The Los Angeles Angels finally made their first move of the offseason, signing reliever Robert Stephenson to a three-year deal worth $33 million. The deal includes an option for a fourth season as well. It's a contract earned from his terrific stint with the Rays. What makes it a concern, however, is the fact that he wasn't even with the Rays for a full season before the Angels paid him like an elite reliever.
Stephenson had a 4.90 ERA through his first seven MLB seasons and 211 appearances. The high ERA was impacted by some rough outings as a starter and some struggles at Coors Field, but Stephenson was nothing more than a journeyman before finding his way with the Rays. After being traded to Tampa Bay this past June, Stephenson completely turned his career around, posting a 2.35 ERA in 42 appearances and 38.1 innings pitched. He looked like one of the best relievers in baseball thanks in large part to a new grip on his slider.
If Stephenson pitches like the Rays version of himself then the deal is a slam dunk. The Angels are in desperate need of bullpen help, and could really use a dominant Stephenson. However, his lack of a track record being that guy raises concerns about an expensive three-year commitment. Even with an elite Stephenson this bullpen could use another arm. These three make a whole lot of sense.
3) Matt Moore
The Angels signed Matt Moore last offseason who had a very similar trajectory to Stephenson. Moore had his ups and downs as a starter to begin his career, and things got so bad to the point where he pitched in Japan to re-establish his value. That didn't exactly pan out as he struggled the following season with the Phillies, but then, after a permanent move to the bullpen, he was a completely different pitcher.
Moore was dominant with the Rangers during the 2022 season, earning a contract with the Angels that offseason. The difference was Moore signed a one-year deal worth $7.5 million. Nowhere near the risk Stephenson's deal brings. Fortunately for the Angels, he was the only consistent reliever they had for the full season, as he posted a 2.66 ERA in 41 appearances and 44 innings pitched in an Angels uniform.
Moore was lights out as Carlos Estevez's primary set-up man, the role Stephenson will likely take over. With Josh Hader off the board, Moore is the best left-handed reliever available. The Angels' best lefty in the bullpen would likely be Jose Suarez if the season started today. That, for obvious reasons, is not good enough.
Even with how good Moore has been for the last couple of seasons, his age (34) will limit him from getting the deal Stephenson got, making him a very realistic option for the Angels.