The Los Angeles Angels' bullpen had its ups and downs in 2023. There were some bright spots like Carlos Estevez's first half, Matt Moore's five months with the club, and the emergence of young relievers like Ben Joyce, Jose Soriano, and Sam Bachman.
With the good came a lot of bad, like Ryan Tepera who was DFA'd early, or Aaron Loup who was just awful, and Carlos Estevez's second half. Overall, the Angels bullpen was right around where you'd expect, ranking 25th with a 4.88 ERA. I don't think this group is a bottom-five bullpen in the league when fully healthy, but it's absolutely one that needs major improvement in 2024.
One pitcher the Angels could've easily pursued was Pierce Johnson, but he's now officially off the board after agreeing to re-sign with the Atlanta Braves.
Possible Angels reliever target off the market after signing new two-year deal
The terms of Johnson's deal were not cheap, as he inked a two-year deal worth $14.25 million. This deal will presumably pay him a little over $7 million for each of the next two seasons. This comes as a nice raise for Johnson who signed a one-year deal worth just $5 million last offseason and looked like he was on his way to a pay decrease before a hot finish.
Johnson had the misfortune of signing a deal to join the Colorado Rockies. Pitching at Coors Field is often a death sentence for pitchers, and Johnson was no exception. He had an ERA of 6.00 in 43 appearances for Colorado this season. That number jumped to 6.93 at Coors Field. After the Braves traded for him at the deadline, he allowed just two earned runs in 23.2 innings pitched, pitching to a 0.76 ERA in 24 appearances. From awful to lights out in a snap of a finger. Carlos Estevez had similar rough luck at Coors Field and just turned in one of his best years away from Colorado.
Johnson's success carried into the postseason when he delivered 2.2 scoreless innings across three different outings in Atlanta's NLDS loss to the Phillies. Johnson's age isn't ideal as he's 33 years old, but two years is a number the Angels have been comfortable with in recent years, giving that length to Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup, and Carlos Estevez.
Fortunately even with Johnson off the board there're plenty of other relievers for Perry Minasian to pursue. I'd be shocked if they didn't sign at least one with Loup and Tepera's money coming off the books and the obvious need.