Barria's rough outing reveals Angels' need for starting pitching help

June 29th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- After acquiring veteran infielders Eduardo Escobar and Mike Moustakas via trades over the weekend, it’s become clear the Angels are going to be aggressive in trying to improve their club before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline.

The Angels are aiming for their first postseason berth since 2014 and they’re trying to get there in the last year of two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani’s contract. But one of their issues was apparent in an 11-5 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday at Angel Stadium, as sixth starter Jaime Barria struggled.

It was Barria’s first start since June 13, which could’ve led to some rust, but it again showed the Angels could use another veteran starter before the Trade Deadline.

“It’s a tough role to be in and sit that long,” manager Phil Nevin said. “It’s tough when you don’t pitch that much. You can throw bullpens all you want, but it’s not the same.”

Angels pitching has been middle of the pack this year, with a 4.13 ERA that ranks 15th in the Majors. The bullpen’s 3.68 ERA ranks eighth, while the starting pitchers have combined for a 4.42 ERA that ranks 19th. It’s a reason why they’re likely to pursue a starting pitcher via trade, which would also allow for the underrated Barria to move back to his long relief role where he has excelled over the last two seasons.

Angels general manager Perry Minasian indicated on Monday that he plans to add to the roster, as the club has put itself in postseason contention with a 44-38 record.

“The players and coaching staff have put themselves in a position to where we're in contention for a playoff spot and I don't take that lightly,” Minasian said. “They've worked really hard to be at this point, especially with some of the challenges we've gone through over the course of the season. So now I look at it as my turn to help, to continue adding talent to the roster.”

To be fair, the rotation has been better recently, as Angels starters came into Wednesday on a stretch of 13 straight games of allowing three runs or fewer. But that ended against Chicago, as Barria gave up five runs on seven hits -- including three homers -- in three innings, falling to 2-3 with a 2.92 ERA.

“I was just leaving my slider up,” Barria said through an interpreter. “They made an adjustment. And then they were hitting my fastball. That’s what happened tonight.”

The Angels, though, could use another starter -- and coincidentally, one that could be available at the Deadline pitched against them Wednesday night. Right-hander Lucas Giolito, who will be a free agent after the season, went seven innings and limited the Angels to four runs on six hits with nine strikeouts.

Ohtani, who went 3-for-5 with a triple after homering twice and striking out 10 batters on Tuesday, remains the club’s ace, while lefties Reid Detmers and Patrick Sandoval have been turning things around recently. Fellow lefty Tyler Anderson has been inconsistent this year with a 5.54 ERA, but the Angels have won in seven of his last nine starts, while right-hander Griffin Canning has fared well after missing last year with a back injury.

Lefty José Suarez is on the injured list with a left shoulder strain and is currently participating in a throwing program at the club’s Spring Training complex in Arizona. But there’s no timeline for his return and no guarantees he’d improve the rotation, as he had a 9.62 ERA in six starts before he suffered the injury.

The Angels could use another veteran to further stabilize the rotation and Giolito could be an option. Other veterans in the last year of their contracts who could be traded as rentals include Cardinals right-handers Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty.

Minasian, though, wouldn’t get into specifics about what he’s looking to target at the Deadline, as things are fluid. But when infielders Gio Urshela, Zach Neto and Anthony Rendon went down due to injury in the span of two days, Minasian was aggressive in filling those holes by acquiring Escobar and Moustakas.

And so it’s fair to expect the Angels to add some pitching before the Deadline.

“We still have a long way to go,” Minasian said. “So we'll take it each day and see where we're at. Things change by the day. We saw it in the span of two days, right? Three infielders went down. Things change really fast. You have to be able to adjust and ownership has been great. I have zero complaints.”