Los Angeles Angels inadvertently win the Mookie Betts Deal

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 09: Los Angeles Dodgers Joc Pederson (31) laughs with Washington Nationals Anthony Rendon (6) as he heads to second base for a ground rule double in the first inning in game 5 of the NLDS in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (Photo by Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 09: Los Angeles Dodgers Joc Pederson (31) laughs with Washington Nationals Anthony Rendon (6) as he heads to second base for a ground rule double in the first inning in game 5 of the NLDS in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (Photo by Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images) /
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The Los Angeles Angels were an unintended winner of the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts deal as they have acquired Joc Pederson and others.  Pederson represents a huge upgrade as the Angels look to compete against the Athletics and Astros for the AL West Crown.

On the heels of the Dodgers pushing their chips in with the Mookie Betts deal, the Los Angeles Angels have acquired OF Joc Pederson and RHP Ross Stripling in exchange for utility infielder Luis Rengifo.  The Angels are also acquiring young OF Andy Pages and the Dodgers will receive a yet to be identified prospect.

The Dodgers now have Mookie Betts to take the lion share of ABs in CF and RF. Mix in AJ Pollack, Cody Bellinger, and a litany of others and Pederson found himself as the odd man out. This benefits the Angels in a big way as they can line Pederson up in RF until stud prospect Jo Adell is ready or at 1B where Pederson lined up for the first time in 2019.

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Defensively, Pederson was +5 DRS playing all three OF positions. In his first taste of 1B, Pederson was -3 DRS but it would reason to believe he could at least be average with an offseason and spring training to prepare for the position. His calling card though is his offense as Pederson hit .249/.339/.538 for a 127 wRC+, launched 36 home runs and totaled 3.0 fWAR.  He also hits the crap out of the ball with a 91 MPH average exit velocity which is 45th best in all of baseball.  If there is a downside, Pederson struggles mightily against LHPs as he hit a pitcher-esque 34 wRC+.  Nevertheless, Pederson slots in perfectly around Trout, Ohtani, and Justin Upton as a power lefty near the top or middle of an order.

Ross Stripling will get the chance to grab a full-time rotation slot in an Angels rotation that has struggled severely over the past few years.  Last year, the Angels ranked last in all of baseball in pitching WAR so Stripling represents an immediate upgrade even though he only threw 90 innings last year.  In that 90 innings though he totaled 1.8 fWAR using a four-pitch FB, CB, CH, SL mix.  Stripling has excellent command of his arsenal as he struck out 25% of hitters and only walked 5%.  One aspect that should excite the Angels is Stripling does a great job of contact management.  He had a 50% ground ball rate and a top 20 infield fly ball rate.  So 88% of Stripling’s plate appearances end in a strikeout, groundball, or easy infield fly out.  If he can put it together over a full season Stripling could be a top 20 pitchers in baseball.

The Dodgers deal from a position of strength to get a utility infielder in Luis Rengifo who has 5 years of control and just posted a 1.2 fWAR in his first season.  Rengifo posted above-average DRS marks at SS and 2B but a below-average batting line. Rengifo will be a solid, cheap depth option the Dodgers can deploy to keep guys fresh or in the event of injury.

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The Los Angeles Angels biggest problem over the past few seasons has been a lack of healthy starting pitching and non-scrubs around Mike Trout.  Stripling and Pederson both fit those bills.  Whether the Angels can topple the Astros and A’s in the West remains to be seen, but this deal is a big step in the right direction.