Free-agent relievers that the Angels can target

While the Angels have been one of the fairly active teams in this slow offseason, they still have an incomplete roster.

The need for starting pitching is still abundantly clear, which I explored last month. The club needs another corner outfielder with Jo Adell likely slated to start this year in the minors. Max Stassi’s injury concerns and questionable timetable means the club needs another strong catching option. And even after adding one of the game’s most consistently great relievers in Raisel Iglesias, the club still needs plenty of bullpen health, both in terms of quality and quantity.

In this piece, I’ll take a look at some of the intriguing free-agent reliever options for the Angels. I split this up into tiers, utilizing numbers since 2018 to ensure that we had a long enough sample to account for a historically volatile position. In each tier, you’ll see what numbers were needed to qualify, which will help give fans a general idea of the quality of the pitchers.

The first number is ERA+, which “takes a player’s ERA and normalizes it across the entire league. It accounts for external factors like ballparks and opponents. It then adjusts, so a score of 100 is league average, and 150 is 50 percent better than the league average.” The second number is a strikeout-minus-walk percentage, which is “simply the percentage of batters that a pitcher strikes out minus the percentage of batters that same pitcher walks.” These numbers allow us to judge a pitcher on pure run prevention (ERA+), an accurate portrayal of what happened in the past, and on peripheral numbers (K-BB%), a better predictor for future success.

Tier 1

  • Criteria: 150 ERA+ or better and 25 strikeout-minus-walk percentage or better (since 2018)
  • Options
    • Brad Hand
    • Kirby Yates
Via MLB

This is the cream of the crop in terms of top relief talent in the game of baseball. Liam Hendriks, the clear-cut best reliever from this free-agent class and arguably the best reliever in baseball, was an option until the White Sox signed him late Monday night. Hand is one of the premier lefty relievers in the sport and one of the best relievers of the past half-decade. Yates established himself as one of baseball’s best relievers before undergoing elbow surgery this past August to remove bone chips.

I’d venture to guess that Hendriks would’ve been out of the budget (he signed a three-year with a guaranteed $54 million) for an Angels team that still needs to add multiple starters, a catcher, and an outfielder. Yates has more risk with his surgery and may not be ready for Opening Day in 2021. That leaves Hand, who seems like the perfect addition to pair with Raisel Iglesias, giving the Angels a legitimately great back-end of the bullpen.

Tier 2

  • Criteria: 125 ERA+ or better and 15 strikeout-minus-walk percentage or better (since 2018)
  • Options
    • Archie Bradley
    • Yusmeiro Petit
    • Tyler Clippard
    • Tony Watson
    • Justin Wilson
    • Pedro Baez
    • Jeremy Jeffress
    • Oliver Perez
Via Pitcher List

This might be the more likely route the Angels go given their needs in other areas. Adding Iglesias also gave the bullpen a superb late-innings reliever so they don’t necessarily need someone from the first tier. They do, however, need one, if not two, other relievers with some semblance of a track record. Once again, the relievers in this group seem like the better options since they’ll only cost the Angels money. Bradley, a surprising non-tender candidate, seems like a very appealing option as a 28-year-old with a strong track record. The rest on this list also fit as veterans with extended track records, with a handful of them pitching from the left side (Watson, Wilson, and Perez).

I’d bank on the Angels exploring pitchers in this tier in an effort to spread out their resources for the rest of the roster. My preference would be for the Angels to get one guy from both tier 1 and tier 2 but I’m assuming that isn’t within the budget. Perhaps, adding someone from both this tier and the following tier will give the Angels some quality and quantity for 2021.

Tier 3

  • Criteria: 115 ERA+ or better and 15 strikeout-minus-walk percentage or better
  • Options
    • Ryan Tepera
    • Sergio Romo
    • Joakim Soria
    • Tommy Hunter
    • Blake Parker
Via MLB

This is a rather boring tier filled with pitchers who may not move the needle a ton for the Angels. They would, however, be fine secondary additions if the Angels are able to grab another guy from one of the first two tiers. Tepera is certainly an appealing option and had the single nastiest pitch in 2020 in terms of whiff rate, with his cutter generating a swing-and-miss on 62.2 percent of swings. The remaining four are more generic options but bring the experience and track records to slot into the bullpen.

Perhaps the Angels can try to grab a guy from both the first and third tier, ensuring that they’ll get a strong late-innings option and some depth to go with it. A situation where the Angels sign, say, Brad Hand and Joakim Soria would give the club a significantly better bullpen in 2021. Even grabbing a guy from the second and third tier would give the Angels a much better bullpen in 2021.

*Cover photo via Tony Dejak/The Associated Press*

27 Comments
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Guest
3 years ago

ERA is a terribly misleading statistic, especially for relievers.

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend

Thing is, I think we can pull out a pretty good pen without breaking the bank.

We have some pretty capable shut down arms. Here’s the K/9 and K/BB rates for these four guys…

Iglesias: 10.5/3.6 (career)
Mayers: 12.9/4.8 (I only took last year since it’s when he started using new pitch)
Buttrey: 9.5/3.3 (career)
Pena: 9.2/2.9 (career)

We also have Claudio (Lefty, 135 ERA+ and 1.27 WHIP)

Then there’s the whole pile of Suarez, Sandoval, Barria, Bard and Jose Quijada to sort through. Quijada, if they teach him any control within the zone, could be really sick all of the sudden. He doesn’t have any trouble striking out MLB hitters.

Really, that’s not a bad foundation for our pen. 4 guys with pretty good lock down stuff (I think Pena gets even more effective if he doesn’t make starts, as some of his past innings are tired) and Claudio, who is not a door slammer but does well.

I think if the Angels lock up say Tony Watson (Lefty, 139 ERA+, 1.09 WHIP) and Mark Melancon (141 ERA+, 1.13 WHIP) we’d spend around 6M, maybe less, but Iglesias, Melancon and Watson add a ton of experience and those 7 main guys equal a lot of innings with very few men on base. We don’t really need Brad Hand. Just this pen would have a good mix of power arms, guys who just don’t give up runs even if they don’t strike out one per inning, and a good amount of leverage experience in the group. With all those other young pitchers for depth we could really shorten a lot of meh starters down to 2 times through the order and have an effective staff.

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
3 years ago

I forgot about Claudio in my comment below. Really nice mid/low leverage guy. Plenty of soft contact, very few HR’s, literally half the HR/9 of Noe for the same price.

I’ve long been pondering the meh rotation/deep bullpen angle. Thing is we still need some work to be a meh rotation.

FungoAle
Legend
3 years ago

Yeah, with those 4 guys, let’s see who falls to us but I just don’t want to see the Bard’s, Sandoval’s and Quijada’s round out the pen.

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  FungoAle

Exactly. There will inevitably be time when one of those guys is in the pen covering for an injury but that’s where we need to be, not counting on them from day one.

I do like Sandoval’s potential from the bullpen, though. No numbers to back me, he just seems like a guy who might benefit from less thinking and more just grip it and rip it.

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend
Reply to  FungoAle

This is actually why I am really trying to not lose my patience with the FA starter market. I really want our biggest bestest move to happen so we can address the pen. I think we are in a good spot because I’d honestly take Melancon, Rosenthal, Bradley, Wilson, Watson, Baez, Petit, Yates, Tepera, Aaron Loup, Pedro Strop or Steve Cishek into our bullpen at various price points…. maybe even Brad Boxberger as a cheap dice roll. Hell, get me two of them.

There is a big difference between NEEDING to use Quijada and BEING ABLE to bring him in as your pen project gas burner to see if he has 20 innings of 2K an inning in him this year. That’s the spot I want to be in.

FungoAle
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  Brent Maguire

Let’s give Perry some love after getting Iglesias and Claudio. Without them, we might be experiencing an uprising of sorts here on CTPG.

Hell…I’m moving all my chips in on the table for Buttrey to get back over 10+Ks/9-inn and get his walks down. Get a mean streak, work his change up in a bit more and set em up for the heater which grades out as a 70.

Last edited 3 years ago by FungoAle
Keeyo
Newbie
3 years ago

Where does Rosenthal fit in this list? He seemed to be back to his old self pitching lights out by end of last season.

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
3 years ago

Is it possible to build a meh rotation and stud bullpen and stay within reasonable budget? I think it is.

Let’s take the trade for Musgrove scenario, add a Happ or other name from the pile of meh and we’re looking at less than $10 million in AAV, leaving about that same amount to pick from a much deeper pool of bullpen options.

Bundy, Musgrove, Heaney, Canning, Happ isn’t going to scare anybody. Hopefully we get 10 starts from Ohtani.

But, Iglesias, Hand, Meyers, Pena, Buttrey, O’day is deep enough to hold plenty of leads I’d imagine.

steelgolf
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Brent Maguire

Unfortunately building a great defense doesn’t help if the ball is leaving the park. This team is starting pitching deficient. Most of the starters we are hoping to turn a corner can’t make it through 5 innings. When your starter has 2 outs in the third and he already has thrown 87 pitches, you are screwed.

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  Brent Maguire

We definitely need outfield defense help. The proposed trade for Snell and KK would’ve dramatically improved run prevention. Trout would be a plus corner outfielder, KK is the gold standard, and Snell for 150 innings is Snell.

Infield defense is set. Get ground ball pitchers. Again, I keep going back to O’day.

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

I like o’day. I hope they get him, partially so you can have a hell yeah moment…. it’s fun to watch a player thinking there is a .001% the GM got the idea from you.

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
3 years ago

Definitely advise waiting out tiers 2 and 3.

I had Wilson in my “If I were Perry” piece. I know money generally talks but he is from Anaheim so we might have an edge there. And I still like Darren O’day. Plenty of contact but it is on the ground and we have a great infield defense.

Iglesias, Meyers, Wilson, Pena, O’day, Buttrey is a decent pen. Iglesias/Hand is ridiculous but probably destroys the starting pitching budget.

FungoAle
Legend
3 years ago

Nice post and I agree we need 2+ more talented arms in the pen.

Tier 1 – Hendriks received 3-years @ $39M +$15M 4th-year option. Hand will get less. With Cohen looking at him, he’ll get somewhere between $9-$11M across 2-3 years. Angels will not go there. Recommend to pass on Yates.
Tier 2 – Would recommend to wait it out
Tier 3 – Would recommend to wait it out

Many of the guys in Tier 2 and 3 are better than what we have but not sure the needle moves that much. Not an exciting group of arms. I don’t see an aggressive move coming vs. waiting the market out to see who falls. I like Treinen and May but they are gone now and they got paid. I can see Perry taking a look at Melancon, old Brave buddy but only if price is right. After Iglesias and Claudio, thinking Perry is feeling like the pen has been solved (which it isn’t). Probably the last thing that gets tweaked.

Last edited 3 years ago by FungoAle
GrandpaBaseball
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  FungoAle

Now that is just crazy money for a relief pitcher, just insane.

cookmeister
Trusted Member
3 years ago

Archie Bradley and Bundy are buddies from high school, wouldn’t be a terrible fit.

GrandpaBaseball
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  cookmeister

Does he come with Edith?

red floyd
Legend
3 years ago

No, but Bundy comes with Peg.

WallyChuckChili
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  red floyd

I’m wondering when I should tell Kelly to go back home to DG

GrandpaBaseball
Legend
3 years ago

Tier Two has some good less expensive choices. But my concern is the adding of two or three quality starters. If ignored then another season of “what we got”.

matthiasstephan
Super Member
3 years ago

I agree, the focus should be on adding starting pitching, but we do need to round out the pen and 2 names from Tier 2 (or one from Tier 2 and one from Tier 3) would really help.

All depends on the budget, and how well we can trade for pitching help.

Senator_John_Blutarsky
Legend

Brent – you forgot the “Dumpster Fire” tier

With Hendriks getting $54m, we’re clearly going to be shopping outside of Tier 1