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Jordan Walden and his fellow relievers could use some help
No closer in Major League Baseball blew more saves (10) in 2011 than Jordan Walden and the Angels were only two games out of the Wild Card entering the final series of the season. Let the enormity of that statistic sink in before deciding whether or not the Angels could use another quality reliever with closing experience. The Angels bullpen was so bad in 2011 that it had to resort to relying on Bobby Cassevah to nail down the 7th inning, the same Bobby Cassevah that has posted an ERA of 4.27 and 4.64 the past two seasons in AAA.
Los Angeles has a wealth of minor league relievers that could become effective major league relievers soon, but until they become established arms, the Angels could use one or two more reliable right handed relievers. The free agent class of relievers is a relatively deep one this year.
- Closers - Heath Bell, Frank Francisco, Jon Papelbon and Ryan Madson
- Set-up - Joe Nathan, Brad Lidge and Kerry Wood.
If the Angels are looking to save a considerable amount of money, they may only have enough money to sign one of these relievers. Kerry Wood took less money to play in Chicago two years ago and seems to be interested in only pitching for the Cubs. The Phillies and Madson have expressed mutual interest and Madson is expected to remain the Phillies closer. Jon Papelbon's price tag appears to be outside of what the Angels can realistically afford and Heath Bell may accept arbitration just to stay in San Diego.
This leaves Frank Francisco, Joe Nathan and Brad Lidge. Both Francisco and Lidge were untouchable in the second half of 2011 and would be valuable additions to the Angels bullpen. However, when healthy, Lidge is in another class of elite relievers and that is something the Angels desperately need. I believe the realistic signing here would be for the Angels to offer Lidge a multi-year deal as their set-up man, throw in incentives just in case he needs to take over for Jordan Walden and call it an offseason. I think two years, $11 million with a third year club option worth $7 million would be enough to lure Lidge out west.