Last season, the Angels had the 13th best ERA by starter in the major leagues. Had their offense not have been the best in the majors, they wouldn’t have easily waltzed to an AL West title with 98 wins. But with an offensively improved Mariners club, a Houston team that is only getting better, a healthy Texas squad, and Billy Beane’s A’s who are doing who-knows-what, the Angels are going to have to improve their pitching if they want to retain their division title.
On November 5th, Angels’ general manager Jerry Dipoto traded Hank Conger to the Astros in exchange for righty Nick Tropeano and fellow catcher Carlos Perez. Tropeano excelled in Triple-A last year, pitching to a 3.03 ERA in 124.2 innings while striking out 8.7 batters per nine. He’s a nice depth piece, and a good one at that, but he’s not guaranteed a starting gig and will have to impress the coaches at Spring Training considerably to start in Anaheim. Other than that, Dipoto hasn’t made any moves to bolster the rotation, not for a lack of trying however. We can expect that if a move is to be made this offseason, it’ll occur during the upcoming Winter Meetings.
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If Garrett Richards is healthy and ready to go by Opening Day, the Angels will roll out a rotation of Richards-Jered Weaver–Matt Shoemaker–C.J. Wilson–Hector Santiago/Cory Rasmus/Tropeano. The 5th spot is up for grabs at this point and will probably be decided in Tempe during the preseason. Between Richards, Shoemaker, and Santiago, the trio has totaled just 127 starts and a meager 7.1 playoff innings, all coming this year. There is a definite lack of veteran presence on the staff and gaining an experienced arm should be a top priority for the Angels’ front office.
So in steps Bartolo Colon. Big, fat, old Bartolo Colon. New York Mets starting pitcher, Bartolo Colon.
Why is Colon a good fit for the Angels?
Colon has been in the league a very long time and in his 17-year tenure, he’s proven he can chew up innings. He has thrown more than 200 innings eight times in his career and has pitched 190+ innings the last two seasons. Although he’s going to be 42 years old in 2015, he’s pitched at least 150 innings the past four years and could eat up a considerable amount of innings for the Halos. He’s logged 58.1 innings in the postseason and could be a reliable #3 or 4 option if the team plays in October.
As far as performance goes, Colon is like a fine wine, he’s gotten better with age. His FIP has been sub-4 since 2011 and as low as 3.23 in 2013. Last season he posted an excellent 5.0 K/BB ratio and that figure has actually improved over his last five seasons. He doesn’t strike out very many batters but has precise pitch locations and rarely walks batters. Colon is a fly ball pitcher and should benefit from the Angels’ strong outfield defense (8th best range in 2014) and the Big A’s tendency to suppress homers. In 413 career innings in Anaheim, Colon has a 4.38 ERA but has fared better around other ballparks in the AL West. He’s not going to be the ace of the staff but can fill in nicely as a #4 or 5 guy to shore up the rotation.
In terms of salary, the former Cy Young award winner is set to be paid $11 million this year with $10 million going against the salary cap. If this doesn’t push the Angels past the $189 million luxury tax limit, it’ll be darn close. Owner Arte Moreno has been resilient to cross the limit but has said before that he would not hold back if it were the right deal. Colon is on the back end of a two year deal so it’s possible that the club would break the luxury tax solely in 2015, which would only tax the Angels 17.5% on their overages.
It was recently reported that the Mets were trying to move a veteran starter to make room for their young core. The team projects to have Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Zack Wheeler locked into starting spots with Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Colon filling out the later end of the rotation. Not to mention top prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, who are knocking on the door to the majors and will compete for a chance in the big leagues. If the Mets were to trade Colon, it would be a salary dump type of move and would cost very little in terms of players. Perhaps a one-for-one swap for Kevin Jepsen or low-level prospect like Danny Reynolds would do the job. Trading for Colon simply would give Dipoto the biggest bang for his buck and wouldn’t deplete the already weak farm system.
The starting rotation is one of the weaker points on the Angels’ roster. They have a young, inexperienced set of arms and it would do them justice to add a Bartolo Colon type player to their squad. You know exactly what you’re getting with Bartolo Colon on your team. He won’t have a Cy Young quality season like he did in 2005 for the Halos but would provide a veteran presence and eat some innings from the backend of the rotation. He’s had success in the AL West before, most recently between 2012-2013 with the Athletics, and Dipoto should consider giving the old man a shot to help bring a World Series title back to Anaheim.