There was a time when the Angels had it made. They had a 20-year stretch of their franchise history with some great of the greatest closers in the game. The Halos were blessed with Bryan Harvey, Lee Smith, Troy Percival, and Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez handling the ninth inning duties for the better portion of two decades. Rodriguez later departed the the Angels’ closer role and was anything but consistent. This past season was no different.
Hansel Robles emerged as the Angels’ closer this past season, but is he the long-term solution for the Angels going into 2020. Robles spent the majority of his MLB career as a middle reliever and found himself thrust into the closer role last season. Robles was effective in the closer role after last winter’s acquisition, Cody Allen, was unsuccessful. Robles’s entrance into each home game with the Undertaker-themed video became a favorite to many fans and he would currently appear to be the favorite closer going into next season.
Keynan Middleton, Ty Buttrey and Cam Bedrosian have all been mentioned as future potential closers for the Angels recent years but have yet to capitalize on that opportunity. Middleton would seem to have great potential still if he can remain healthy. He underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2018 and successfully returned to Angels in late August of this year, and pitched well in 11 games over the final weeks of the season. 2020 could provide the 26-year-old Middleton with another opportunity to save some games for the Angels and potentially take the closer role from the veteran Robles.
As it stands today, Bedrosian and Buttrey will likely be joined again by Justin Anderson, Noe Ramirez, Luke Bard, Adalberto Mejia, and Taylor Cole going into Spring Training. The Angels’ farm system will bring the likes of Jose Rodriguez, Jake Jewell, Isaac Mattson, Ryan Clark, Luis Madero, Jeremy Rhoades, and Greg Mahle in for a chance to find their way into the mix.
The Angels are likely to pursue additional pitchers from the free agent market and through trade this winter as well. The Angels have already added Parker Markel and Mike Mayers from the Pirates’ and Cardinals’ 2019 bullpens in recent weeks. The biggest challenge is that the free agent market is not particularly strong this offseason in the way of late inning relievers.
Will Smith, Dellin Betances, Greg Harris, Daniel Hudson, Drew Pomeranz, and Chris Martin are among the best relievers on the free agent market this off-season. Those pitchers will find themselves wealthy this off-season as a result of the slim free agent relief market. The Angels may be more likely to pursue the next tier of free agent relievers, such as one-time Angel Joe Smith, as well as Brad Brach, Sam Dyson, or Cory Gearrin.
If the Angels are successful in signing one or more free agent starting pitchers this off-season, they may find starters on their current roster that could transition to the bullpen. Felix Pena, Dillon Peters, Jaime Barria, and Jose Suarez could all be pitchers that may find value in the ‘Angels bullpen next year as middle relievers and swingmen.
As the GM Meetings go on this week in Arizona, Billy Eppler is sure to be talking relief pitching with his fellow General Managers and the possibility of adding talent through trade is very strong. The Winter Meetings will follow in early December and there is a strong likelihood that the Angels’ bullpen continues to see additional changes.
Angels This Week
Joe Maddon’s coaching staff was officially announced last week and one surprising omission was 2019 assistant hitting coach, Shawn Wooten. Wooten was liked by many of the Angels young hitters and replaced by new addition John Mallee in that role. Jeremy Reed will maintain the hitting coach position while Paul Sorrento is still the special hitting instructor for the club. It is unknown whether Wooten will stay with the Angels organization in another capacity or move on to another club.
While none of the four Angels named finalists for the Gold Glove award at their positions won the award, one of them was honored with another defensive award. Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons was interestingly named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at shortstop over Gold Glove winners Francisco Lindor or Nick Ahmed. The Wilson award is not divided by leagues and names the best defender at each position in MLB. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge were also winners of the Wilson award at their position that didn’t earn a Gold Glove this year. It was the sixth time Simmons won the Wilson award as the best defensive shortstop in baseball; that’s the most of any player at any position.
Angels Down on the Farm
Jo Adell continues to rake for Team USA in Tokyo this week. Adell went deep to right-centerfield in Tuesday night’s game and is hitting .667 for the Premier 12 tournament. Adell will be battling for the Angels’ starting right field job this coming season.
Matt Thaiss will be joining Licey del Tigres of the Dominican Winter League for the second half of their season later this month. The Angels’ first-base prospect is coming off a successful year at Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting .274 with 14 home runs and 49 runs batted in before earning him a promotion to Anaheim in early July. Thaiss hit only .211 in his first 53 games with the Angels but managed to hit eight home runs in 147 MLB at-bats. Thaiss also began playing third base for the first time in his professional career last season and presumably will continue to get work at that new position for Licey this winter.