainty. When we are engaged in things, and in circumstances where it doesn’t go our way, I’m still thankful that I was entrusted with those resources to try to execute something and get something done.
“There are a lot of ways to create a winning team. There are a lot of ways to win baseball games. It’s not just one way. We use our creativity and explore things.”