Angels' faith in Scot Shields misplaced

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With Brian Fuentes on the DL, the Angels are definitely short-handed in the bullpen. I’d argue that they’re down to two above average relievers, one of whom, Fernando Rodney, happens to be struggling, having given up four runs in four appearances after finishing with an 8.53 ERA this spring.
The other, Kevin Jepsen, is the most important piece in the bullpen right now. He bailed the Angels out in the eighth inning Wednesday against the Yankees after Scot Shields got the team into a big jam in what had been a 5-1 game.
It’s Shields who looks like the biggest problem in the Angels pen right now. It’s not that he’s necessarily worse than Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Stokes. But the problem is that Mike Scioscia is treating him as a valuable setup man when he barely rates as a fringe middle reliever.
Shields was scored upon for the third time in four appearances before being replaced by Jepsen on Wednesday. With his velocity down after last year’s knee surgery, he’s allowed six runs (three earned), five hits and four walks in just 2 2/3 innings. His WHIP stands at 3.38.
The fact is that Angels GM Tony Reagins blew it over the winter. It’s typical that the Halos have avoided minor league free agents, particularly on the pitching side of the equation, as they usually prefer their internal replacements. But it was obvious that the team was terribly lacking in the depth department going into the spring. The Angels should have been all over guys like Kiko Calero, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Nelson, Ron Mahay and others who slipped through the cracks over the winter, but they didn’t have a single veteran non-roster pitcher compete for a bullpen job this spring.
They’re going to pay for it now. They should consider themselves awfully lucky if someone from the group of Francisco Rodriguez, Fernando Rodriguez, Bobby Cassevah and Michael Kohn steps up to become a useful reliever. Actually, the best hope may be their former No. 1 starting pitching prospect, Jordan Walden, who was shifted to the bullpen this spring and is currently a co-closer in Double-A.
In the meantime, expect Shields and company to struggle. I’m certainly not giving up on these Angels, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they’re still in last place in the AL West into mid-May.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.