Angels manager Joe Maddon laments lost season, issues call to arms
As the Angels play out the string on another losing season, their seventh straight without a playoff berth, Joe Maddon’s patience is wearing thin. His frustration is not with his team’s effort but rather its personnel, a sentiment he voiced in response to a question about top prospect Reid Detmers’ rotation-worthiness in 2022.
“Listen, what’s your agenda next year?” the Angels manager said before Wednesday night’s game against the Houston Astros. “Is it to participate in the American League West and hopefully, possibly, make it to the end, and play a game in October?
“My point is, we have to get guys who are ready to win right now in that rotation in order to get to where we want to be. Otherwise, you’re going to keep perpetuating this method.”
The Angels plan to be aggressive in their pursuit of starting pitchers this winter, and there will be no shortage of high-end, free-agent arms available, including veterans Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, Carlos Rodón, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Corey Kluber.
Maddon said he believes the Angels need not one but two front-line starters to fill out a rotation that appears to have only one 2022 lock: two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who will take a 9-2 record and 3.28 ERA into his next start against the Seattle Mariners in Sunday’s home finale.
The Angels also need a shortstop, and the free-agent pool there, too, will be deep, talented and extremely expensive, with Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Javier Baez and Trevor Story heading the field.
One person familiar with the team’s thinking said the Angels, who have $111 million committed to five players — Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Justin Upton, Ohtani and David Fletcher — next season, would prefer to spend most of their financial resources on pitching and perhaps scrimp a bit at shortstop.
They’re banking on the returns of Trout, Rendon and Upton from injuries to bolster the offense.
If the Angels can team two front-end starters with Ohtani next season and fill out a six-man rotation with pitchers such as Griffin Canning, Jose Suarez, Patrick Sandoval, Detmers and Chris Rodriguez, perhaps they’ll be in a position to challenge the Astros in 2022 instead of being 12½ games behind them with 11 days remaining in the regular season, which is where they found themselves entering Wednesday.
“It’s tough to be in this position, it’s no fun to be in this position, you want to play meaningful games all the way through,” Maddon said. “It’s meaningful in a sense that a lot of guys are getting opportunity, and I give our guys credit. We come to play every night. But it’s no fun. You’ve got to put yourself in position that these games matter right now.”
Instead, September has turned into a now-annual exercise in player development, with young pitchers such as Janson Junk, who started Wednesday night, Suarez, Packy Naughton, Jaime Barria and Detmers auditioning for ’22 roles.
“You want to be setting up your postseason rotation, keeping guys fresh so they’re ready for the playoffs — that’s where you want to be right now,” Maddon said. “Instead, you’re doing this casting call, giving all kinds of opportunities, which is wonderful and necessary.
“But we have to get beyond that, and we’ve got to get beyond it next year. This can’t continue to go on. We can’t annually be in this position. This organization is better than that. We deserve better than that. We have to go out and earn it.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.