Angels general manager Billy Eppler told reporters on Thursday that Shohei Ohtani will not be ready for Opening Day.
Not the biggest shock in the world given that he had Tommy John surgery in October, but it’s not like the rehab for coming back to just hit, as Ohtani will do exclusively in 2019, is as long as it is for pitching. Eppler did not give a timetable for Ohtani’s return to DH duties, but assuming nothing goes wrong, he is expected to hit for most of the year.
Assuming he does, it should be a boon to the Angels’ lineup. The Rookie of the Year posted a batting line of .285/.361/.564 (152 OPS+) with 22 home runs — 13 of them coming in August and September — 61 RBI, 59 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 367 plate appearances in 2018.
Another big free agent domino has fallen at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Third baseman Anthony Rendon is signing with the Angels on seven-year, $245 million contract, per Jon Heyman.
Rendon, 29, was the top free agent position player. He’s coming off of a season in which he helped the Nationals win their first championship, batting .319/.412/.598 with a league-high 126 RBI and an NL-best 44 doubles along with 34 home runs and 117 runs scored in 646 plate appearances. Rendon also continued to play solid defense at third base. During the postseason, Rendon hit .328/.412/.590 with seven doubles, three homers, 15 RBI, and 11 runs scored in 75 trips to the plate.
The Angels badly needed to make a big free agent splash this offseason, and third base was as good a place as any to do it. Rendon will now slot easily into the middle of the Angels’ lineup along with Mike Trout. It remains to be seen if the Angels are done making moves, but they could use a corner outfielder and another starting pitcher.
Humorously, Rendon has said he’d like to retire by age 35, as Jesse Daugherty of the Washington Post alluded to on the Nationals Talk Podcast. This contract will take him through his age-36 season.