Entering the 2023 season the Los Angeles Angels assumed they'd have one of the best rotations in the American League. They did in 2022, and had just added Tyler Anderson coming off an all-star year in the offseason.
Unfortunately, things didn't go to plan. Virtually everyone, even Shohei Ohtani, took a step back on the mound. Griffin Canning was really the lone exception as he pitched well without any real expectations after missing all of 2022.
As we head to this offseason, the Angels really need to focus on improving the rotation. Whether Shohei Ohtani stays or not, the Angels will need to upgrade it because Ohtani won't be pitching in 2024. This dream rotation likely won't come to fruition, but it'd be one Angels fans would surely love to watch. It's also one that is semi-realistic. No, the Angels won't be signing every top starter available.
1) Yoshinobu Yamamoto
In any dream scenario, the Angels land one of the top free agent starters. The team desperately needs an ace with Ohtani not pitching in 2024. Fortunately, there are several free agents capable of filling that void.
The cream of the crop when it comes to pitching this offseason at least in my opinion is the trio of Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Nola is an innings eater at worst and one of the best pitchers in baseball at his best. Snell is a mid-rotation guy at his worst, but a Cy Young award winner at his best. Yamamoto on the other hand is completely unproven as a guy who has yet to throw a pitch in MLB, but he's the most intriguing by far.
In terms of stuff, he has the best of the three easily. Additionally, Yamamoto is just 25 years old while Snell and Nola are both 31. They'll all require more than five years, but there's a big difference. Yamamoto's contract will expire when he's still presumably elite, while Nola's and Snell's will expire when they're on the downswing. Instead of signing these older veterans to lengthy deals like the Angels do, signing a younger guy would be a nice change of pace.
Of course, the NPB is not at the same level as MLB, but it's as close as it's been in a while. With that in mind, Yamamoto absolutely dominated there for the Orix Buffaloes, posting a 1.82 ERA in his seven years in Japan. This past season he had a 1.16 ERA in 24 appearances and 171 innings pitched. No, he probably won't have that low of an ERA in the majors, but he will certainly be good with clear ace upside.
Signing Yamamoto would likely mean the Angels would have to revert to a six-man rotation, so the Angels can use one of Tyler Anderson or Chase Silseth in that sixth starter role.