The Angels are finally getting back two of their best starting pitchers. First, it will be Ervin Santana on Thursday and then John Lackey on Saturday. Their returns are going to be a great thing for the Angels.
It is also going to create a big problem.
You see, part of welcoming back Santana and Lackey is that it means two other players need to go. That wasn’t supposed to be a problem considering that the crew of misfits the Angels called up to replace the injured starters were supposed to all be atrocious. Unfortunately, those emergency call-ups have turned out to be pretty decent.
The most obvious first person to lose their major league pay check will undoubtedly be Rafael Rodriguez. As the last man in the bullpen and no issues with options, he probably already has his ticket to Salt Lake booked. From there things start to get complicated.
Shane Loux is practically begging to stay on the active roster
With one more roster spot to clear, the Angels will have to make some tough choices. There are three logical choices to be demoted to make room for Big John, but each choice carries a certain degree of risk. Shane Loux, while inconsistent has done a solid job as a spot starter and profiles well as a reliever, but he is out of minor league options (allegedly, the workings of such details are hard to decipher). Jason Bulger has lousy statistics, but has been pitching well lately and appears to be higher up in the bullpen pecking order than Justin Speier (who won’t be going anywhere with his big contract) but Bulger is also out of options. If Loux or Bulger get demoted, they will have to clear waivers first, meaning another team could snatch them away for free. While neither pitcher is a big-time talent, the Angels pitching depth has been stretched so thin that they cannot afford to sacrifice any more of it, even with Santana and Lackey coming back.
That leaves Matt Palmer, who does have options left. Of course, why would the Angels want to demote a guy who has been so successful in his short time with the Halos? The team will still need a fifth starter and Palmer deserves to keep the job, but can they afford to keep him around if it means that they sacrifice Loux or Bulger to the waiver wire. What if they drop Loux and Palmer turns back into a pumpkin or another starter gets hurt? Can the Angels really put themselves back into a position where Anthony Ortega is their fall back option. Not to mention the kind of backlash they will get from fans from killing the great Cinderella story that is Matt Palmer’s season.
Don’t send him down, the Angels still have at least seven puff pieces left to run!
The logical conclusion is that Angels should try and sneak Bulger through waivers and move Loux to the bullpen. While that would arguably weaken the bullpen, it is better for the Angels in terms of depth. Plus, since Bulger is only a reliever, he might actually make it through waivers. Problem solved, right?
Wrong. Lackey and Santana aren’t the only Angel pitchers getting healthy. Dustin Moseley is on the mend and could be back within a couple of weeks. Moseley has hardly proven himself a vital cog of the pitching staff, but he is another guy who has had major league success as a starter and reliever but is also out of options. So once again, the Angels will have to clear a roster spot if they hope to keep Moseley, a player likely to generate plenty of interest on the waiver wire, in the fold. Angel management could buy themselves some time by sending him on a “rehab” assignment for the maximum allowed time, but that just delays the decision further. And don’t even get me started on what happens if/when Kelvim Escobar gets healthy as expected in late-June.
Now, this is the kind of problem any team would kill to have- too much pitching (mediocre though some of it might be). The Halo front office truly has their work cut out for them if they hope to seamlessly integrate in all the returning pitchers while not losing one of the guys who have stepped up so admirably in all their absence.