The Los Angeles Angels made their biggest splash of the offseason thus far by signing one of the best relievers on the market in right-hander Robert Stephenson to a deal reportedly worth $33 million over three years. Stephenson earned this deal after a remarkable stint with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2023.
In 38.1 innings with the Rays last season, Stephenson posted a 2.35 ERA and 0.678 WHIP with 60 strikeouts compared with eight walks. He had a strikeout per nine innings of 14.1 and a hits per nine of 4.2. Those numbers should be enough to earn him closer to the five-year, $95 million contract that Josh Hader received from the Houston Astros, but Stephenson does have some issues.
He is a bit susceptible to the home run ball for his career, allowing 1.6 per nine innings. But above that is elbow issues that have plagued him. He began the 2023 season on the injured list due to elbow soreness, and that certainly hampered his free agent market. But the Angels found a compromise with the 30-year-old righty, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN:
With questions about Stephenson’s elbow health — he began last season on the injured list with elbow soreness — the Angels will receive an option for the 2027 season at $2.5 million if his elbow needs Tommy John surgery or causes a long absence, according to sources.
As it currently stands, Stephenson’s deal with the Angels does not include any opt outs or club options. However, if Stephenson misses significant time due to an elbow injury, or requires Tommy John surgery, that triggers a club option after the third and final year of the deal.
The option is worth $2.5 million, meaning the Angels could get a fourth, cheap season out of Stephenson if the elbow causes issues. It’s a reasonable compromise for a player who clearly dealt with skepticism surrounding the state of his elbow during free agent negotiations. If this option is triggered, the final value of the deal would be four years, $35.5 million.
Robert Stephenson getting physical on Monday
According to Passan, Stephenson’s deal is expected to made official on Monday after the reliever undergoes his physical with the team. Given the elbow issues, the physical is by no means a formality, but it’s likely the deal is finalized to begin the week.