As we are all aware of, Garrett Richards is once again on the 60-day DL, this time with a bicep strength/nerve issue that occurred after he felt tightness in the area during his first start of the year in Oakland. There is no actual timetable on his return (his current DL assignment ends in June) and he has yet to resume throwing, so we can only ask: what do we do now?
What do we know?
We know about the potential Garrett Richards possesses. After struggling to find his place on the team for 3 years, he had a breakout year in 2014, going 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 168.2 IP before having his season cut short with a knee injury. He came back in 2015 and put up another solid season, going 15-12 with a 3.65 ERA and throwing over 200 innings in a season for the only time in his career. He simply has electric stuff and is by far the best pitcher on the roster when he is healthy.
Between 2016 and 2017, Garrett Richards has pitched a total of 39.1 innings and will have been paid over $13 million between the two seasons. Arte Moreno has cut back on big spending after signing Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson, and Josh Hamilton in 2011 and 2012. Billy Eppler has made it clear that he likes going after the bargains to fill any holes on the roster, evidenced by the Maybin and Espinosa trades and the Revere signing. With Hamilton coming off the payroll in 2017, the Angels will have some more money to play with and they need reliable arms.
Well, there are 3 options the Angels can take with Richards.
Option 1: Trade him.
This option is the least likely to happen, but Eppler could possibly trade Richards for anything of value when (or if) he comes back in June.
Option 2: Non-tender him in the offseason.
The Angels may decide to do with Richards what the Padres did with Tyson Ross and determine that it isn’t worth keeping Richards around if he can’t stay healthy. There is going to be a surplus of starting pitching on the market after 2017, with the likes of Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Michael Pineda, Chris Tillman, and Alex Cobb in the last year of their deals. Wei-Yin Chen, Johnny Cueto, Masahiro Tanaka, and Ian Kennedy have opt-outs, which would make this offseason even more interesting if they end up opting out of their current deal. The team may decide it would be better off looking for a free agent to replace Richards, especially if it’ll be cheaper.
Option 3: Re-sign him and hope.
If everything turns out well, Richards will be healthy by the time he’s eligible to come off the DL and will contribute immediately to the Angels as they fight for a spot in the playoffs. On the other hand, there’s the possibility that the team doesn’t want to risk it and keeps him shut down. Either way, the Angels could decide to keep him around and hope that 2018 will be the year he finally stays healthy. We simply don’t know how any of this will turn out, so the only thing we can do is hope for his speedy recovery and that the Angels make the right decision, whatever that may be.