Enough ink has been spilled as to Billy Eppler’s bang up job building an Angels bullpen that is surprisingly the strongest we’ve seen in years. But if there’s one thing we know about valuable commodities in baseball, it’s that teams don’t want to lose it, and will pay handsomely to retain it. This, along with inflation has contributed toward the meteoric rise in free agency contracts. And speaking of free agents, the Angels have a few more worth keeping than anyone anticipated a year ago.
The bullpen crew; Bud Norris, Yusmeiro Petit, David Hernandez, Huston Street, Andrew Bailey and Blake Parker.
They each come with their own individual circumstance, and each of them have a future that is up in the air to some degree. First, let’s address the one possibility that negates all of this; the trade deadline. If the Angels go into full sell mode, and if Billy Eppler feels confident in his ability to build a bullpen next offseason in the same manner he did this offseason (and early season), then the Angels could find themselves dealing from their wealth of relief pitching in order to acquire prospects.
But if Billy Eppler decides not to sell, he will still need to ask Arte to open up that pocketbook of his and shell out some considerable money to retain this crop of relievers. Let’s start with how much they’re going to cost this year.
Bud Norris – 1.75 million. Yusmeiro Petit – 2.25 million. David Hernandez – $535,000. Huston Street – 9 million. Andrew Bailey – 1 million. Blake Parker $535,000. Grand Total – A shade over 15 million.
Now then, their numbers.
Bud Norris – 26 IP 34 K’s 2.77 ERA 10 saves. – Set to reach free agency.
Yusmeiro Petit – 34 IP 39 K’s 2.10 ERA – Set to reach free agency.
David Hernandez – 15 IP 14 K’s 3.45 ERA – Set to reach free agency.
Huston Street – Nada. – 10 million dollar option, 1 million dollar buy out, a near lock for free agency.
Andrew Bailey – Don’t worry about it. – Set for free agency.
Blake Parker – 25 IP 39 K’s 2.45 ERA – First time arbitration eligible.
For those that are wondering, free agency is a very monetarily rewarding process for professional baseball players. Let’s look at comps for each of these pitchers and how they did on the free agent market last offseason.
Bud Norris – Our best comps here are Brad Ziegler and Joaquin Benoit. Ziegler served as a part time closer in 2016, and while his ERA was slightly better than Norris’, his strikeouts weren’t near Bud’s level, and his age and velocity don’t match Norris’ either. Still, Ziegler scored 2 years, 16 million in free agency. Benoit was never used as a closer, but his numbers closely mirror Norris’. Benoit landed 1 year and 7.5 million. Assuming the Angels continue to use him as a closer or set up man for the rest of the year and don’t trade him at the deadline, we can anticipate Bud Norris hitting the market this winter and securing 2-3 years at an AAV of 8 million+. Meaning if the Angels wish to keep Bud Norris around after this year, an extension probably looks like 2 years, 16 million with an option for a third year at 9 million.
Yusmeiro Petit – Multi-inning relievers that carry an ERA under 3.00 isn’t a common occurrence at all, so we really don’t have much of a precedence set for Petit. What we can say is that if his current numbers hold up, he’s likely to be in high demand. Petit’s success this year hasn’t come with a significant increase in fastball velocity or new pitch he’s developed. Petit is just being used in the right situations and is pitching his tail off. At age 33, he’s likely to get himself a 1-2 year deal worth at minimum 5 million a year.
David Hernandez – David actually hit free agency last offseason but only scored a minor league deal coming off a less than impressive season. This time around, I think a fair comp for him would be former Angels Fernando Salas. The Angels dealt him at the deadline and Salas put together a nice couple months for the Mets, which resulted in a one year, 3 million dollar contract.
Huston Street – Well I can tell you this, Street won’t be getting 10 million from the Angels. But there were some former closers that cashed in last year. Andrew Bailey got a million from the Angels. Santiago Casilla landed 2/11 from the A’s. Neftali Feliz got 1/5.35 from the Brewers. Fernando Rodney got 1/2.75 from the Marlins. Of all these, Rodney is likely the best comp, as like Street, he had a reputation as a closer and was reaching an age where we don’t know what to expect. I think one year, three million is around what Street could hope for.
Andrew Bailey – Well for any of this to come to fruition, he’ll need to get back on the mound and get over his shoulder problems. Not an easy thing to do. But if it did happen, the Angels could give him the same deal as last year since it’s a very similar situation. 1 year, 1 million.
Blake Parker – His first time through arbitration won’t handsomely reward him, but he will be due for a nice uptick in salary. Likely to around a million.
Total anticipated cost for 2018 – 21 million.
The fact that the bullpen itself would cost 8 million more in 2018 than it did in 2017 isn’t a huge deal. I mean teams don’t want to shell out tons of cash for relief pitching, but at the same time, when you find something that works, 8 million is a worthwhile investment. I think the only part of this equation that may cause some hesitation with Billy Eppler are the multi-year contracts that he’ll need to dole out to Norris and Petit, as well as the prospect of getting prospects for these guys at the trade deadline and bringing in a new crop of relievers. We can see that Eppler has already begun this work by acquiring Damien Magnifico and Parker Bridwell. They’ll also have Eduardo Paredes breaking in later this year or early next year in likely a similar manner to Keynan Middleton, who you couldn’t justify sending back down to AAA at this point, given his arsenal and success in the majors.