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OC Register: Angels will be looking for relievers, but mostly in the bargain bin


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CARLSBAD — Billy Eppler has good news and bad news for Angels fans.

The bad news is, if you’re waiting for them to spend big money on a proven relief pitcher, it’s probably not going to happen.

The good news, at least as Eppler sees it, is that the Angels have proven to be successful at finding quality relievers on baseball’s scrap heap.

“It’s probably not what everybody wants to hear,” the Angels’ general manager said on Tuesday at the GM meetings. “If you can find players who are not prohibitive from a salary standpoint, and they have flexibility … those are shots we should take 100 percent of the time. There is very little downside in those shots.”

In 2017, the Angels’ top three relievers were Bud Norris, Blake Parker, Yusmeiro Petit and David Hernandez. Parker was a waiver claim. Norris and Petit were signed to minor-league deals just before spring training. Hernandez was acquired for cash considerations from the Atlanta Braves after they’d sent him to Triple-A.

Last year, the Angels found Hansel Robles on the waiver wire, and they signed Taylor Cole to a minor-league deal just before the start of spring training.

“They come in all different acquisition channels,” Eppler said.

By contrast, last year’s free agent reliever market provided little.

Of the 17 relievers who signed deals worth at least a guaranteed $5 million last winter, nine finished with adjusted ERA’s that were below major league average. Seven of them were more than 20 percent below average.

The pitcher who signed the biggest deal – Wade Davis, for $52 million over three years with the Chicago Cubs – ranked sixth in the group. Two of the top four – Tony Watson with the San Francisco Giants and Hernandez with the Cincinnati Reds – signed for $7 million or less.

The second- and third-largest contracts went to Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee, each signing for three years and $27 million with the Colorado Rockies. They logged ERA’s of 5.93 and 6.49, respectively, which are bad even when adjusting for Coors Field.

“It’s absolutely the most volatile market,” Oakland A’s general manager David Forst said. “Relievers are the hardest to pin down, year to year, from a projection standpoint. But at the same time, they’re incredibly valuable when they’re good. I’m not surprised when teams spend a lot of money on the guys, but I’m also not surprised when their performance doesn’t match up to what you’d expect.”

Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, the former Angels GM, said these days teams are more inclined to just pull the plug on a starter and make him a reliever.

“You take guys in your system who could be nice starters but have a chance to be impact relievers,” Dipoto said. “Impact is what carries the day. That was the decision we made three years ago with Edwin Diaz and it proved to be pretty good. Years ago, we might not have done that.”

Diaz led the majors with 57 saves this season.

“If you are willing to be adventurous in how you put a bullpen together, you’ll hit,” Dipoto said. “You’ll find guys.”

Eppler has said clearly the Angels will pursue relief pitchers – and starting pitchers – from outside the organization, because they feel that’s what they need more than position players.

He estimated on Tuesday that he would like to add three or four relievers to the 10, by his calculation, already on their big league depth chart.

That group most likely includes, Ty Buttrey, Cam Bedrosian, José Álvarez, Justin Anderson, Noé Ramírez, Williams Jerez, Parker, Robles, Cole and recently acquired Austin Brice. Keynan Middleton is expected back from Tommy John surgery around midseason.

It is likely that they’ll find three or four more in smaller deals or waiver wire acquisitions, but Eppler didn’t entirely rule out splurging for one of the more established arms. He said he’s already spoken to agents and other clubs about relievers just in the first 24 hours he’s been at the GM meetings.

Craig Kimbrel is obviously the top of the free agent reliever market, but there are also high-profile relievers like Jeurys Familia, Kelvin Herrera and Andrew Miller available. They could also swing a trade for someone like Will Smith, of the Giants.

“If you can still land somebody that, in your risk assessment provides impact and the risk is at a tolerable level, and there’s more track record (than with a waiver wire acquisition), then yeah, absolutely that guy makes sense,” Eppler said.

ALSO

Tyler Skaggs, who has missed time over the past two years with groin and oblique injuries, is “doing some things to modify his offseason training,” Eppler said. …

The Angels have told Zack Cozart to be prepared next year to play second or third. David Fletcher also played both second and third last year. So, if both end up in the starting lineup next season, who plays where? “Probably Cozart at third,” Epper said, “but I can’t tell you exactly what we’d do. You begin that discussion in spring training when the players are on the field.” …

Eppler said he’s counting on seeing pitching prospects Griffin Canning and José Suarez in the majors sometime next season. “You’ll see them next year at some point,” Eppler said. …

Eppler confirmed that Felix Peña, a reliever who was successful as a starter in 2018, remains in the organization’s plans as a starter. “I don’t see how you can deny him,” Eppler said of Peña, who had a 4.00 ERA in 17 starts. “I like that he can do both.”

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8 minutes ago, Kevinb said:

I'd like to remind people when we go dumpster diving for pitchers, we can't be surprised when those arms we pick up get injured and need surgery it comes with the territory. 

why?  is there a greater frequency of injury for guys picked up off the waiver wire vs. others?  I bet there's not.  

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nice article btw @Jeff Fletcher.  I think a lot of us expected that mentality.  Did you get the impression that we would trade from the top of our farm system for a starter?  

Billy also talked about Cozart and Fletcher, but how about Rengifo?  Does he have a shot to be the starting 2bman out of spring?  

Also, would Eppler be willing to give up a starter or reliever should a team want to overpay in his estimation?   

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10 minutes ago, Dochalo said:

why?  is there a greater frequency of injury for guys picked up off the waiver wire vs. others?  I bet there's not.  

Yeah, the guys are on the dumpster are more likely to get hurt because of a lot of them end up in the dumpster because they have arm problems. But there's also nothing to lose, really. 

If you pick a Parker Bridwell for nothing and get 20 starts out of him before he gets hurt, you got 20 starts for nothing.

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Just now, Jeff Fletcher said:

Yeah, the guys are on the dumpster are more likely to get hurt because of a lot of them end up in the dumpster because they have arm problems. But there's also nothing to lose, really. 

If you pick a Parker Bridwell for nothing and get 20 starts out of him before he gets hurt, you got 20 starts for nothing.

HAHAHAHA @Dochalo

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5 minutes ago, Dochalo said:

nice article btw @Jeff Fletcher.  I think a lot of us expected that mentality.  Did you get the impression that we would trade from the top of our farm system for a starter?  

Billy also talked about Cozart and Fletcher, but how about Rengifo?  Does he have a shot to be the starting 2bman out of spring?  

Also, would Eppler be willing to give up a starter or reliever should a team want to overpay in his estimation?   

Didn't really ask about that for the starters. That also depends on how you define "top of our farm system."

Rengifo does have a shot to be the everyday 2B out of spring training.

And I don't think he's going to give up anyone who can help them win in 2019 unless it's for someone else who can help them win more in 2019. In other words, they won't be trading Tyler Skaggs for prospects.

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6 minutes ago, Jeff Fletcher said:

Didn't really ask about that for the starters. That also depends on how you define "top of our farm system."

Rengifo does have a shot to be the everyday 2B out of spring training.

And I don't think he's going to give up anyone who can help them win in 2019 unless it's for someone else who can help them win more in 2019. In other words, they won't be trading Tyler Skaggs for prospects.

Do you think the Angels are trying to compete to win the division this year. Or do you think this year they feel is just another stumbling block till 2020 when the might of Adell shows up?

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34 minutes ago, Jeff Fletcher said:

Didn't really ask about that for the starters. That also depends on how you define "top of our farm system."

Rengifo does have a shot to be the everyday 2B out of spring training.

And I don't think he's going to give up anyone who can help them win in 2019 unless it's for someone else who can help them win more in 2019. In other words, they won't be trading Tyler Skaggs for prospects.

my point of asking this is that I think there are going to be a ton of teams going after starting pitching this year and we might be able to take advantage of a market where SP is overvalued.  A guy like skaggs only has two years of control left and if he could net you a guy like Camargo then it might be worth considering.  Then you leverage the hiring of Doug White and have him help you target a couple under performing FA starters that he could make better.  

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1 hour ago, Dochalo said:

my point of asking this is that I think there are going to be a ton of teams going after starting pitching this year and we might be able to take advantage of a market where SP is overvalued.  A guy like skaggs only has two years of control left and if he could net you a guy like Camargo then it might be worth considering.  Then you leverage the hiring of Doug White and have him help you target a couple under performing FA starters that he could make better.  

I don’t see that happening. 

 

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6 hours ago, gurn67 said:

I must have been watching a different post season than everyone else. I don't remember too many guys coming out of the bullpen in the ALCS, NLCS or World Series that were pulled off the "scrap heap", or pulled out of a "dumpster."

Ok, so you thought Kelly and Eovaldi were studs before the post season.  Both guys with 4 ERAs and both with elevated whips.  Did you catch the former Angel Ryan Brasier pitching meaningful innings in the World Series.  

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3 minutes ago, Stradling said:

And where did he go this year?  I would love a stud closer, but I completely understand the rationale of not spending for the volatility of middle relievers.  

He got hurt (after he got a lot of money because he’d suddenly become “proven.”)

Edited by Jeff Fletcher
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