The Angels dove into the bullpen bargain bin Monday for the umpteenth time this winter, signing veteran right-hander Brandon Lyon to a minor league deal with an invite to big-league spring training.
Lyon will make a base salary of $1 million if he breaks camp with the Halos, per Jon Heyman, but he’ll be competing with as many as 13(!!) guys for, at most, two bullpen spots, so the chances of him appearing in Anaheim come April seem pretty slim at the moment.
Seriously, though, 13 guys for maybe two spots. Say the team goes with a seven-man ‘pen. At the moment, that’s Frieri, Smith, De La Rosa, Burnett, Moran (because Rule 5), Jepsen (because $), and Blanton (also $$). Of those, Moran and Blanton are the only real non-shoo-ins for Opening Day1. Competing with Lyon for those two possibly available spots then are Buddy Boshers, Ryan Braiser, Robert Carson, Jarrett Grube, Michael Kohn, Wade LeBlanc, Nick Maronde, Mike Morin, Clay Rapada, Corey Rasmus, Michael Roth, Fernando Salas, and Josh Wall. Not all those opportunities are equal, of course, but Lyon still has his work cut out for him if he wants to get paid.
Lyon has the veteran pedigree going for him, which plays to Scioscia’s proclivities, but he’s coming off a down season for the Mets that saw him released in August. He made just 37 appearances for New York — all in the first half — posting a 4.98 ERA (3.98 FIP) and a 1.631 WHIP in 34⅓ innings. The Salt Lake native’s career-best K numbers from 2012 — when he punched out 63 batters in 61 innings — disappeared upon arrival in Flushing, dropping back down to his career norm of about six per nine.
The big thing to watch out for in Tempe during camp, in re Lyon, will be his velocity. In his heyday as closer for the D’Backs and Astros, Lyon lived in the mid to low 90s with his fourseam, sinker, and cutter. As should be expected, he lost some zip off his heater right before and after tearing his labrum in 2011, but still topped 90 mph on the gun. In 2013, however, Lyon averaged a Weaver-like 87 mph with the fourseam and sinker, and just 85 mph with the cutter.
Lyon owns a fairly solid 4.16 ERA (4.08 ERA) in parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but it’s hard to imagine him coming anywhere near those numbers again if he can’t add a mile per hour or three back on his fastball. Without the velocity, I honestly doubt he’ll even get the chance to make the numbers worse.
Given that Lyons grew up in Utah, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to speculate that he could stick around with the Bees in Triple-A this season if things don’t go his way in Tempe. He might even get his share (pun intended) of the closing duties out there. We’ll see.
The Halos now have 66 players assigned to big-league camp this spring. Pitchers and catchers report to Diablo Stadium this Thursday, just three days from now(!).
1 Even if Burnett starts the year on the DL, his replacement will probably be Moran, which keeps the available spots at just a pair.