The Los Angeles Angels had a disappointing season last year and it was all based around the horrid pitching staff. From the starters to the bullpen, the Angels simply couldn’t get anybody out.
Beyond ace Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, the Angels had a horrible season on the mound after newcomer Jason Vargas, who was pitching well, went down with a blood clot in his armpit that made him miss close to two months, and has now signed with the Kansas City Royals for 2014. Another newcomer was just as unfortunate as Vargas, but for different reasons. Tommy Hanson was just plain ineffective throughout the year before missing some time as well.
Their starting staff was not great but that was the least of their problems as their bullpen was the biggest let down. The Angels thought they had strengthened their bullpen last offseason when they went out and signed lefty specialist Sean Burnett and right handed closer Ryan Madson to shore up the staff.
Things went anything but right as Burnett was lost for the season, after appearing in only 13 games, after tearing a flexor tendor in his left elbow. Madson, who missed all of the 2012 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, never saw one pitch during the 2013 season either as he just couldn’t recover in time and kept getting set back in his rehab program before the Angels finally pulled the plug and released him late in the season.
The Angels ranked 26th in the majors with a 4.12 ERA and converted 41 of 58 save opportunities in 2013. They struggled to find a solid bridge from starter to closer Ernesto Frieri and thus they used Frieri a lot for two innings saves, which he struggled with at times.
In need of a solid set up man, the Angels have signed right hander reliever Joe Smith to a three-year, $15.75 million contract. The right hander relies primarily on a hard sinker and slider and the Angels will not have to relinquish a draft pick as his 2013 team, the Cleveland Indians, did not make a qualifying offer to the sidearm reliever.
Smith, 29, has been on of the most consistent relievers of the past three seasons as he had compiled a 16-9 record and a 2.42 ERA in 197 innings over 213 appearances. He was 6-2 with a 2.29 ERA and three saves in 63 innings pitched as he helped the Indians get back to the postseason for the first time since 2007. Smith has spent the past five seasons with the Indians after making his major league debut with the New York Mets in 2007.
If Burnett is able to make a full recovery from elbow surgery, the Angels will now have a solid relieving group in the late innings to bridge the gap from the starters to closer Frieri. After also acquiring another solid right handed reliever in the David Freese trade that brought Fernando Salas to Anaheim, the Angels will see their bullpen numbers improve by a lot.
Next up on the shopping list is LA’s last hole and that will be in the back end of the rotation. For now, the Angels have filled two holes at third base and now in the bullpen.
Read more Angels rumors, news and opinion on our Los Angeles Angels page