Los Angeles Angels Welcome a New Era with Anthony Rendon, Mike Trout Super-Duo

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 12, 2019

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 30:  Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals hits a solo home run against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning in Game Seven of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

There's only one Mike Trout in Major League Baseball, but the Los Angeles Angels have finally added a superstar who can keep up with him.

The newest Angel is third baseman Anthony Rendon, formerly of the Washington Nationals, who MLB Network's Jon Heyman first reported Wednesday will join the team on a seven-year, $245 million contract:

Rendon's contract also includes a full no-trade clause and no opt-outs, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Chances are, therefore, that he'll remain in Anaheim all the way through 2026.

The Angels badly needed a major offseason win following their 72-90 flop in 2019. To be sure, that need was only heightened when they missed out on ace right-hander (and Southern California native) Gerrit Cole, who agreed to a nine-year, $324 million contract with the New York Yankees on Tuesday.

The Angels still need to address their starting rotation before their near-term contention chances can be taken seriously. But for now, what Trout—who's a $430 million man in his own right—tweeted in response to reports of Rendon's signing pretty well says it all:

Rendon, 29, was an overlooked star from 2014 to 2018. That was especially true in 2017 and 2018, when he compiled a .923 OPS and 49 home runs yet didn't garner even one All-Star nod.

But in 2019, Rendon could be overlooked no longer.

In the regular season alone, he went off for a .319/.412/.598 batting line, 34 homers and an MLB-high 126 RBI. According to Baseball Reference, he ranked 10th among all position players with 6.3 wins above replacement.

Rendon kept right on hitting in the postseason during the Nationals' run to their first World Series championship. He slashed .328/.413/.590 with three home runs, including one each in Games 6 and 7 of the Fall Classic against the Houston Astros.

Though Rendon will have to adjust to a new league and a new home ballpark, the latter could be beneficial to him.

He developed an opposite-field hitting stroke in posting a career-best .907 OPS to right field in 2019. Yet from looking at the non-homer fly balls he hit at Nationals Park, he might have done even better if he'd been taking aim at Angel Stadium's friendly right field porch:

Image courtesy of BaseballSavant.MLB.com

Of course, Rendon will have to get used to no longer being the best hitter in his own lineup. That's a testament to Trout, who's fresh off a career-high 45 homers and posting the American League's best adjusted OPS+ for a fifth straight season.

Yet it's a safe guess that Trout isn't about to welcome his new teammate by rubbing that in. After racking up 52.6 more WAR than the next-best Angels player from 2012 to 2019, he should indeed be over the moon about finally getting to work with a proper partner.

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

In addition to ranking first and sixth in OPS+ in 2019, Trout and Rendon also ranked first and fourth in xwOBA, which measures expected production based on strikeouts, walks and contact quality.

If Trout and Rendon can keep hitting like that, they have the potential to be the best lineup duo in MLB on an annual basis.

The Angels should get additional power out of Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton, Tommy La Stella and Albert Pujols. David Fletcher and Andrelton Simmons, meanwhile, are two of the best pure contact hitters in the sport. Jo Adell, who's ranked as MLB.com's No. 5 prospect, should also be along sooner than later.

But while new manager Joe Maddon shouldn't face much of a challenge in filling out his daily lineups next season, there's still the matter of who's going to pitch for him.

The Angels can look forward to having Ohtani back on the mound in 2020, but his recent Tommy John surgery and two-way act will prohibit him from shouldering too big a load. And while they did add former top prospect Dylan Bundy in a trade, he's essentially a reclamation project.

That is to say a starting rotation responsible for an MLB-low 0.8 WAR in 2019 is still a significant issue in Anaheim. But at least the Angels know it, as Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported they're mulling their options on the free-agent and trade markets:

Until this mission actually yields results, it's hard to picture the Angels challenging the Astros, who have topped 100 wins in three straight seasons, or Oakland Athletics, who've won 97 games in back-to-back seasons, in next year's AL West race. Right now, the Angels look something like a .500 team.

But if nothing else, having Rendon in the mix should make them more watchable than they've been at arguably any point during their Trout-centric history.

And given what they're spending on their dynamic duo, nobody can say they're not trying.

   

Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant.

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