The Los Angeles Angels have signed third baseman Anthony Rendon to a big contract. How will their lineup look now?
For the brunt of Mike Trout’s career, the Los Angeles Angels have struggled to surround him with talent. Looking to make a big splash at the Winter Meetings, they came to terms on a seven-year, $245 million deal with third baseman Anthony Rendon on Wednesday night.
Rendon has become one of the best third baseman in baseball. With the Washington Nationals last season he had his best season, posting a .319/.412/.598 slash-line with a career-high 34 home runs, a major league-leading 126 RBI and a NL-leading 44 doubles for the second straight year. He also naturally, set career marks in fWAR (7.0) and bWAR (6.3).
The Angels now have a top-notch left side of the infield, as Rendon joins shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Rendon more broadly joins a lineup headlined by Trout, as the team tries to push into real playoff contention.
The Angels should not be done making notable moves this offseason, with a dire need for starting pitching still lingering.
But focusing strictly on the offense, how might new manager Joe Maddon fill out his lineup card on a regular basis next season? Here’s my projection, with the pieces that are currently in place.
1. 2B David Fletcher
2. CF Mike Trout
3. DH Shohei Ohtani
4. 3B Anthony Rendon
5. LF Justin Upton
6. 1B Albert Pujols
7. SS Andrelton Simmons
8. RF Brian Goodwin
9. C Max Stassi
Ideally, the Angels would upgrade their situations behind the plate and in right field. They declined their $14 million option for next season on Kole Calhoun, who for all his flaws has hit for some power (a career-high 33 home runs last season) and been one of the top defensive outfielders around, to vacate the latter spot. A reunion with Calhoun at a cheaper rate has to be possible at this point.
In the top-half of the order, Trout’s .438 on-base percentage led the majors last year, meaning he could be a candidate to lead off on a team without many better options, but he hit second almost exclusively last season, so it’s doubtful the new manager moves his star player off of that spot. Ohtani took the majority of the cuts in the No. 3 hole and Rendon can slot into the cleanup spot. Fletcher, despite getting on base at just a .350 clip, spent the most games as the Angels’ leadoff batter last season, exactly 81 games.
Simmons hit anywhere from No. 2 to No. 7 in the lineup last year for all but five of his 424 plate appearances. In an optimal lineup his .309 on-base percentage from 2019 would probably be slotted further down toward the end of that range. But Simmons does make a lot of contact, as he struck out just 37 times (8.7 percent of the time) last season, and he offers some pop (25 home runs over the 2017 and 2018 seasons). So there are chances he could feature higher up in the order.
The addition of Rendon also helps by pushing sometimes productive yet flawed bats like Upton and Pujols into the bottom half of the order.
Maddon is an outside the box thinker, as what we think of as traditional fits for each lineup spot could often go out the window. Rendon’s presence adds some notable thunder, and however Maddon ultimately puts it together the Angels lineup is far better today than it was 24 hours ago.