Los Angeles Angels: buried under a pile of bad contracts

The Los Angeles Angels opened up the checkbook to bring in Anthony Rendon this offseason in what could be their last big free-agent signing in some time.

The $245M the Los Angeles Angels agreed to pay Anthony Rendon over the next seven years breaks down to just over $26M this year. The yearly salary falls third on the Angels payroll list this season, meaning the Angels roster is top-heavy with big contracts.

That indeed is the case, as their total payroll for the 2020 season sits at $171.8M, well below the luxury tax threshold. Four players account for $113M and it will be two years before the first contract comes off the books.

Mike Trout, whose 12-year, $426.5M contract can not be categorized as bad just yet (we’ll see how he ages) has three MVP Awards and has finished in the top 4 in MVP voting the past eight years. Trout has proven he is well worth the investment, though the $37M he will get each year for the next decade could handcuff the Angels in time.

When Albert Pujols signed his 10 year/$240M contract he was at age 30 and many wondered if he would still be producing at the tail end of the deal. He is not. After hitting .328 with three MVP Awards of his own with the St. Louis Cardinals, he has hit .258 with diminished power numbers since moving to Los Angeles. He remains slow and a defensive liability and will be making $59M over the next two years.

The Detroit Tigers may have signed Justin Upton to his $5 year/$106M contract, though they were quick to get out from under it when they traded Upton to the Angels in a waiver-wire deal less than two years after signing him. Injuries limited Upton to 63 games last year and a .215 average, though his numbers the year before while healthy were not worthy of the money he was being paid. He’s on the books for the next three years for a total of $72M.

Andrelton Simmons is in the last year of his contract which pays him $15M this year. The rest of the players are on one-year contracts, either in arbitration or in walk-years.

The Angels may not have the financial flexibility to sign big-time free agents until a couple of their bigger contracts fall off the ledger. They’ll be looking at one or two-year pacts in the short-term unless they are willing to approach or exceed the luxury tax.

By signing Rendon, the Los Angeles Angels are moving on from Pujols as the right-hand man to Mike Trout. It may be when Pujols moves on that the Angels can make it back to the postseason.