The Los Angeles Angels sat just three days away from Opening Day with every position group fully settled. However, the bullpen was loaded with question marks. As it stood, the Angels were going to have to put their faith in unproven arms to take the weight off of a starting rotation that projects to be middle of the pack statistically.
This was even further exacerbated when the Angels made a surprising decision to use a Minor League option on Ty Buttrey. Buttrey had been one of the team’s most reliable arms since 2018, but saw his production take a dive in the shortened 2020 season. He will undoubtedly see the big league roster at some point during the season, but will start things off at the alternate site.
After that decision, the Angels added five bullpen options in a matter of hours. GM Perry Minasian signed former Angel Noe Ramirez to a Minor League deal, then followed it up by trading for veteran James Hoyt and signing Steve Cishek and Tony Watson to one-year deals. Minasian also confirmed that one of the Angels top starting pitcher prospects, Chris Rodriguez, will start the season in the bullpen.
When Junior Guerra and Aaron Slegers are considered with these other late additions, the Angels bullpen increased their fWAR by 0.3 points to reach a projected total of 2.6, good enough for 15th in the Majors. Angels Manager Joe Maddon gave his thoughts on the last-minute changes, according to Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic:
“These are three wonderful additions,” manager Joe Maddon said Monday. “It permits us to build even more depth at the alternate site. We’ve talked this offseason about the importance of depth. I think right now we have depth with the starting rotation and we have depth with the bullpen. I think Perry and (assistant general manager Alex Tamin) and the guys have done a wonderful job in getting to these guys late like this. … It absolutely makes us a better ballclub.”
The Angels have already committed to having eight bullpen arms this season. Right now — although things can always change — Raisel Iglesias, Mike Mayers, and Alex Claudio will join Cishek, Watson, Rodriguez, and Guerra as seven “guarantees.”
From there, Hoyt, Jaime Barria, Slegers, Patrick Sandoval, Ramirez, and AJ Ramos will be in contention for the eighth and final spot. At some point, Felix Pena — currently on the IL — will join the mix. The same can be said of Buttrey is he shows solid stuff.
Suddenly, what went from a bullpen lacking in varying options became potentially 15 players deep at any point in the season. This gives the Angels plenty of different ways to go if certain players get hurt or don’t work out as planned.
Minasian is clearly showing his willingness to make aggressive moves, even if they don’t always bring in the big names. It will be interesting to see how the Halos fare in his first season as the top decision maker now that the roster has taken shape.
Shohei Ohtani exits Freeway League outing early with a blister
In the Angels Freeway League matchup against the L.A. Dodgers, Ohtani lasted just 2.1 innings, giving up seven runs in the process. He likely wouldn’t have stayed in the game much longer anyways, but it was revealed he left the game due to a blister.
It shouldn’t affect his availability for Sunday’s game against the Chicago White Sox, when he is slated to once again take the mound.