Posted on December 12, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
In striking contrast to last season, all of the major free agents on the open market have agreed to new deals before the end of the MLB offseason. Third baseman Anthony Rendon was the last one to come off the board. Late Wednesday, the Los Angeles Angels agreed to terms with Rendon on a 7-year deal worth $245 million. The contract has no opt-outs and a full no-trade clause, keeping Rendon in Southern California through the 2026 season.
The Angels began the offseason intent on getting one of the handful or so of elite free agents, whether it be a pitcher or a hitter. When they couldn’t get Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole to give their rotation a much-needed boost, the Halos turned their attention to Rendon. Despite interest from several other teams, the Angels were the most motivated to land the crown jewel of the free-agent class as far as hitters are concerned.
“We’re within some structure of a budget and a payroll forecast that you relatively want to be near, and then we just take those opportunities to [Angels owner] Arte [Moreno] and see if he’ll grant us the permission to do those things,” Angels GM Billy Eppler told reporters prior to signing Rendon. “There’s good players out there and players that warrant some sizable contracts. I know the players that he likes.”
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The 29-year-old Rendon has gone from steady player to flat-out superstar over the past three seasons. He’s hit over .300 and posted an OPS over .900 in three straight seasons, becoming the centerpiece of Washington’s lineup rather than a complementary player. Rendon is undoubtedly coming off the best season of his career, hitting .319 with a career-high 34 home runs in 2019. He produced an OPS of 1.010, earning MVP consideration. Rendon finished things off with home runs in Games 6 and 7 of the World Series to help the Nationals win a championship.
Rendon will now take his talents to Southern California where he figures to only be the second-best player in the lineup behind Mike Trout. The Angels now have a trio of Trout, Rendon, and Justin Upton to anchor the middle of their order. Most days, Shohei Ohtani will serve as the team’s DH, giving the Halos a left-handed complement to their new trio. Los Angeles will also have Andrelton Simmons, Tommy La Stella, and Albert Pujols adding depth to a lineup that could be one of the most formidable in baseball in 2020.
In a subtle way, the Angels expressed confidence in signing Rendon earlier this week when they traded away infielder Zack Cozart. The move was seen as a way for the club to free up payroll and part ways with a player they signed two years ago to be their third baseman. David Fletcher had previously been penciled in as the team’s third baseman. However, Fletcher’s defensive versatility will allow him to be used as a super-utility player. He figures to get most of his at-bats sharing time at second base with La Stella and perhaps seeing more time in the outfield.
With the Angels signing Rendon and bringing in Joe Maddon as their new manager, it’s certainly looking like a new era in Anaheim. The Angels have missed the playoffs in five straight years and haven’t won a playoff game in a decade. However, the addition of Rendon ensures that they’ll have the kind of lineup in 2020 and beyond that will give the Angels a chance to change that.