With Keynan Middleton likely out for the season, the LA Angels’ late game bullpen situation has gone from bad to worse. By losing their erstwhile closer, the busiest bullpen in the American League is going to get even more chaotic as Mike Scioscia searches for someone who can pitch the 9th… and the 8th… and the 7th….
Scioscia called upon Justin Anderson to close out Andrew Heaney‘s strong start Monday night, and it may well be that the rookie will get dibs on the closer slot that both Blake Parker and Cam Bedrosian have been unable to hold on to. However, Anderson did allow three Astros to reach base, and hasn’t yet had a 1-2-3 inning in his ten appearances this season. Though the rotation seems to be rounding into shape, health is no guarantee, and the pen will no doubt be called upon heavily. Unlike with starting pitching, bullpen upgrades are always possible as the season goes on and bad teams start looking to trade for prospects. Here are five arms the Angels should keep an eye on:
Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles
15.2 IP, 20 Ks, 4.60 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 5 saves
According to a rumor reported by John Heyman, the Orioles’ closer’s stuff is “a little down.” Brach’s never been the most reliable closer, converting just 68% of his save opportunities the past three seasons — he walks a lot of batters, and lefties do get to his stuff. Still and all, he’s a quality reliever who’s about to hit free agency this winter. Boston and the Yankees will ensure that the Orioles aren’t within a country mile of the playoffs, and with Manny Machado likely out the door, Brach could be available as part of an imminent Baltimore fire sale.
Joakim Soria, Chicago White Sox
12.1 IP, 13 Ks, 4.38 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 4 saves
Soria’s going to be celebrating his 34th birthday in a few days, and doesn’t fit in with the team’s rebuilding program. This past Sunday, it was Bruce Rondon and not Soria who got the call in a save situation. The White Sox are 12-25, and paying the aging Soria’s $9 million salary to save inconsequential games is probably something ChiSox management could do without. Soria’s been a reliable reliever for a very long time, and would be a definite boost to the Angels’ pen.
A.J. Ramos, New York Mets
15 IP, 16 Ks, 3.60 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 0 saves
The former Marlins closer is now a bridge man in New York. He’s always been a little too wild to be truly excellent, but he consistently throws hard and gets Ks and generally doesn’t explode, which would make him a very useful addition to the Angels. The Mets still have a winning record at 19-18, but that won’t last. They’re 2-8 in their last ten games as they’ve been inundated by injuries, and Atlanta, Philly, and Washington have all rushed past them over the last few weeks. When (not if) the Mets fall out of contention, Ramos and his expiring $9.2 million contract would be a nice chit to trade away.
Alex Colomé, Tampa Bay Rays
16.2 IP, 17 Ks, 4.86 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 7 saves
Last year’s AL saves leader is off to a rough start. Colomé is going to be arbitration eligible this winter, and Tampa’s always been allergic to playing relievers market value. As with Baltimore, Tampa Bay’s going to be looking up at Boston and New York all season. If they can get something useful for Colomé now — and they most certainly can — they just might do it. However, since he’s not going to hit free agency in the next few years, the cost to trade for him may get pricy.
Craig Stammen, San Diego Padres
21 IP, 17 Ks, 2.14 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 0 saves
After a strong 2017, Stammen resigned with the Padres last winter, a reclamation project gone right after he spent most of 2016 in the minor leagues. He’s cheap and effective, which means the Padres have little incentive to get rid of him. He’s also older, and the Padres stink, which means that he can be had if something tickles the Padres’ fancy.
Aside from these five, there are countless young unknowns scattered throughout the minor leagues that might temporarily boost the Angel bullpen. However, no one comes free. The price for Brach, Ramos, or any of the other relievers listed and unlisted will have to be paid in talent. The Angels farm system has, after years of being a desolate hellscape, shown signs of real high-end upside — Jaime Barria‘s success speaks to that. However, will the Angels be willing to part with top prospects in order to rebuild their bullpen on the fly? What we do know is that relief is possible. Whether or not the Angels want to pay the price for it remains to be seen.