The Los Angeles Angels will be looking for multiple pieces in free agency, including pitching and some middle infield help.
While pitching – both starting and the relief varieties – will rightfully be the major focus of the Los Angeles Angels when free agency opens up in November, the team will have other holes to fill as well. Namely, the Halos will have to determine how they will fill the Andrelton Simmons-sized hold in the middle infield.
With Simmons being a free agent at the end of the conclusion of the World Series, the assumption by many pundits is that he will not be returning to Anaheim. His decision to opt-out of the final few games of the season, as well as the unlikelihood that the Angels will extend him a qualifying offer, essentially puts the writing on the wall.
The question at hand has been how the team will address the hole at shortstop. While that may need to wait to be answered by a new general manager, it won’t stop the organization from assessing the potential free agent pool or in-house options.
On the latter, the Angels certainly have a qualified candidate to step in at shortstop; David Fletcher. Fletcher has filled in admirably over the last two seasons and has become an offensive sparkplug at the top of the order. However, moving Fletcher to shortstop instead opens up a hole at second base as well. As such, the Angels are said to be doing due-diligence on free agent infielders that may allow Fletch to stay at the keystone.
Angels are showing interest in free agent Didi Gregorius
According to George A. King III of the New York Post, the Angels have begun to show an early interest in former Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius.
After missing most of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery on his throwing shoulder, Gregorius signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2020 season. That proved to be a fruitful decision for the shortstop, as he hit a solid .284/.339/.488 with 10 home runs, 40 RBI, and a wRC+ of 116. Ultimately, he accounted for 1.4 fWAR while playing all 60 games for Philly.
In potentially replacing Simmons at short, the concern will obviously fall to how a new shortstop will handle the position defensively. While he’ll never be on Andrelton’s level with the glove, Gregorious has mostly been an adequate fielder in the past. However, his defense over the last two seasons has slipped, perhaps owing to the shoulder issues, with a combined UZR/150 of -0.6 and a combined DRS of -12.
Make no mistake about it though, if the Angels are pursuing Gregorius, they are buying into the bat, with hopes that the glove will bounce back.
Why a Didi Gregorius signing doesn’t make sense for the Angels
While the Angels are, again, likely doing some information gathering on the free-agent class at this point, a fit between the Halos and Gregorius seems unlikely.
As any Angels fan will point out, the needs for this team are heavily slanted toward the pitching side of the equation. While they do have to fill a hole in the infield, the team is already under somewhat of a payroll crunch due to the upside-down deals for both Albert Pujols and Justin Upton.
Part of the reason the team is comfortable to let Simmons walk is that they do not want to re-sign him to a multi-year deal worth over the $15 million (before proration) he took home in 2020 and are not comfortable handing him a qualifying offer valued at $18.9 million. That’s a hefty chunk of change to float for an infielder in his mid-30s that only provides value on one side of the ball.
Likewise, Gregorius signed a one-year, $14 million deal with the Phillies last season. That was largely seen as a make-good deal, where the shortstop could then re-enter the market and sign a larger, multi-year contract. While he made good on that signing, it is hard to justify the Angels biting on a bat-first infielder that could potentially weaken its pitching staff. And that says nothing about allocating funds that should be earmarked for the likes of Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman, or others.
While Gregorius may be an outstanding option on the market, the Angels are more likely looking to play the low-end of the infield market rather than spending heavily on yet another bat. As such, Gregorius is likely not going to find a home in Anaheim.