The Los Angeles Angels may have been one of the biggest losers of the free agency period after witnessing the departure of two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the team still tried to make moves on the margins to stay competitive.

In doing so, the Angels signed 30-year-old reliever Robert Stephenson to a three-year, $33 million deal before the season.

Now, the Angels will have to navigate 2024 without Stephenson, as he has been lost for the year with an elbow injury, per Sam Blum of The Athletic:

“Robert Stephenson will miss the season with an elbow injury, the Angels announce.”

Interestingly, Stephenson's contract with the Angels did have a clause that tacked on a low-cost extra season in the event that he missed extensive time with an elbow injury, also per Blum:

“This is brutal news for the Angels and Stephenson. He does have a team option for $2.5 million that will now be available to the Angels after 2026. Stephenson signed a 3-year, $33 million contract before the season. Highest paid FA for LAA.”

Stephenson, like many relievers before him, began his career as a starter in the Cincinnati Reds system. After three seasons of lackluster to terrible production as a starter, the Reds moved Stephenson to the bullpen where he began to turn things around for his career.

Stephenson, however, endured a few rough patches in recent seasons. He began the 2023 season on a rough note with the Pittsburgh Pirates, pitching to the tune of a 5.14 ERA in 18 relief appearances (14 innings pitched). The Tampa Bay Rays proceeded to buy low on him, and Stephenson quickly turned the corner, tallying a 2.35 ERA in 38.1 innings pitched on much-improved command.

Should the Angels blow it up?

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout (27) on deck to bat against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning at Tropicana Field.
© Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

When Shohei Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, many speculated if Trout would request a trade away from the Angels. He rebuffed those rumors and has remain devoted to Los Angeles. Current and former teammates of Trout, including Jared Weaver, know how badly Trout wants to win. For all the growing pains LA has endured, Weaver believes Trout is in it for the long haul with the Angels.

“He signed here, he knew what he was getting into, and he wants to stay here,” Weaver said of Trout. “Like he said, it would mean even more to win here after people are saying he should leave. ‘We want to see you somewhere else.' Well that's not what he wants. He wants to stay here; I think people should respect that. It's going to make it even better when they do start winning and win something to be a, ‘I told you so,' situation.”

Regardless of Trout's stated desires, there are still calls for the Angels to move on from Trout in order to restock the talent pool. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear as thought the team will be making noise in the postseason anytime soon so, as enjoyable as Trout is to watch, it may be in the Angels' best interest to move on at some point soon.