Angels make first big move of offseason, sign breakout reliever to three-year deal

The Angels make their first meaningful move of the offseason, sign Robert Stephenson to a three-year deal
Baltimore Orioles v Tampa Bay Rays
Baltimore Orioles v Tampa Bay Rays / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Angels suffered the biggest blow of the offseason when Shohei Ohtani signed his mega-deal to join the crosstown rivals. A swift response was expected, but the Angels had done virtually nothing of note for over a month after Ohtani's decision.

Finally, after over a month of waiting, the Angels have finally made a move. They have signed reliever Robert Stephenson to a three-year deal including an option. The Angels needed bullpen help, and Stephenson will be expected to provide that.

LA Angels sign breakout reliever Robert Stephenson to three-year deal

The Angels had one of the worst bullpens in baseball this past season, ranking 25th in ERA and having all kinds of trouble late in games. Part of that had to do with Phil Nevin's usage, and part of it was simply a lack of talent. With that in mind, the Angels needed to add in a big way this offseason. They did add early on with arms like Adam Kolarek, Adam Cimber, and Luis Garcia, but Stephenson is the big move.

The 30-year-old is a former first-round pick, selected in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Reds. He came up through the minors as a starting pitcher, but has spent most of his MLB career in the bullpen. While he's always had talent, Stephenson had been nothing more than a journeyman throughout his career. Until this past season.

It began with Stephenson in a Pirates uniform, but after posting a 5.14 ERA in 18 appearances with Pittsburgh, he was traded to the Rays in June. With Tampa Bay, he was a completely different pitcher.

The right-hander went from an afterthought to one of the best relievers in the game during his time with the Rays. He posted a 2.35 ERA in 42 appearances with Tampa, striking out 60 hitters compared to just eight walks in 38.1 innings pitched.

If Stephenson pitches like he did in Tampa Bay, this deal is a slam dunk for the Angels. The problem is, he has just four months of a sample size showing he can be an elite reliever. This team needs it in the worst way, but the possibility of him being the next Ryan Tepera or Aaron Loup looms.