Scott Boras’ figurative language is not as slick as it could be. But his feel for dramatic structure? That can only be admired. He entered the Winter Meetings with the three biggest names in free agency. He leaves not just with all three on new deals—worth a combined $814 million—but with the satisfaction that he ran the week, with each announced just after the last, in three days of deftly planned theater.
To recap: On Monday, Stephen Strasburg signed a record contract with the Nationals. That set the terms for the rest of the week. It made it clear which teams would have to hustle for his fellow starter Gerrit Cole, and it indicated that a new home would be needed for his former teammate Anthony Rendon. So on Tuesday—after Strasburg had been in the spotlight for a full day, just long enough for the discourse to turn back to speculation for Cole and Rendon, particularly on the subject of how badly Cole would break Strasburg’s fresh record—Cole went to the Yankees on a deal that (of course!) shattered the record, which only put more pressure on the teams that had missed to go after Rendon. And on Wednesday, after a full day of processing all of that, on the final evening of the meetings, news broke that Rendon would land with the Angels. Exhausted yet? In the space of less than a week, Boras facilitated answers for the winter’s most crucial questions, and he did it with panache.
The structure of the above means that we’ve already had sufficient time to cover all the details on Strasburg and Cole. Now, we’re on to Rendon—and an Angels team with an intriguingly strong core, albeit next to a list of needs to fill before the winter is over.
Rendon, of course, would have been a crucial addition for just about any club. The 29-year-old is fresh off his best season yet—153 OPS+, which led to a third-place finish for MVP—and he has been worth 4.0 WAR or more in each of the last three years. (He’s 12th among all position players for total WAR since 2017.) In Anaheim, he’ll join baseball’s best player in Mike Trout. He’ll share the left side of the infield with one of its strongest defenders in Andrelton Simmons. He’ll be in a lineup with one of the game’s most impressive players in Shohei Ohtani and, likely before too long, one of its most impressive prospects in Jo Adell.
If that paints a picture for you of one of the most exciting teams in baseball, filled with talent, suddenly able to contend in the AL West… unfortunately, we must now direct your attention to the rotation, or lack thereof. The Angels’ 5.36 starter ERA was the worst in the AL in 2019. Ohtani should be back on the mound in 2020, and it’s unlikely that the rotation’s health will be as disastrous as it was last year, but even so, there’s a lot of work to be done here if they’re interested in even a chance of contention. There are a few routes this could take: Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-jin Ryu are all still on the board, and one (or two!) of them could be a solid move toward a solution here. There could be even more available via trade. (Corey Kluber, anyone? Jon Gray?) If they’re able to add a pair of decent starters, their position will look a lot more comfortable. If they don’t, it should be better than last year’s disastrous 72-loss season, but, well, that doesn’t say much.
The Angels, in any event, have a chance to be in the best position now that they have been in years. It’s a strong end to a manic, surprising, fun Winter Meetings, with the terms now set for the rest of the winter.
Boras may not have a metaphor handy to summarize all of this, but when the literal text is this good, who needs one?