One of the biggest weakpoints of the Angels slow start this season has been the bullpen. To call the group “shaky,” would be putting it lightly. Combined, the bullpen is 0-6 with a 5.08 ERA and blew six of their first seven save opportunites. Jordan Walden has already been demoted from his role as closer in favor of veteran lefty Scott Downs, who has been the lone consistent arm coming out of the pen this season. In an effort to improve things in the back end, the Angels have acquired right-hander Ernesto Frieri from the San Diego Padres for minor league utility player Alexi Amarista and pitcher Donn Roach.
Frieri comes over from the Padres where he filled a middle relief role, seeing playing time as the 6th or 7th inning guy. So far this season, he’s pitched 11.2 innings, with a 2.31 ERA, a 1.114 WHIP and has struck out 18 while walking just four for a ridiculous 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Over four seasons, Frieri has appeared in 105 games, pitched 108.1 innings with a 2.33 ERA, 1.237 WHIP with a 11.4 SO/9 ratio. GM Jerry Dipoto is very excited about adding him to the mix.
“He’s deceptive and has a history of missing bats,” Dipoto said. “He has what I call a ‘magic’ fastball. It cuts, it runs, it sinks — it moves in different directions and is hard to hit.”
“It doesn’t change the world, but it helps change our club,” Dipoto said. “He gives us another experienced and effective arm, and he could be a cost-effective part of the solution.”
His ability to “miss bats” is really going to endear him to Angels fans as the current bullpen roster has looked like they’ve been throwing batting practice for opposing teams. While he probably doesn’t quite have the stuff to be a closer, Frieri could slide into a setup role, pitching in the seventh and eighth innings for the Angels.
To add to the pen, the Halos gave up two young prospects in Amarista and Roach, rated the 12th and 16th best prospects in the Angels farm system, respectively. Amarista, 23, played in 23 games with the Angels last season, playing at second, shortstop, and in the outfield. He hit just .154/.182/.150 with five RBI and eight strikeouts in 52 at-bats. This season, he has hit .273/.289/.403 at Triple-A Salt Lake with 12 RBI in 18 games. He has shown the potential to have some decent power and has excellent versatility in the field. With the long-term signing of Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, however, plus the presence of Jean Segura in the farm system (the Angels second rated prospect behind Mike Trout), Amarista proved an expendable assset.
Roach was drafted by the Angels in 2010 and is currently with Inland Empire in the California League, where the 22 year old has been doing very well, posting a 5-0 record with a 2.16 ERA with 29 strikeouts to just three walks and a WHIP of 0.936. It will be several more years before he is able to contribute to the big league club, most likely, and the needs of the bullpen now far outweigh the needs for pitching prospects down the road.
So will another quality arm in the bullpen solve the Angels’ woes? Probably not all of them, but it’s a positive step. Any consistent presence who can help close out some games without getting hit around the yard is a welcome addition to this squad. Tell us what you think of the trade in the comments.