ANAHEIM — Angels manager Mike Scioscia said there are “a couple of ways we can go” for Saturday’s start against the A’s, but “we’re not going to commit to anything right now.” An announcement will probably come Friday, but nothing was official on Thursday because Scioscia wanted to see how much of his bullpen he would need before then and, frankly, there is no clear-cut solution to begin with.
This much is certain: Garrett Richards‘ now-vacant rotation spot is a major issue for the Angels, on Saturday and in the month that will follow.
It’ll come up a minimum of five more times, even if Scioscia uses off-days on Monday and Sept. 25 to juggle the order. Wade LeBlanc gave up six runs in 3 1/3 innings in Richards’ spot on Monday, then was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A on Thursday, allowing the Angels to preserve some much-needed starting-pitching depth.
LeBlanc can’t be an option for Saturday, however, because it hasn’t been 10 days since he was sent to the Minors. So, below is a look at where the Angels can turn to fill the void left by Richards’ torn patellar tendon.
Outside help: Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto finds himself in a very difficult predicament in his hopes to bring in a starting pitcher. As the team with the best record in the Majors, the Angels have to sit back while other clubs get first dibs on players placed on waivers (American League players have to slip through 13 teams, National League players have to slip through 28). Typically, the only players who get all the way down the waiver wire are those who either aren’t all that good or are owed a lot of money beyond this season.
And therein lies the other problem — the Angels can’t sign players with a lot of money tied to 2015 because of luxury-tax concerns. They already have more than $175 million tied to next season in their Competitive Balance Tax payroll, which takes into account the average annual value of contracts. The tax threshold is $189 million, and it’s basically been the Angels’ spending limit the last couple of years.
That’s why Bartolo Colon of the Mets ($10 million AAV), Scott Feldman of the Astros ($10 million AAV) and Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays ($14.5 million AAV) are pipe dreams without salary relief. Trevor Cahill of the D-backs is intriguing, with an AAV of $6.1 million, but he has an ERA of 4.98 and a walk rate of 4.2. The Angels also dealt six prospects from an already thin farm system to acquire relievers Joe Thatcher and Huston Street in July, so they also can’t offer up much talent in a trade.
Teams have until 9 p.m. PT on Sunday to add players who would be eligible for the postseason roster.
LH Michael Roth: The 24-year-old is already on the 40-man roster, is lined up to start on Saturday and has dominated, with a 3.02 ERA in 50 2/3 innings since being outrighted back to the Minors. That, however, was in Double-A. And it came despite only 33 strikeouts and 21 walks. Roth has a 6.75 ERA in 26 2/3 innings in the Majors from 2013-14.
LH Randy Wolf: The 38-year-old would have to be added to the 40-man roster and he hasn’t necessarily been lights-out at Triple-A Salt Lake, posting a 4.99 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in six starts. But he’s a veteran, with 15 years of Major League experience under his belt. And the A’s have only a .665 OPS against lefties in August.
RH Caleb Clay: Clay’s next turn for Triple-A Salt Lake just so happens to come on Saturday. That’s about all he has going for him right now, though. The 26-year-old has a 5.09 ERA in 11 starts in the Pacific Coast League, allowing 10 hits per nine innings with a strikeout rate of just 5.3.
Piece it together: Cory Rasmus, who has a 2.68 ERA in 24 Major League appearances, may provide two to three innings. Hector Santiago, who has a 1.19 ERA in his last four starts, pitched Wednesday and may be able to give Scioscia an inning or two of relief by Saturday. Fernando Salas, who has allowed just three earned runs in his last 24 innings, can provide a couple of innings. And a back end of the bullpen that has been one of the best in baseball since the start of July can take it from there, with an off-day following on Monday.
This would be a little easier to do with expanded rosters in September, and very draining for a bullpen before then.