LA Angels need bullpen help, but at what cost?
By Tyler Nelson
Will the Angels shop for a relief arm?
After the Los Angeles Angels taking a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth against the Oakland Athletics Sunday, June 17, relief pitcher Blake Parker couldn’t get a save and was charged with two earned runs and the Angels went on to lose 6-5 in 11 innings.
It’s a common theme for the Los Angeles Angels thus far. Not only do the Angels lead the league in blown saves, 15, but they’re also last in the league in save percentage, 53.13 percent. It’s an alarming issue that they are going to have to monitor if they are serious in making a postseason run.
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However, some of the struggles to the bullpen is a case of bad luck. Losing both Keynan Middleton and Blake Wood to season-ending Tommy John surgeries has proved to be significant blow. But, other relievers including Cam Bedrosian and Noe Ramirez have done little to nothing in proving to be reliable arms.
Now, because of the failure of the bullpen, this addresses the question on whether the Angels should trade for a bullpen arm or two. It’s definitely a question worth asking. But, what comes with trading for bullpen arms is if they are willing to deal their top prospects away. It’s something Angels’ general manager Billy Eppler is going to give a lot of thought as we make our way towards the trade deadline.
Buy buy buy!
There are reasons why the Angels should be buyers. Mike Trout is having his best season of his career, which is saying a lot, and the Angels should take advantage of it. Trout is also a free agent in 2020. Some speculate that if the Angels do not make the playoffs, Trout will take his talents to a team that can win now. If the Angels want Trout to stay, they need to be playing baseball in October.
They’re also getting a lot of production out of Andrelton Simmons and Justin Upton. Along with Trout, both Simmons and Upton can help the Angels form a solid batting lineup at the top of their roster that can help boost them to the playoffs.
Also, besides the bullpen, the Angels roster as a whole is talented enough to reach the playoffs. In fact, their starting pitching rotation is one of the best in the league and shows they can finally go deep in games.
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Meanwhile, the Angels don’t necessarily have an official closer. The role was given to Middleton to start the season, but he has since gone down. Since then, they’ve never truly have filled the void. Parker and Justin Anderson has seen stints in the closer role but haven’t locked it down. Having an official closer can provide some relief to the other relief arms.
Lastly, the Angels finally have the ammunition to be buyers. After having a farm system that ranked among the bottom of the league the last five years, the Angels are quickly rebuilding their farm system. Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh and Jahmai Jones headline their system and they have the talent to bring over top relief arms.
Sell sell sell!
You could also make the case on why the Angels could sit back and become sellers during the trade deadline.
Not all relievers pan out for their team. During the offseason, the Colorado Rockies struck a deal with reliever Bryan Shaw, three-year $27 million deal. Shaw has struggled. His ERA is 7.09 and has a negative -1.3 WAR. Greg Holland also signed a major deal with the St. Louis Cardinals last offseason. His ERA is an inflating 9.45 ERA and has a negative -0.9 WAR as well. Eppler may have a philosophy concerning bullpen arms, in which he’s not willing to make major deals for major arms.
Although the Angels have the talent and are currently 38-34, they are still eight games back of the Seattle Mariners for the second wild card spot. The American League is filled with talented teams and is very top heavy. Even if the Angels make a trade for a bullpen arm, can they reach the Mariners or Red Sox for the second wildcard? Also, can we see the Angels beating the Yankees or Astros in October? Trading away top prospects for a rental arm may in fact be useless given how talented the American League is.
Are the Angels willing to deal their top prospects away? As mentioned earlier, the Angels farm system has steadily improved over the years. Having four top prospects in MiLB’s top 100 prospects, the Angels may look to hold onto them and develop them. With an aging Albert Pujols and Ian Kinsler, the Angels may fill their voids with their own. Add in a struggling Kole Calhoun and the Angels have three serious holes they’ll have to replace relatively soon.
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Wait and see
The Angels are going to have to make some decisions concerning their bullpen. It’s obviously their weakest position and has definitely costed the Angels some victories. However, is Eppler willing to deal for some major relief arms including Zach Britton and Brad Hand? We’ll have to wait and see.