On Monday, the Los Angeles Angels finally got their closer. After failed pursuits of Zach Britton, David Robertson, and Kelvin Herrera, the Halos settled on Cody Allen, a long-time Cleveland Indians reliever. At a quick glance, it seems pretty underwhelming.
Allen had his worst season in 2018, posting a subpar 4.70 ERA in 70 innings, blowing 5 saves. His fastball velocity, which averaged 94.3 mph in 2017, fell to 93.5 last season. Furthermore, his BB/9 ballooned to 4.4 and his K/9 lowered by 1.6. His 4.56 FIP also doesn’t inspire too much confidence in his lack of luck.
So why’d the Angels “stretch their payroll” for Allen?
One of the obvious reasons is his durability and career success. Over 440.2 career innings and seven seasons, Allen has posted a solid 2.98 ERA with 564 Ks and 149 saves. Even in a rough 2018 campaign, he ranked well in xBA, fastball spin rate, and K%. He lands in the 84th, 91st, and 81th in those categories, respectively.
For instance, Zach Britton ranked in the 9th percentile in fastball spin rate. David Robertson, though, exceeds Allen’s totals at 98% fastball spin rate and his .196 xBA is slightly lower than Allen’s .207 mark.
Beyond that, 5 of his seasons resulted in a sub-3 ERA during his stint in Cleveland, and he’s landed on 9th place of the all-time saves total. For a team in desperate need for an established closer, he fits the bill.
GM Billy Eppler echoes this sentiment. “Cody has shown a history of durability and a history of being a well-above-average reliever…We wanted to add that veteran presence and playoff experience to a relatively young and inexperienced group.”
Here’s a look at the saves totals and MLB experience for the current Angels ‘pen.
|Ty Buttrey||1 season||4 saves|
|Justin Anderson||1 season||4 saves|
|Williams Jerez||1 season||1 save|
|Taylor Cole||2 season||0 saves|
|Hansel Robles||3 seasons||3 saves|
|Noe Ramirez||4 seasons||1 save|
|Cam Bedrosian||5 seasons||8 saves|
|Luis Garcia||6 seasons||5 saves|
Blake Parker, who saved 14 games last season, was non-tendered and signed a discounted one year deal with the Twins.
As mentioned previously, Allen did blow 5 saves in 2018. However, his 84.375% conversion rate far exceeds the Angels’ 57% conversion rate last season after six innings.
The Angels also seem confident that he can turn around his fastball velocity with some tweaks, namely a timing issue they identified in his delivery. They’ve had past success resurrecting Blake Parker’s career, as well as capturing solid performances from Felix Pena (2018) and Parker Bridwell (2017).
Allen’s $8.5M AAV puts the Angels payroll at roughly $182M, giving them little wiggle room (assuming they stay under the luxury tax threshold). We could see them add a left-handed specialist, though Billy Eppler has stated that handedness isn’t much of a factor for them. There’s also a chance they sign a bargain bin depth piece, following their offseason trend. Justin Bour, Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill, and Jonathan Lucroy all signed one-year pacts, indicating an emphasis on bounce-back performances next year.
As the offseason is speeding up and pitchers and catchers report ready for Spring Training, the Angels seem content with their additions. Allen will anchor the ‘pen, likely followed by youngsters Ty Buttrey, Justin Anderson, and Cam Bedrosian.
They are also betting on a comeback season from Luis Garcia (6.07 ERA, 3.51 FIP) and a return from promising young reliever Keynan Middleton (Another victim of the Angels Tommy John epidemic). Eppler and company clearly expect good things from their hard-throwing bullpen, but they’ll need a better look from their number one guy for their roster to fill out well.
Image credit: Jason Miller (Getty Images)