ANAHEIM -- With roughly a month until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, Angels general manager Billy Eppler remains busy trying to upgrade the roster without sacrificing long-term flexibility.So far, the Angels have only signed players to one-year deals, inking catcher Jonathan Lucroy and right-handers Trevor Cahill and Matt
ANAHEIM -- With roughly a month until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, Angels general manager Billy Eppler remains busy trying to upgrade the roster without sacrificing long-term flexibility.
So far, the Angels have only signed players to one-year deals, inking catcher Jonathan Lucroy and right-handers Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey for the 2019 season. It doesn't mean the Angels won't hand out any multi-year deals this offseason, but it doesn't seem likely that they'll make a major splash via free agency.
Finding bullpen help is the priority right now, which leads us into the first question of this week's Angels Inbox:
The relief market has started to heat up in recent weeks, but there are still several top relievers available, with Craig Kimbrel and Adam Ottavino the headliners. A deal with Kimbrel is highly unlikely, but Ottavino -- with his nasty slider -- would be a huge boost to the 'pen. He will command multiple years, though, so the Angels could look for bounce-back options on one-year contracts instead.
:: Submit a question to the Angels Inbox ::
Former closers on the market include Brad Boxberger, Cody Allen and Sergio Romo, and there are also a few intriguing lefties available, such as Oliver Perez, Tony Sipp, Luis Avilan and Justin Wilson. Of course, the Angels could go the trade route; a recent report in The Athletic linked the Angels to the Giants lefty relievers Will Smith and Tony Watson.
As for the Jose Alvarez trade, the Angels believe their return -- right-hander Luis Garcia -- is better than his numbers indicated last year, when he had a 6.07 ERA in 46 innings. His peripheral stats, including his strikeout rate, walk rate and home run rate, were all solid, leading to a FIP of 3.64. The Phillies had the worst defense in baseball, per advanced metrics, which didn't help Garcia's numbers.
Garcia also had better traditional numbers in 2017, posting a 2.65 ERA in 71 1/3 innings, and he has impressive stuff with a fastball that averages more than 97 mph. So while his ERA in '18 makes the trade look lopsided on paper, upon a closer look, Garcia should have a better year in '19. But the deal did hurt the Angels' lefty depth, which is why they're likely to add at least one southpaw to their bullpen.
After signing Lucroy, the Angels were out on Yasmani Grandal, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Brewers on Wednesday. They're also unlikely to sign Dallas Keuchel after adding Harvey and Cahill to the rotation. Keuchel remains a good fit and he can't fully be ruled out, but relief help is more of the focus right now. Plus, Keuchel is likely to command a deal of at least four or five years, which might make the Angels hesitant.
At this point, Jaime Barria is the frontrunner for the fifth spot in the rotation after his solid rookie year, joining Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Harvey and Cahill. But Nick Tropeano and Felix Pena are also in the mix, as are Dillon Peters and Parker Bridwell. Barring the Angels signing another starter this offseason, there will be an open competition in camp for that fifth spot.
Right-hander Griffin Canning, the club's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, certainly could make his debut in 2019 after reaching Triple-A last year, but if he does, it's likely to happen later in the season. But, of course, injuries do happen, which could move up Canning's timeline.
The 2017 second-rounder out of UCLA had a strong debut season in pro ball, posting a combined 3.65 ERA with 125 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings between Class A Advanced Inland Empire, Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake. But he did have a 5.49 ERA in 59 innings at Triple-A, so there is still some work to do.
Canning, 22, is currently at MLB's Rookie Career Development Program in Miami, so look for an interview and a story about him on Angels.com later this week.
Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.