The Los Angeles Angels have a lot of work to do with their bullpen if they plan on being even remotely competitive in 2024. That's no secret. They had one of the worst bullpens in baseball this past season, and outside of Carlos Estevez and some young unproven but talented arms, they really don't have much to turn to.
As weak as the bullpen is in general, it's even weaker when it comes to left-handers. This past season the Angels had Matt Moore for most of the season and not much else. Aaron Loup pitched a lot but was ineffective and is now a free agent. Guys like Tucker Davidson and Jose Quijada made appearances early in the season but didn't last.
The only left-handers the Angels had on their depth chart to begin this offseason were guys who are really starters, Jose Suarez and Kenny Rosenberg. This bullpen badly needed a boost, particularly from the left side. Perry Minasian's first big league contract of the offseason isn't a super exciting one, but it does make the Angels a smidge better as they brought in Adam Kolarek on a one-year deal worth $900,000.
Angels sign left-handed specialist Adam Kolarek to one-year deal
The 34-year-old Kolarek gives Ron Washington a funky left-hander to turn to against some of the best left-handed hitters in baseball. The Angels face guys like Corey Seager, Yordan Alvarez, and Kyle Tucker a lot, so having Kolarek in the bullpen to turn to for an out or two could be huge. The problem is, that's really all he's good for.
Kolarek's splits are glaring to say the least. He's held lefties to a .184/.235/.250 slash line with just three home runs allowed in 272 plate appearances. Lefties having just a .485 OPS against him is quite impressive. The problem, is righties have slashed .309/.384/.485 against him with 10 home runs in 342 plate appearances. Righties have an OPS almost double what lefties put up against Kolarek. In the old days, managers could just use Kolarek against a lefty and take him out. Now, with the three batter rule, Kolarek is much harder to use.
Kolarek as a left-handed specialist makes sense, but his inability to do anything against righties begs the question of why he was given a MLB contract. After all, he has made just 32 MLB appearances in the last three seasons combined including just five this season split between the Dodgers and Mets. He's been an effective arm throughout his MLB career with a 3.62 ERA in 175 innings pitched, but again, not many of those appearances came recently.
This deal is pretty reminiscent of when the Angels signed Brett Phillips to a MLB deal last offseason. Like Phillips, Kolarek is out of options and was guaranteed a contract. This almost ensures he'll be on the Opening Day roster, which is a bit odd for this early in the offseason. Signing Kolarek to a minor league deal with incentives is one thing, but practically guaranteeing him a roster spot is another.
Kolarek's best work came with the Dodgers where he posted a 0.84 ERA in 47 appearances in his two stints there. Perhaps a quick trip to Anaheim will make him that dominant again? We can only hope.