Former Atlanta Braves pitcher Julio Teheran agreed Thursday to a one-year, $9-million contract to pitch for the Angels, said people familiar with the negotiations but not authorized to speak publicly.
The deal, which will not be formalized until Teheran takes a physical, is not the splashy move Angels fans had hoped for. Teheran only seems to backfill a rotation in need of a true frontline starter.
But as with the recent acquisition of right-handed starter Dylan Bundy, the Angels added a durable pitcher. Teheran has thrown no fewer than 174 innings each season since earning his first opening day roster spot in 2013. He was a top-ranked prospect when he made his major league debut in 2011.
Teheran, a 28-year-old from Colombia, has a 3.67 earned-run average over 229 games (226 starts). He has posted sub-4.00 ERAs each of the last two seasons while making at least 31 starts.
Teheran has been bitten in recent years by declining fastball velocity — he throws closer to 90 mph now, a decrease of about 3 mph since his debut — and an elevated walk rate. He issued 4.28 walks per nine innings last year, the third-highest mark in the major leagues.
He also has not been effective in the playoffs, posting a 10.50 ERA in four postseason games. The two-time All-Star wasn’t included on the Braves’ initial playoff roster in October; he was added after one game because of an injury to another pitcher. The Braves made Teheran a free agent when they bought out a $12-million option on his previous contract, which paid him $32.4 million from 2014-19.
And, yet, Teheran is a solid mid-rotation option over the younger pitchers the Angels possess. As it stands, the rotation will feature Shohei Ohtani, left-hander Andrew Heaney, Bundy, second-year starter Griffin Canning and Teheran. Félix Peña, Patrick Sandoval, José Suarez, Jaime Barria and Dillon Peters figure to compete for jobs in either the bullpen, the sixth spot of the rotation or the triple-A taxi squad.
Of the Angels’ top five starters, all but Ohtani and Teheran, who signed as international free-agents, were first- or second-round draft picks. The Angels could add another of their caliber. The team has had multiple discussions with agent Scott Boras about free agents Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu, said people familiar with the negotiations. They are both expected to sign contracts around $20 million in average annual value.
Adding one of them at that value would push the Angels’ competitive balance tax payroll, which is around $180 million with Teheran’s contract, close to the luxury threshold of $208 million. Owner Arte Moreno has only been penalized for surpassing the threshold once, in 2005. Although he committed to raising the payroll heading into next season, Moreno did not share by how much.
The budget will be tricky to navigate, especially with the Angels’ interest in adding a proven starting catcher.