The Los Angeles Angels made two roster moves on Sunday, adding a veteran reliever to their 40-man roster.
Baseball is on pause, but the Angels front office is still making moves. The team announced on Sunday that they have selected left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter to their 40-man roster. In order to make space for Buchter, they designated Taylor Cole for assignment.
Buchter adds a left-handed arm to an Angels bullpen that is heavy on right-handed hurlers. Jose Quijada is the only other lefty reliever close to the majors on the 40-man roster. The former Oakland Athletic, Buchter, had a solid 2019 campaign by traditional measures, posting a 2.98 ERA over 64 appearances. His advanced stats tell a bit of a different story. His fielding independent ERA (FIP) was 4.96, the product of a home run to fly ball rate of 14.5%. He also walked a troublesome 4.57 batters per nine innings.
If Buchter can manage his control and learn to induce more ground balls, he can be an effective lefty option with strikeout ability (career 9.88 K/9). However, Baseball Prospectus projects his ERA to jump to 4.07 this season, assuming his underlying numbers finally catch up to him. Buchter has maintained an ERA below three for four consecutive seasons despite troublesome home run and walk rates.
Cole had one minor league option remaining, but the Halos needed space on their 40-man roster to add Buchter. The 30-year-old had a breakout season for the Angels in 2018 before falling back to earth last season. Opposing hitters doubled their line drive rate against him in 2019 compared to the season before, and his walk total went up as his strikeout rate declined.
Buchter was non-tendered by the Athletics in December. He was projected to make $1.8 million in arbitration by MLBTradeRumors.com. The Angels signed him to a minor league contract in February. He made five appearances this March in Tempe, allowing three hits, striking out five, walking three, and holding opponents scoreless.
By adding Buchter to the 40-man roster, it seems likely he will be put on the active roster when the season returns. He could become the lone lefty out of the bullpen, a role that might lose some significance given the new rules forcing managers to use relievers for at least three batters or until the end of an inning.
Buchter was used for less than three outs 59% of the time last season, which was a personal high. Over his career, he has been used for less than three outs only 37% of the time. The 33-year-old has stronger numbers against lefties, but if he needs to stay in against the random righty, he has proven, at times, to be effective against opposite-handed hitters.
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