SAN DIEGO — Off a decade they made remarkable for their inability to build a presentable team around Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday came to terms with free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon on a seven-year, $245 million deal, according to sources.
With still work to be done on the pitching staff, but clearly angling to be relevant again in the American League West hours after failing in their pursuit of right-hander Gerrit Cole, the deal includes no options or opt-outs, according to sources. The deal is pending a physical.
The Angels are expected to seek at least one starting pitcher and perhaps two from among a shortening list of free agents. Gone are Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler and Cole Hamels, among others. Still available: Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel. They might also engage with the Cleveland Indians for Corey Kluber.
They lost 92 games in 2018, their worst season in 20 years. As a result, first-year manager Brad Ausmus was fired and replaced by Joe Maddon, the folksy long-time Angels minor leaguer and coach with an uncommon clubhouse touch. There would be little improvement without better players, however.
In March, owner Arte Moreno extended Trout’s contract by 12 years and 426.5 million. Albert Pujols, who will be 40 in January, has two years and $59 million left on his contract. Justin Upton is due $72 million over the next three seasons. To that, add Rendon. After that, pitching, for a team that finished in the bottom four in the American League in ERA.
Rendon, who, like Cole, is represented by agent Scott Boras, in October helped lift the Washington Nationals to their first World Series championship. In Anaheim, he is likely to hit somewhere behind Trout, the three-time MVP who in nine seasons has been on one postseason team.
Regarded in past seasons as a quietly efficient and even dynamic player, Rendon posted career highs in home runs (34), RBIs (126), batting average (.319) and on-base percentage (.412) in 2019, when he was an All-Star for the first time.
He then batted .328 in 17 postseason games, with three home runs and 15 RBIs. Each of his home runs — in Game 5 of the division series and Games 6 and 7 of the World Series — came in the face of elimination for the Nationals.
Rendon, 29, was regarded as the best position player at the top of a free-agent market dominated by starting pitchers. He’d again produced offensively with the best third basemen in the game and better than all but perhaps Alex Bregman. His competition in free agency was Josh Donaldson, who had a huge bounce-back season in Atlanta but will start next season at 34, and Mike Moustakas, two years older than Rendon.
Late in the season, the Nationals reportedly offered Rendon a contract extension worth about $210 million over seven years, a similar strategy to the one they used in the run-up to outfielder Bryce Harper’s free agency. Harper eventually signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for $330 million. Rendon rejected the offer, as well, as he figured to generate bidding from a variety of teams, among them, and in the final hours before he agreed to terms with the Angels, the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Rangers had filled third base in Adrian Beltre’s absence with Asdrubal Cabrera, Logan Forsythe and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Were they to move Justin Turner to first or second base, the Dodgers could have padded an offense that already led the National League in runs.
In the end, Rendon was expected to command a contract in the neighborhood of Nolan Arenado’s seven-year, $260-million extension with the Colorado Rockies, granted without the benefit of free-agent competition.
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