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OC Register: Angels looking for healthy starters to supplement their rotation

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CARLSBAD — The Angels’ need for pitching goes beyond simply needing good pitchers.

They need healthy pitchers.

After three years worth of season-shattering injuries to their pitching staff, the Angels are looking for durability, particularly among starters, this winter.

Although General Manager Billy Eppler wouldn’t say on Wednesday at the GM meetings how much the Angels weigh durability vs. upside, it’s clear that a large part of the equation is finding pitchers who won’t get hurt.

How do you do that?

“You look at their track record, their recent workload, and some other things that are proprietary,” Eppler said with a smile.

Eppler is likely talking about elements of a pitcher’s delivery, of his physical build, that they believe will lead to health.

“Durability is built in several different ways,” Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said. “Delivery is an imprint aspect. Physicality is important. What type of arm action he has. What type of effort does he use when he throws. All those things you evaluate and put into the picture and you give yourself a risk rating of how vulnerable they are to get hurt.”

Based on the recent history of avoiding injury, the best durable free agents are pitchers like Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ and Gio Gonzalez. Potential trade candidates with relatively clean injury histories include Kyle Gibson or Julio Teheran.

There are other pitchers, like Lance Lynn, Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi, who have come back from Tommy John surgery.

While there might be some sentiment that a pitcher who has had the surgery is now safer, Eppler said he doesn’t view it that way.

“A reconstructed elbow is not a new elbow,” Eppler said. “It’s a reconstructed elbow. A 1990 Camaro with a new engine is not a new Camaro. It’s just a 1990 Camaro with a new engine.”

CATCHER SEARCH

Among position players, the only spot at which Eppler even hints at a need is catcher. He has said repeatedly they have the in-house options to fill the holes in the infield and outfield.

Currently, the Angels have José Briceño and waiver-claim Kevan Smith as their two catchers.

“We’re open-minded to upgrading there to see where we can be better,” Eppler said. “It’s a need. I think we can supplement it and be better.”

Eppler said he’s had talks with clubs about trades and with agents about free agent catchers.

The top available catcher is J.T. Realmuto of the Miami Marlins, who has two years left before free agency. He will be in high demand, and thus require a large prospect bounty.

“I’m very open-minded to bringing in a catcher if the acquisition cost (is right), the finances and/or the prospect yield in terms of a trade,” he said. “I’m open-minded to it, but I’m not going to jeopardize the health of the organization to make sure I check a box.”

The top free agent catchers are Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos, although neither are strong defensively, and the Angels have tended to lean toward good defensive catchers.

They could also go for a free agent like Kurt Suzuki, a veteran who could certainly be had on a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $3 million. He could share the job with Briceño or Smith. Martín Maldonado, who the Angels traded to the Astros in July, is also a free agent.

“We don’t need a catcher at all costs,” Eppler said, “but if we can do it, we’ll be open to it.”

ALSO

Andrelton Simmons was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at shortstop. It’s a less prestigious honor than the Gold Glove, which Simmons won on Sunday. However, it’s also a major league honor, as opposed to an American League award. …

Prospect Jahmai Jones has continued to impress the Angels with his adjustment to second base. He was drafted as an outfielder and moved to second this year, his fourth season. Jones is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League. “He’s doing really well at second,” Eppler said. “He’s caught on quicker than we were anticipating.”

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41 minutes ago, Angel Oracle said:

When are they FINALLY going to have even THREE pitchers pitch at least 162 innings?

there were only 27 pitchers in the AL that pitched 162 innings in 2018.  Ten had an era of 4.00 or higher. 

Boston only had 2 pitchers that reached 162 innings and one had an era of 4.28 

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I'm keeping an eye on Tanner Roark from Washington and Julio Teheran from Atlanta, purely because of the fact that they not only fill the need Eppler illustrates above, but both also fit a lot of other Eppler criteria - both are in their walk years, both pitch for teams that Eppler deals with frequently, and due to both being in final years of arb/contracts, will have salary commitments that wouldn't be hard for the Angels to handle while lessening the prospect cost. 

I really doubt it, but both of those teams could have interest in Kole Calhoun, with their current RFs out in FA. 
It could give the Angels the opp to then look at a less volatile, leadoff-friendly RF stopgap while Adell continues, such as McCutchen, Markakis, Jones, Brantley, etc.

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10 minutes ago, Angel Oracle said:

Are we then looking at an immediate future of 6 man rotations in MLB, where even the top pitchers max out around 170-180 innings?

Fletcher has sort of already described what I think is more likely...3-4 'full-time' SPs who still manage 25-30+ GS, and then a couple guys who are either multi-inning relievers (or even bullpen games if this 'bullpenning' thing continues) or AAA SP depth who cycle up for the remaining starts, but do so on a fairly fixed schedule. 

Sort of like how we saw Barria and Tropeano basically trade places (with a reliever up in their place between their starts) for a few weeks early in season. 

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7 minutes ago, Angel Oracle said:

Are we then looking at an immediate future of 6 man rotations in MLB, where even the top pitchers max out around 170-180 innings?

we're almost there.

only 15 AL starters reached 180 ip. Six teams didn't have any that did so.

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Teams are looking more and more at how many times a pitcher can effectively turn over a lineup. They want to put the players in the best position to succeed. If that means an SP can only turn the lineup over twice, going only 5-6 innings, then they’re going to bring in the ‘pen to finish it. I think the days of SP’s going to 200 IP are largely gone. As Lou pointed out, even 180 is rare now.

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