What Jerry Dipoto wants, Jerry Dipoto gets. As if the Pujols and Wilson signings didn't show us that already, the Angels GM went out and proved it once more by acquiring young, talented power reliever Ernesto Frieri from the San Diego Padres in order to bolster the Angels Bullpen of Perpetual Sorrow.
While one reliever isn't going to fix the bullpen, Frieri is a major step forward for the Angels. Even before the string of Chernobyl-esque meltdowns from the current crop of relievers, the Angels knew that they needed additional bullpen depth, specifically when it comes to a right-handed reliever that can rack up strikeouts, a need that was only exacerbated by Jordan Walden's massive struggles. And, boy howdy, can Frieri miss some bats. Armed with a low-to-mid nineties fastball and a good curve, Frieri has fanned 11.38 batters per nine innings in the 108.1 innings he has pitched for the Padres in parts of seasons since 2009, with 2011 being his only full season in the majors. Frieri does walk a fair amount of batters in the process, but it hasn't hurt him too much as his career ERA of 2.33 and FIP of 3.20 suggests.
But temper that enthusiasm a little bit. Ernesto is an extreme flyball pitcher, which could make him susceptible to home runs (which his career xFIP of 4.04 hints at). Pitching in Petco his whole career has helped mitigate that problem, but he won't have quite the same advantage in Angel Stadium even though it too is a pitcher's park. That being said, his home/road splits are nearly identical over the course of his short career with the exception of his road FIP being over a whole run higher than his home FIP while his xFIP is .40 runs better at home. That makes it something of a mixed bag, but it isn't the wild splits one would expect to see.
The question now is where will Frieri factor in to the Angel bullpen mix? Mike Scioscia has already stated that he will have to pitch his way into a role, which is only fair. But he also set no limitations on that role. I might be getting ahead of myself here, but Scioscia said a few days before the trade that he dislikes having Scott Downs locked in as closer since it limits the flexibility of the relief corps, and he has always maintained that the assignment was temporary for Downs. Whle he most likely meant that Walden could earn the job back, Frieri could very well earn a shot at the closer gig. At worst, one would think that Frieri would be able to work his way into a setup job if he can replicate the same success he had in San Diego.
To get Frieri, the Angels paid a good-sized price. Alexi Amarista is a guy the Angels seemed to like and could have used as a replacement for Maicer Izturis next season, but he also was never going to get a shot at a starting job in Anaheim, but he might in San Diego, but he might also prove to be nothing more than an Alfredo Amezaga for the next generation. The real prize for the Padres though would be Donn Roach, a sinkerball with stellar command. Roach was a third-round pick in 2010 and was starting to quietly sneak up the Angel prospect ladder. He won't be an ace, but he seems to have a real shot at becoming a quality #3 starter, but that won't be for a few years, so the Angels won't necessarily miss him for awhile. At first blush, I though the Halos overpaid here, but when you factor in that Frieri isn't even arbitration-eligible until 2014 and that acquiring an impact reliever this early in the season comes with a premium, I think this ended up being a pretty fair deal for both sides. Hopefully it won't be too fair to San Diego because I still harbor hopes that Bud Black gets fired and returns to be the pitching coach for the Angels next season.
Frieri will join the team on Friday at which time the Angels will have to demote someone off the active roster, most likely Kevin Jepsen, which is an added bonus to this deal.
Good work, JeDi!