Anthony Rendon's 2021 campaign came to a premature end on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Angels announced their third baseman would have season-ending surgery to repair a right hip impingement. Rendon hasn't played for a month and hasn't been himself all season. Frankly, two years into the massive deal he signed in December of 2019, the former All-Star is looking like an enormous bust.
Rendon's first season with the Angels was fine. He played 52 of the team's 60 games and hit .286 with nine home runs, 31 RBIs and an OPS of .915. He finished with an fWAR of 2.7, which ranked eighth in MLB. Not bad, right? Compared to the previous year though, it was a big step down.
In 2019, Rendon helped lead the Washington Nationals to a World Series title. He was outstanding, notching career-highs in batting average (.319), home runs (34), RBIs (126), slugging percentage (.598), OPS (1.010) and fWAR (7.0). In fact from 2017 through 2019, Rendon posted fWAR numbers of 6.7, 6.2 and that 7.0 from 2019. He was trending in the right direction despite turning 30 during the 2020 season.
Unfortunately, he took a massive dip this season. In 58 games, Rendon hit .240 with only six home runs, 34 RBIs and a dismal OPS of .712. His fWAR was an awful 0.7. And now he's done for the year. Rendon had dealt with knee, groin, hamstring and triceps injuries previously this season, so some of his struggles could be chalked up to not being fully healthy.
While you could think this was just a lost season for Rendon and he'll bounce back, how likely will that be in his age 32 season? Perhaps more worrisome than his future is what the Angels may have missed out on by spending all their money on him during the 2019-20 offseason.
The Angels have a decent offense, and would have even without Rendon. But their pitching is awful and has been for years. LA's team ERA is currently 4.75, which ranks 25th in baseball. During the same offseason the Angels signed Rendon, Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Wade Miley were all available and, other than Cole, they were all significantly cheaper than Rendon. In fact, Ryu and Miley combined to make less than Rendon in both 2020 and 2021.
This season, Miley is 8-4 with a 2.92 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and 88 strikeouts against 36 walks in 114 innings. Ryu is 11-5 with a 3.22 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and 102 strikeouts in 123 innings. They would be the top two starting pitchers on the Angels' roster and would take pressure off Shohei Ohtani to slot in as the No. 3 starter, taking some pressure off him.
But that's just an example. Wheeler would have been an excellent addition and at $118 million over five years, he's significantly cheaper than Rendon. He's been excellent this season, going 9-6 with a 2.57 ERA and an fWAR of 5.1, which is fourth in all of baseball.
Perhaps worse for the Angels is that Rendon's contract hasn't begun to hurt yet. He made $26 million in 2020 and $28 million this year, but his salary makes a jump to $36 million next season. After that he'll cost $38 million a year for four more seasons.
Maybe Rendon bounces back when he's healthy next year. Maybe he'll be right back to the guy the Angels paid for in 2019. But it's hard to believe that will be the case. It's far more like that he played far above his station in 2019 as an impending free agent and that he won't get there again. Which means the Angels will be stuck paying a declining player upwards of $38 million a year until he's 36.