The Los Angeles Angels took a shot in the dark when they signed left-hander Mark Mulder to a minor league deal. Mulder, 36, owns a career record of 103-60 with a 4.18 ERA, but last pitched in the major leagues in 2008.
According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, Mulder found success with a new delivery after imitating Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez. Crasnick also noted that Mulder was hovering around 89-90 mph with his fastball while throwing for scouts.
Unfortunately the dreams of a comeback were dashed when Mulder ruptured his Achilles tendon while doing agility drills.
When the Angels signed Mulder, it seemed like a low-cost move to add some much needed depth to the rotation.
At the time, the Angels were also reportedly interested in adding another arm such as Matt Garza, or maybe even Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka. Neither of those ideas developed, and the Angels even missed out on fallback options that included starters such as Bronson Arroyo and Jason Hammel.
With no other additions to the rotation, it looked like Mulder had a real opportunity to break the 25-man roster. Now with Mulder out, young lefties Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago are near locks to round out the back-end of the rotation.
Skaggs, 22, was ranked the 12th best prospect by Baseball America in 2013. His minor league success has yet to translate in the majors, as he owns a 5.43 ERA in 68 innings.
Santiago, 27, pitched well in 2013, recording a 3.56 ERA in 149 innings for the Chicago White Sox. Though he gave up a fair amount of fly balls (36.4 GB%), the move to pitcher friendly Angels Stadium should benefit the lefty.
While Skaggs and Santiago certainly have upside, neither has shouldered the load of an entire major league schedule. Santiago’s 149 innings last season was a career best, while the most Skaggs has pitched is 158.1 innings in 2011.
Should the Angels lose a pitcher (or pitchers) during the season, the lack of depth beyond the starting five is frightening.
The next person in line for starts would be Joe Blanton, who was worth negative value last season (-0.4 fWAR). Blanton went 2-14 with a 6.04 ERA in 132.2 innings, while also serving up 29 home runs.
After Blanton, the Angels options include Matt Shoemaker and Wade LeBlanc. Shoemaker owns a career 4.46 ERA in six minor league seasons, while LeBlanc is barely replacement-level (if that).
Acquiring Skaggs and Santiago was definitely a nice coup for the Angels, but they failed to acquire quality arms beyond that. Mulder would have been a nice comeback story, but hanging your hat on a guy that has not pitched in the major leagues in five years is a sad reflection of the state of the Angels front office.