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OC Register: Angels 2024 spring training position preview: Bullpen


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Angels pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training on Feb. 13. As we count down the days until camp begins, we are going through the various position groups to give a breakdown of where the roster stands. Today, the bullpen. Previously: starting rotation, outfielders, infielders, catchers.

2023 RECAP

The Angels have spent significant money on their bullpen in recent years – giving out multiyear deals to free agents Carlos Estévez, Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup – and re-signing Raisel Iglesias to a four-year deal. It hasn’t worked very well and 2023 was another disappointing year for the bullpen, which ranked 26th in the majors with a 4.88 ERA. Tepera was released and Loup struggled for most of a second straight season. Estévez was very good for two-thirds of his first season as a closer, making the All-Star team, but he finished with two bad months. Matt Moore, who signed a one-year deal at the start of camp last year, was consistently good, although he missed two months with an injury and was then waived in a cost-cutting move for the final month. Perhaps the best signs for the bullpen in 2023 were the performances of José Soriano and Ben Joyce. The two rookies showed elite stuff in limited innings, although there is clearly room for improvement going forward.

HOW IT LOOKS RIGHT NOW

No part of the team has undergone more of a facelift than the bullpen. Estévez returns, but he’ll have some competition to hold down the closer job all year. The Angels signed right-hander Robert Stephenson to a three-year, $33 million deal after he dominated in the second half last season with the Tampa Bay Rays. Stephenson had a 2.35 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 38⅓ innings with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Angels brought back Moore on a $9 million deal. The Angels also signed free right-hander Luis Garcia, a flame-throwing veteran who had a 3.62 ERA over his last three seasons. Estévez, Garcia, Soriano and Joyce all throw fastballs in the upper 90s. The Angels also signed sidearming right-hander Adam Cimber, who has a 3.15 ERA over the last three years. His 2023 season was spoiled by three outings right before he went on the injured list for the final three months. Right-hander Jose Cisnero, who signed a one-year deal over the weekend, has a career 3.99 ERA, even though he had a 5.31 mark last season. The Angels also added left-hander Adam Kolarek, who has held lefties to a .184 batting average in parts of seven major league seasons. Right-hander Zach Plesac, who has mostly been a starter in his career, also could find himself in the bullpen.

THE NEXT LAYER

All the newcomers have pushed several pitchers who had worked significant innings down the list, perhaps to Triple-A. Right-handers Andrew Wantz and Jimmy Herget can be optioned this season, so don’t be surprised if they make repeated trips between the Angels and Salt Lake. If right-hander Sam Bachman doesn’t fit as a starter, in Triple-A or the majors, the Angels could use him in the major league bullpen. Right-hander Austin Warren and left-hander José Quijada both underwent Tommy John surgery last year and could be ready later in the season.

MOVE THEY COULD MAKE

The Angels really don’t have much room to add anyone else at this point, unless someone is willing to move a pitcher with options. Meanwhile, the Angels still have left-hander Jose Suarez, who is out of options and without much of a role in the rotation or bullpen. Although Suarez pitched poorly last season, he was hurt for most of the year. He was good in 2021 and 2022, and he’s still only 26, so it’s likely that another team would be willing to give him a shot. The Angels could see if they can trade Suarez for someone who gives them more depth elsewhere.

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