After months of waiting Los Angeles Angels finally made their first big acquisition of the offseason, bringing in Robert Stephenson on a three-year deal. Stephenson's track record makes it a bit of a risk, but if he pitches the way he did with the Rays, it's a no-brainer.
Stephenson is a huge addition to a bullpen that was in need of this kind of move. The Angels had one of the worst bullpens in baseball once again this past season, so the need for talent was glaring. Stephenson, while there is some added risk there, should be a major contributor.
Stephenson is the fifth pitcher the Angels have given a MLB deal to this offseason. Four of them are relievers, and the fifth, Zach Plesac, could easily find himself in the bullpen as well. Angels fans hope another upgrade is on the way, but for now, here's what the Angels bullpen looks like with Stephenson added.
What the LA Angels bullpen looks like following the Robert Stephenson addition
CL: Carlos Estevez
SU: Robert Stephenson
SU: Jose Soriano
RP: Ben Joyce
RP: Luis Garcia
RP: Adam Cimber
RP: Jimmy Herget
LRP: Jose Suarez
Even after the Stephenson addition, it's likely that the Angels will keep Carlos Estevez in the closer role, at least for now. Estevez was one of the best closers in the game in the first half, but imploded down the stretch. As concerning as that was, some of it at the very least can be attributed to overuse. The Angels rode him heavily as they were trying to remain in the playoff hunt. With Stephenson entering the year with three career saves, rolling with Estevez as the team's closer to start makes the most sense.
While Estevez has that spot for now, he could easily use it. He should enter the year with a short leash. If he struggles, Stephenson could easily be next in line to take over. He figures to be his primary set-up man.
Youngsters Jose Soriano and Ben Joyce slot in next on the totem pole, and should get several high-leverage appearances if this is what the Angels bullpen looks like on Opening Day. While both of these relievers are certainly talented enough to pitch in big spots, the question will be if they're both consistent enough and able to withstand the rigors of a full 162-game season.
Veterans Luis Garcia and Adam Cimber are newcomers to this Angels bullpen and are guaranteed to have spots on the roster. They've both had impressive seasons in recent years, but struggled in 2023. Cimber in particular was quite bad. If they can pitch well in middle relief, suddenly this Angels bullpen is a lot deeper than we thought. They're going to have to prove it first.
Jose Suarez figures to slot in as the team's long-man and lone left-handed reliever for now. The Angels outrighted Adam Kolarek off of the 40-man roster. While it's possible he cracks the Opening Day bullpen, it's certainly less than likely now. Suarez being out of options and the best left-handed option the Angels have (depressing, yes) makes him close to a lock without another upgrade.
The last spot is held by Jimmy Herget, but could be held by any number of relievers. Guys like Plesac, Andrew Wantz, Kolton Ingram, Kelvin Caceres, Davis Daniel, and Kenny Rosenberg all look like realistic options.
What's abundantly clear is this team could use another reliever, particularly from the left side. If they can add a Matt Moore or even a Wandy Peralta, it's possible we see this bullpen go from a weakness to a potential strength for the first time in a long time.