Tampa Bay Rays: Robert Stephenson
I know, I know. I just said the Angels should avoid signing Robert Stephenson. I still am not enamored with the idea of signing him, but the other options in Tampa Bay include guys like Jake Diekman, Raimel Tapia, and former Angel Chris Devenski. Stephenson would be better than all three, in my opinion.
My reasoning behind the Angels not pursuing a guy like Stephenson was more about the Angels than it was about him. The Angels just signed a guy in Tyler Anderson who broke out randomly in his 30's with the Dodgers and was just one of the worst pitchers in baseball this past season for the Halos after they gave him a three-year deal. Stephenson just broke out in his age-30 season with the Rays. How good would he be with the Angels?
If the Angels move off of Matt Wise and sign a good pitching coach my confidence would be higher, but that hasn't happened yet. However, if they do land one, I'll definitely have interest in Stephenson because his year with the Rays was extraordinary.
The former first round pick was DFA'd by the Pirates after posting a 5.14 ERA in his first 18 appearances of the season, but he had a 2.35 ERA in 42 appearances with the Rays the rest of the season. He walked just eight batters compared to 60 strikeouts in 38.1 innings pitched, posting a microscopic 0.678 WHIP in the process. For reference, Edwin Diaz had a 0.839 WHIP in 2022 in one of the best seasons we've seen from a reliever in a long time.
As long as the Angels don't overpay expecting him to repeat or even improve on his 2023 numbers, I think bringing Stephenson in for a year or two if they change pitching coaches makes some sense. Expectations would have to be tempered, however.