The argument for and against the Angels signing Michael Wacha

Sep 27, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) throws
Sep 27, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) throws / Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels would benefit from acquiring a sixth starter. With uncertainty regarding Griffin Canning's health and productivity as well as concerns about Chase Silseth's readiness for the majors, acquiring a veteran to round out what should be a formidable rotation whether it's via free agency or trade should be at the top of Perry Minasian's list.

The best free agent starting pitcher left on the board is Michael Wacha. He remains unsigned into late January which is a bit odd considering he's coming off of a pretty good season but there're reasons why. There're reasons the Angels should pursue him while there are also reasons for them to look elsewhere.

Why the LA Angels should sign Michael Wacha

The only way the Angels can get a starting pitcher better than Michael Wacha is in a trade. Wacha is undoubtedly the best free agent on the market and will get the most money out of all of the starting pitchers left. He went 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA this past season for the Red Sox in 23 starts. If he could replicate that for the Angels they'd be beyond thrilled.

Wacha had struggled in 2020 and 2021 pitching for the Mets and Rays but looked like the pitcher he was in St. Louis back when he was an all-star in 2015 and an NLCS MVP in 2013.

A big reason Wacha had such a good season for Boston was the dominance of his changeup. Wacha threw that pitch 29.8% of the time, the second most of his five pitches, and held opponents to a .170 average and a .176 xBA. He generated whiffs 34.9% of the time and used it as his put-away pitch 22% of the time. It was an amazing pitch even in 2021 with Tampa but not this good.

Wacha is a pitcher who doesn't strike out too many (7.4 K/9) but he generated ground balls at a 41.2% clip and did a nice job limiting hard contact. He ranked in the 70th percentile in average exit velocity according to baseball savant. Wacha also ranked in the 79th percentile in walk rate which is another positive. Wacha being the best starter left that the Angels can acquire for just money is definitely attractive.

Why the LA Angels should not sign Michael Wacha

Despite his good ERA, Wacha's peripherals would suggest it's unlikely he backs that up next season. Wacha had a 3.32 ERA but a 4.14 FIP. He ranked in the 27th percentile in xBA, 14th percentile in barrel rate,13th percentile in xSLG, and 12th percentile in whiff rate. Wacha seems to have gotten pretty fortunate with batted ball luck as opponents had just a .260 baBIP against this right-hander. If that number is closer to the mean of .300, his ERA would definitely be substantially higher.

While he was better this season, he was awful in the two seasons prior, pitching to a 5.39 ERA in 37 appearances (30 starts) and 158.2 innings pitched. His 4.64 FIP in that span would suggest the ERA is a little higher than it should've been, but he still wasn't particularly good.

The reason Wacha is still out there despite coming off of a good season is his ask. Wacha is reportedly asking for a deal that'd pay him $15 million dollars annually. The Angels got Tyler Anderson on a steal of a deal that pays him $13 million annually for three years. Nathan Eovaldi's deal guarantees him just $17 million dollars over two seasons. Wacha is certainly not as good as Anderson or Eovaldi.

Once Wacha lowers his ask he'll get signed and could maybe even be an Angel. As a fifth or sixth starter he would be solid, and there's definitely a preference to not have to trade for a starter. I'd hesitate to give him more than one guaranteed year considering how bad he was in 2020 and 2021.

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