The Los Angeles Angels are a team stuck in one of, if not the hardest division in all of baseball. Yes, the Oakland Athletics being in the AL West makes things a bit easier, but the rest of the division is absolutely loaded.
The Seattle Mariners missed the playoffs in 2023 but won 88 games, a number they've reached in each of the last three years. The Houston Astros fell short of their World Series goal, but they've made seven straight ALCS appearances and have won two World Series in that span. The Texas Rangers were a team on the same level as the Angels in recent years, but have been ultra-aggressive stacking talent the last couple of years and just won the World Series.
Not only did the Rangers just win the 2023 World Series, MLB Trade Rumors predicts they'll be even better in 2024. That will only make life harder for this Angels team that will have a hard enough time in this gauntlet of a division.
Path to competing in the AL West would be that much tougher if the Rangers improve upon their biggest weakness
The Rangers won the World Series this past season despite having one of the worst bullpens in all of baseball. Their 4.77 bullpen ERA was good for 24th in the majors, just one spot ahead of the 73-win Angels. Their 33 blown saves were tied for the major league lead, and five more than the 28 the Halos finished with.
The Rangers have a couple decent arms like Jose Leclerc and Josh Sborz who both looked impressive in the postseason, but could also lose key arms like Aroldis Chapman and Will Smith, both of whom are free agents.
Losing those arms without gaining anything would certainly hurt, but MLB Trade Rumors projects they'll not only add an arm, but they'll add the best arm. Josh Hader is one of, if not the best closer in baseball and he's projected by all three MLBTR staff writers to join the Rangers on a six-year deal worth $110 million.
MLBTR projects the Rangers will give Josh Hader the richest contract a reliever has ever received, breaking the five-year deal Edwin Diaz got last offseason that paid him $102 million. Relievers can be extremely volatile which would make me worried about the Angels committing to a deal like this, but Hader joining that team with a star-studded lineup and rotation would likely make them the odds-on favorite to repeat as World Series champions once again.
Whether Texas lands Hader or not, things will be a challenge for the Angels just to stay in the postseason hunt. If they do land Hader, things will only get that much tougher. Something the Angels can't afford.