According to a report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Angels have received trade interest on several of their controllable players this offseason. Infielder Luis Rengifo, catcher Matt Thaiss, left-hander Jose Suarez as well as outfielders Taylor Ward and Mickey Moniak are all pieces who have reportedly been asked after to this point in the winter.
That clubs would see the Angels as a potential trade partner is hardly a surprise. With Shohei Ohtani having departed the club in favor of Chavez Ravine, the club figures to be all but forced to begin a significant retool of their roster if they hope to improve upon their consecutive 73-win campaigns in 2022 and ’23 even after parting ways with the most valuable player in the sport.
While that could see the club dabble in the free agent market, where they’ve been connected to left-hander Blake Snell and veteran slugger J.D. Martinez recently, it seems unlikely the club would be able to completely retool their roster just through free agency even as RosterResource projects the club for a payroll of just $153MM next season, more than $60MM below their payroll in 2023. As such, it’s hardly a surprise that the Angels would consider exploring the trade market, particularly given reports earlier this month that they have been aggressive in their pursuit of starting pitching via trade.
With all that being said, each of the rumored players garnering interest are controllable, inexpensive pieces who could prove key to Anaheim’s hopes of contending in 2024 and beyond. According to Rosenthal, the club’s willingness to deal any of the aforementioned players could hinge on the willingness of ownership to spend to replace the outgoing talent on the open market. It’s possible that between money spent on a replacement and the trade return the club could receive for their controllable talent, the Angels could improve their overall outlook even by trading away a fairly key piece in their current 2024 outlook.
Rengifo, 27 in February, is coming off the best season of his career in 2023. After entering the All Star break with a mediocre .219/.312/.326 slash line, the switch-hitter caught fire down the stretch with a .318/.374/.587 the rest of the way until his season came to an end due to a torn biceps tendon that ended up requiring surgery. With Rengifo expected to be ready for Spring Training, however, it’s easy to see why rival clubs would be interested in his services. Overall, Rengifo posted a solid 114 wRC+ while playing passable defense all around the diamond, with time spent at second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield spots over the course of the 2023 season. That positional flexibility paired with a solid bat would make Rengifo a worthwhile addition for most any team, and the fact that he can be controlled for two seasons surely makes him all the more enticing for rival clubs, and the presence of Brandon Drury could allow the Angels to replace Rengifo at the keystone fairly seamlessly.
Thaiss and Suarez, on the other hand, are not quite as obviously enticing as Rengifo. Thaiss slashed just .214/.319/.340 overall last season in 307 trips to the plate while posting average defensive marks behind the plate, while Suarez missed most of 2024 with shoulder issues and struggled to a 9.62 ERA in six starts prior to that trip to the IL. With that being said, each could nonetheless be of interest to clubs.
Catching depth is always something clubs are on the hunt for, and Thaiss offers an average bat and glove for the role with enough offensive potential that he could even have further upside as a tandem catching option should his offense take a step forward at some point. Thaiss also bats left-handed, making him a potentially useful pinch-hitter off the bench on days where he isn’t catching. Suarez, meanwhile, was an extremely valuable lefty swingman for the Angels in 2021 and ’22, with a 3.86 ERA across 207 1/3 innings of work. Given the fact that Suarez and Thaiss are controllable for three and four more seasons respectively, they’d be affordable options for clubs in need of a catcher or flexible pitcher who can throw from the left side.
It’s easy to see why Ward and Moniak would be attractive to rival clubs, but they may be difficult for the Halos to part with this offseason. Ward has become one of the club’s steadiest offensive producers in recent years, with a .265/.349/.446 slash line in 297 games since the start of the 2021 campaign. Ward is likely penciled in for everyday duty in one of the outfield corners not only for 2024, but for seasons to come, as he won’t be a free agent until after the 2026 campaign. Moniak, meanwhile, enjoyed a breakout season in his first full season as an Angel in 2023, slashing a respectable .280/.307/.495 with a wRC+ of 114 in 85 games. Moniak is also the club’s best option in center field besides Mike Trout, who has dealt with injuries more and more frequently in recent years and may benefit from additional rest in the form of occasional DH starts as he stares down his 33rd birthday in August.
In terms of the potential return headed to Anaheim should any of these players be dealt, it’s easy to assume the club would focus on bolstering their pitching staff in any deal. The club posted a respectable 101 wRC+ as a team in 2023, and while that includes the incredible production of Ohtani, its fair to point out that healthy seasons from the likes of Trout and Ward as well as continued development from key youngsters like Nolan Schanuel, Logan O’Hoppe and Zach Neto could all help the club make up for some of Ohtani’s lost production.
By contrast, the team posted an ERA of just 4.64 in 2023 even with Ohtani contributing 132 innings of 3.14 ERA baseball. The rest of the club’s rotation was essentially league average, with Patrick Sandoval’s 4.11 ERA (109 ERA+) leading the pack. Meanwhile, the club’s bullpen posted a disastrous 4.88 ERA that ranked bottom-six in the majors last year. Given those massive shortcomings, the addition of impactful pitching talent figures to be the Halos’ best hope of getting Trout back to the postseason for the first time since 2014.