Angels' worst fears confirmed as lone big free agent acquisition lost for the season

Anaheim's bullpen is in more trouble than fans could've ever imagined.
Los Angeles Angels v Baltimore Orioles
Los Angeles Angels v Baltimore Orioles / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

If you have been following the Los Angeles Angels this season, one of the ongoing themes has been the bullpen's relative unsteadiness. As a unit, the Angels' relievers have posted a 4.83 ERA and have really struggled to miss bats top to bottom through the team's first 18 games. One of the primary causes of those struggles has been the absence of Robert Stephenson.

The Angels signed Stephenson to a three-year, $33 million deal this past offseason after he put up a tremendous season with the Rays in 2023 when he posted a 2.35 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 38.1 innings of work.

Unfortunately, he started the season on the injured list as he was dealing with shoulder problems, but the team was optimistic that it wouldn't be a lengthy IL stint. He had already begun his injury rehab in the minors, so the optimism seemed to be coming true.

However, Stephenson's rehab took a bad turn when he had to come out of an appearance after experience pain in his elbow, which is almost never good news. On Wednesday night, those fears were confirmed as it was reported Stephenson would miss the rest of the 2024 season with an elbow injury.

LA Angels News: Angels lose Robert Stephenson for the season due to elbow injury

As of early Thursday morning, the exact nature of Stephenson's elbow isn't exactly known, nor is it clear if he's going to require surgery. However, a guy already being declared done for a season in April is generally an indication that the elbow injury is serious and is probably going to require more than rest and rehab to heal.

To say this is devastating for the Angels is pretty spot on. Stephenson was their lone big signing this past offseason and was ready to take on a role for the team that was essential due to their lack of talent and depth in the bullpen. Relievers are always a risk, but losing Stephenson this early in the season without having made a single appearance is still a tough pill to swallow for an Angels team that has defied expectations thus far.

If Angels fans are looking for a silver lining, it is that Stephenson's injury should give the team an extra year of control with how his contract is structured. If Stephenson misses at least 130 consecutive days on the injured list with elbow ligament damage, LA gets an additional $2.5 million team option on Stephenson for the 2027 season. That's little consolation now given how much the Angels could use him this season, but could be quite helpful especially if Stephenson comes back strong from the injury.

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