The Los Angeles Angels made their first big league signing of the offseason, inking Adam Kolarek to a one-year deal. The Angels added a left-hander to their bullpen that had virtually none, which certainly makes sense. Unfortunately, the Kolarek move especially this early in the offseason was a bit underwhelming.
With the Angels having one of the worst bullpens in the majors, a lot of work has to be done to seriously improve it. In other words, the Angels have to do a whole lot more than just signing a journeyman left-handed reliever. The Angels appear interested in doing so, as they've reportedly expressed interest in Robert Stephenson according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.
LA Angels are reportedly one of several teams interested in Robert Stephenson
Robert Stephenson has had an interesting journey to get to where he is right now, to say the least. He was a first round pick by the Reds in the 2011 MLB Draft as a starter, but has spent most of his MLB career as a low-leverage reliever. He had a 5.14 ERA in 18 appearances with the Pirates this past season before being acquired in June by the Rays.
Immediately after switching jerseys, Stephenson became one of the more dominant relievers in all of baseball. The 30-year-old right-hander had a 2.35 ERA in 42 appearances and 38.1 innings pitched with Tampa Bay. He struck out 60 batters compared to just eight walks. He wound up going from a low-leverage arm to the Rays' primary set-up man as the season progressed.
The Rays did what they do with relievers they see something in, they tinkered with Stephenson's pitch usage and made him elite. They had him throw his slider harder, and he wound up having major success with it.
Seeing Stephenson break out at 30 is a great thing, but we've seen the Angels sign these pitchers coming off random breakout years and watch them immediately crash down to earth. Aaron Loup anybody? How about Tyler Anderson?
Stephenson is going to garner a ton of interest on the open market, and should net an expensive multi-year deal. This isn't to say he doesn't deserve it, but trusting the Angels to keep Stephenson on the right track with their track record probably isn't the wisest move.
A Stephenson addition would obviously make this bullpen better, but it'd be one with many red flags as he doesn't have a sustainable track record. There are many arms that appear to be better options for now.