#2 reason why the Angels should be optimistic: The Angels’ homegrown talent
It is no secret that in order to put together a complete, competitive roster in the MLB, there needs to be some level of homegrown talent being “underpaid” and carrying a roster during their pre-arbitration and arbitration years. The 2019 World Series Champion Nationals had Juan Soto, Tanner Rainey, and Victor Robles making the league minimum in pre-arbitration, and Trea Turner making less than $8M in arbitration. Those four players combined were making less than $10M.
Similarly, the 2020 World Series Champion Dodgers had Ace Walker Buehler, fireballer Dustin May, and slugging catcher Will Smith all in pre-arbitration making less than $2M combined. In addition, they had Julio Urias, Cody Bellinger, and Corey Seager making less than $20M combined in arbitration. It is not up for debate that those six players would make much more than $22M combined in an open market.
Sure, homegrown players need to be complimented by a savvy front office bringing in great complimentary pieces via free agency and trade, but at its core, a championship club is built internally first. An entire World Series roster simply cannot be assembled entirely via free agency, as it would be far too expensive.
The Angels have struggled for many years to turn out great, superstar quality players from their farm system, thus being forced to pay big bucks for free agents, handcuffing roster flexibility. This year, however, the Angels have a first baseman for the next half-decade spreading his wings, as Jared Walsh looks every bit like a player that can carry a roster. Hard-throwing righty Chris Rodriguez looks like a lockdown, back-end of the bullpen guy at worst, and a potential front-of-the-rotation weapon. David Fletcher is coming into form as his usual crafty, reliable self, and Shohei Ohtani looks like the best athlete not only in the MLB, but in sports in general. These four guys combined are making less than $7M, giving the Angels some flexibility in their roster they haven’t had in quite some time. Speaking of the greatest talent baseball has seen in quite some time…