What happened to LA Angels closer Carlos Estévez?

Is the Angels closer role a lock for Carlos Estévez?

Cleveland Guardians v Los Angeles Angels
Cleveland Guardians v Los Angeles Angels / Meg Oliphant/GettyImages

Closer Carlos Estévez, through June 9 of last year, was having a season for the ages with a 1.37 ERA and averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings. He was 15 for 15 in saves. Us fans thought Arte Moreno finally got something right on the pitching side of the ball. However, in mid-June, Estévez started to spiral.

By the end of the 2023 season, Estévez had an ERA approaching four, averaging at least a hit an inning and 4.5 walks per nine innings. He'd allowed, in total, 93 runners by walks or hits over his 62.1 innings pitched. I know that’s a lot of numbers to throw out there, but let’s make these comparisons.

Where does LA Angels closer Carlos Estévez's 2023 season rank amongst his peers?

Emmanuel Clase had a 3.01 ERA for the Cleveland Guardians last year. He had a 2-9 record. That’s called not getting any run support in tight games. His second half saw his ERA go to the low-to-mid-2.00s. The Baltimore Orioles had two guys who could close and they got knocked out in the first round; Yennier Cano had 65 strikeouts to only 13 walks. Estévez had a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio last year.

Cano was the setup man to Felix Bautista. Bautista’s strikeouts were 110, while his walks were only 26, which is a 55:13 strikeout to walk ratio. His ERA was 1.48 and he only gave up ten runs ... all year. He pitched almost the exact same number of innings as Estévez did. Estévez gave up seven home runs while, combined, Cano and Bautista gave up eight in more than double the innings.

More pitchers than ever before can throw in the upper 90s and into triple digits on the radar gun. It is about controlling that pitching arsenal. Estévez rarely had a clean inning when he was doing well. By the end of the season and into this spring training, it’s really a flip of a coin as to whether he’ll hold a lead.

LA Angels closer options beyond Carlos Estévez

Who else do the Angels have as options, if not Estévez? Robert Stephenson and Luis Garcia are the leaders in the clubhouse. Stephenson a WHIP under 1.00 with the Tampa Bay Rays last year. He isn’t known as a strikeout pitcher, but he had almost the same ratio of strikeouts to walks as Estévez did last year. Estévez had 31 walks compared to Stephenson’s 16. However, you also have the Rays impact; that’s the impact of how well pitchers seem to perform for the Rays organization, but not their future organizations. Look at Scott Kazmir as Exhibit A for the Angels.

Stephenson also hasn’t pitched yet in spring training due to a shoulder injury. Ron Washington still believes he could make it onto the Opening Day roster, but we'll see about that. Garcia had trouble getting back into the country, so he’s only had three outings so far, but has a 3.00 ERA in those contests, allowing no walks through 10 batters. He has the best upside of the trio when his stuff is on, touching triple digits with ease when he was with San Diego.

Young stars like Caden Dana have also made a lasting impression, even though they won’t be on the 40-man roster and will start in the minors. Adam Cimber and Matt Moore are other options, but they don’t exactly fit a closer’s mold either. If all those Blake Snell rumors come to be true, you could be looking at relievers who the Angels could deal for from outside the organization.

After all, that would mean all systems go in Anaheim.

Carlos Estévez has a lot to prove and shouldn’t be given the job just because he had it last year. Washington is a coach that believes you must earn each spot, which should give all fans hope for the team to figure it all out.