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Angels to prioritize relief help this offseason

Eppler seeking 3-4 bullpen arms, to explore all avenues
MLB.com @mi_guardado

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The Angels have not spent heavily on relievers in recent years, preferring instead to cull the waiver wire and Minor League free agency for inexpensive, effective arms. Those thrifty avenues have been quite productive for the club under general manager Billy Eppler, yielding key bullpen cogs such as Blake Parker, Hansel Robles, Noe Ramirez and Taylor Cole.

The Angels will hope to find similar success with Austin Brice, a 26-year-old right-hander who was claimed off waivers from the Reds last week. Given their track record, Brice won't be the only reliever the Angels take a flier on this offseason.

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The Angels have not spent heavily on relievers in recent years, preferring instead to cull the waiver wire and Minor League free agency for inexpensive, effective arms. Those thrifty avenues have been quite productive for the club under general manager Billy Eppler, yielding key bullpen cogs such as Blake Parker, Hansel Robles, Noe Ramirez and Taylor Cole.

The Angels will hope to find similar success with Austin Brice, a 26-year-old right-hander who was claimed off waivers from the Reds last week. Given their track record, Brice won't be the only reliever the Angels take a flier on this offseason.

"Probably not what everybody wants to hear, but if you can find players that are not prohibitive from a salary standpoint and have flexibility, those are shots, in my opinion, that we should take 100 percent of the time," Eppler said Tuesday at the General Managers Meetings. "There's very little downside to those shots. That being said, if you can still land someone that in your risk assessments will provide impact and the risk is at a tolerable level and there's more track record, then absolutely, that guy makes sense."

The Angels plan to prioritize pitching -- both starting and relieving -- as they look to retool their roster, and Eppler has said he will also wade into the free-agent and trade markets to explore the best fits for his club. The landscape for relievers will be robust, particularly in a free-agent pool that features stalwarts such as Craig Kimbrel, Jeurys Familia, Zach Britton, David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, Andrew Miller, Joe Kelly and Kelvin Herrera, among others.

While committing significant resources to relievers can be a risky proposition given their volatility, Eppler isn't opposed to targeting more established bullpen arms this offseason.

"You just try to mitigate as much risk as possible," Eppler said. "You have to understand what you're going to yield financially, or if it's in the trade market, what you're going to yield from a prospect or a player standpoint. But you just are constantly doing a risk assessment when you're making those transactions, because we've seen a lot of them not go so well."

Eppler currently counts 10 relievers on the Angels' depth chart for 2019, and he said he would like to increase that number to 13 or 14, though some of those additions could come through Minor League deals or more waiver claims. Justin Anderson, Cam Bedrosian, Jose Alvarez, Ty Buttrey, Williams Jerez, Cole, Parker, Ramirez, Robles and Brice likely comprise the group of relievers that is already in place for the Angels.

Keynan Middleton, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, is also expected to return in late June at the earliest.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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