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Ulnar Collateral Damage

What does it look like when you have as many injuries as the Angels did in 2016? In short: not good (Warning: long read)

MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 season came and went, I’m still deciding whether it felt like an eternity or it flew by. If it’s the latter, I’m assuming it’s because I’ve had a hectic last couple of months. So I guess I’ll go with the former. An eternity’s a long time.

We all know the injuries that decimated the pitching staff, we’ve had months and months to discuss these things while Angels games were played in the background. If you’re not playing winning or competitive baseball with aspirations of the playoffs and a World Series title, then you are simply just playing a game.

Now, baseball is a game and should be fun, I’m not saying that aspect has changed because of a bad season, but it’s certainly hard to get excited for a game when you expect to lose on a nightly basis. You’re basically just watching to see what Mike Trout will do next. Even then, you want to see what Mike Trout will do on a pedestal in the biggest spotlight in the sport: play for a championship. “Maybe that means Trout will finally be able to win the MVP!”, I’m sure some of you non-Angels fans or Jon Heyman are thinking who aren’t reading this.

But enough about that, this is about a practice I do every season. I jot down the 40-man roster on Opening Day, make notes about the main transactions the team makes in my phone, then compare it to the one at the end of the year. Pretty simple exercise. Only this year, it gave me a real challenge because of how many transactions the team was making and how many players, internally and externally, were coming in-and-out of the organization. Keep in mind this mammoth article doesn’t even include every transaction, but it should offer some perspective of what needs to happen for something like this to even happen, and why it’s such an anomaly.

Keep in mind, this was a pain in the @$$ to type up, but gosh darn it, I love you guys, and we’ll get through this bitter recollection of memories together. Some of the hyperlinks are links to older Halos Heaven posts, I implore you go through some and read the comments, it’s priceless at times. Anyway, let’s start with the Opening Day 40-man roster.

Here’s the 25-man, Opening Day roster that got embarrassed by Jake Arrieta’s Cubs:

1. Yunel Escobar 3B

2. Daniel Nava LF

3. Mike Trout CF

4. Albert Pujols DH

5. Kole Calhoun RF

6. C.J. Cron 1B

7. Andrelton Simmons SS

8. Carlos Perez C

9. Johnny Giavotella 2B

With Cliff Pennington, Craig Gentry, Ji-Man Choi, and Geovany Soto on the bench.

The pitching staff: Garrett Richards (the Opening Day starter), Andrew Heaney, Hector Santiago, Matt Shoemaker, and Jered Weaver in the rotation. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Mike Morin, Cory Rasmus, Fernando Salas, Joe Smith, Huston Street

The other 15 players? Kyle Kubitza, Kaleb Cowart, Victor Alcantara, Jett Bandy, A.J. Achter, Nick Tropeano, Tyler Skaggs, Al Alburquerque, Chris Jones, Rey Navarro, Jefry Marte, Todd Cunningham, Rafael Ortega, Deolis Guerra, and Greg Mahle


Alright 40-man roster set, let’s play ball. Well sorta, for some of you (I’m acknowledging the players who didn’t get hurt this year), the rest of you hold up. It all starts the day after the second game of the season, April 6, 2016, Andrew Heaney gets placed on the 15-day disabled list with a flexor muscle strain after his first outing of the season in which his velocity just wasn’t there. Nick Tropeano’s recalled from Salt Lake City on the 8th, Bedrosian and Achter are swapped the day after since the bullpen was gassed.

On April 11th, RHP Danny Reynolds was claimed off waivers from the Astros (who had been claimed him off waivers from the Angels earlier in the offseason) and optioned to Arkansas, Achter’s sent down (won’t be the first time I’ve typed this), Greg Mahle is called up for his Major League debut, something most of us felt was justified after this Cactus League performance.

The fun doesn’t stop there, Daniel Nava (50% of the left field platoon) gets shut down with patella tendinitis in his left knee on the 17th, Rafael Ortega gets his first chance to replace him. Huston Street strains his oblique on the 29th. What a precursor to a bad season, right? But it gets worse. May was the worst month of the season in terms of injury and transactions (brace yourselves).


Buckle up Angels fans, May started off with a bang following the news of Street. Achter gets recalled from Salt Lake, Gentry goes on the disabled list with a right lumbar spine strain (the last time we’d see Gentry play for the Angels), C.J. Wilson gets transferred to the 60-day disabled list, Shane Robinson gets his contract selected from Salt Lake, Matt Shoemaker gets demoted to Salt Lake after a horrid April. Five days later, Ortega gets demoted to Salt Lake, Nava is activated from the disabled list, Javy Guerra gets his first crack with the club, Garrett gets placed on the 15-day disabled list, and Heaney gets placed on the 60-day disabled list (pour some out for ones homie).

May 6th- the day the season was officially killed and Angels fans everywhere wept. Garrett and Andrew had torn ulnar collateral ligaments (UCL) and most likely required Tommy John surgery, Heaney’s UCL wasn’t responding to the stem cell therapy like Garrett’s was, and he eventually got the surgery. This was a kick to the groin of Angels fans. Took the wind out of an already droopy, depressing sail.

The 9th rolls around, Andrelton Simmons jams his thumb and requires surgery to repair the UCL in it, the day after, the club acquires veteran Brendan Ryan from the Nationals for cash considerations, in a sad attempt to give them some depth at shortstop while Andrelton was out an estimated 6 weeks. Garrett gets shut down for the season, getting placed on the 60-day disabled list. On the 11th, to plug up a hole in a depleted staff, the Angels acquired RHP Jhoulys Chacin from the Atlanta Braves and, again, demoted A.J. Achter to Salt Lake alongside Rule V pick, Ji-Man Choi.

On the 13th, Cliff Pennington goes down with a hamstring strain, Javy Guerra gets DFA’d (and eventually out-righted off the roster in favor of David Huff), Gregorio Petit and Jefry Marte get their chances, getting the call from Salt Lake. May 17th, Daniel Nava and Cory Rasmus each go down with groin strains, forcing the Angels to call up A.J. Achter and Rafael Ortega for the seemingly 100th time already. Geovany Soto is the latest casualty on the 18th, getting placed on the DL with a torn meniscus.

Then, initial excitement! The Angels signed Tim Lincecum on the 20th of May (the first comment sums it up) and optioned him to the minors two days later for his rehab assignment, while calling up Lucas Luetge and DFA’ing A.J. Achter. May 26th, the Angels designate Luetge for assignment, out-righted Al Alburquerque, recalled Kaleb Cowart from Salt Lake. Two days later, Pennington’s reinstated from the DL, Ryan’s DFA’d. Another two days, Street’s reinstated from the DL, Morin’s optioned to Salt Lake, Deolis Guerra gets DFA’d, Chris Jones gets the call next from the Salt Lake. On the last day of the month, Cowart gets sent down in favor of Marte.


The fun continues, Pennington gets placed on the DL again on the 1st, Jones is optioned to Salt Lake (after not making an appearance, then he got DFA’d on the 8th of June), Ryan and Javy Guerra are recalled from Salt Lake. Only takes three more days for Nick Tropeano to get hurt and placed on the 15-day DL and Deolis Guerra getting recalled from Salt Lake to take his spot. On the 7th, Joe Smith is the latest victim, after it was revealed he was hiding an injury, Javy Guerra’s DFA’d, Mike Morin and David Huff get called up from Salt Lake, and the Angels make another little trade to acquire Jove Valdez from Detroit. Chris Jones is DFA’d to make room for Valdez’s spot on the roster (although he originally went to the Bees first). We all know how the Huff experiment went.

Cory Rasmus is reinstated from the DL on the 9th, Mahle is optioned to Salt Lake to make room. June 11th, Jones and Javy Guerra are out-righted, Erik Kratz is acquired from the Pirates for cash and optioned to Salt Lake, Ortega is optioned to Salt Lake, Todd Cunningham gets his first chance at the major league and proceeds to do nothing with it. June 13th sees the end of Kyle Kubitza’s and David Huff’s tenures with the Angels, they’re DFA’d and out-righted off the 40-man roster. Alburquerque and Achter are recalled, yet again, and Rasmus goes on the DL...again.

Some positive news on the 15th, Andrelton is reinstated from the DL sooner than expected, Ryan is DFA’d, effectively ending his short Angels career. The 18th sees Nava coming back from the DL and Alburquerque getting the demotion to make space. Todd Cunningham is DFA’d, Ryan’s out-righted to Salt Lake, and the Angels call up reclamation project Tim Lincecum (which didn’t go well). On June 25th, Kubitza’s flipped to Texas for cash. The 26th, J.C. Ramirez is claimed off of waivers from the Cincinnati Reds, two days later, Achter is optioned to Salt Lake, while Ramirez is the next and newest Angel to get a chance.


A much more tame month, Smith gets reinstated from the DL to start out the month, Morin gets the demotion. On the 6th, Jose Alvarez gets demoted for Tropeano to get reinstated, Shane Robinson is the latest Angel to go on the 15-day DL, Cunningham’s brought back up to be the “meh” left fielder for the time being. C.J. Cron’s hit on the hand on the 10th and placed on the DL with a broken hand, Choi is brought back up, Soto is reinstated from the DL after a lengthy trip there and, in a surprise move, gets Carlos Perez demoted to Salt Lake, Cory gets placed on the 60-day DL. Soto goes back on the DL just eight days later, prompting a call-up of 11-year Minor League journeyman, Juan Graterol.

The 19th sees Sean Coyle claimed off of waivers from the Boston Red Sox, Achter’s DFA’d again (it’s starting to get ridiculous, right?), Tropeano’s placed on the 15-day DL ending his season (we didn’t know it at the time, but he was heading for Tommy John surgery), Jose Alvarez was recalled to give the team another warm body.

Again, some more excitement the week after that (even with the bad news about Tropeano and Soto), Cunningham gets DFA’d on the 27th to make room for Tyler Skaggs to make his awesome season debut against the Royals. It was a nice consolation prize to get Skaggs back. One of the few young pieces worth watching on the Halos. Three days later, Shane Robinson is reinstated from the DL and we see the infamous left field platoon of “Daniel Craig” designated for assignment, officially ending the weak experiment that was supposed to save left field. Ugh.


First day of August = the Trade Deadline. We see Joe Smith shipped off the Cubs for a young pitching prospect, Jesus Castillo (who put up very solid numbers after the trade). Hector Santiago and minor league reliever, Alan Busenitz, are flipped to the Minnesota Twins for Ricky Nolasco and former top prospect Alex Meyer.

Meyer quickly gets sent down for a rehab assignment from a shoulder injury, Street ends up on the DL with “knee inflammation” which later on ends his season with arthroscopic knee surgery, Morin’s called up for the remainder of the season, Pennington comes back from the DL to play the majority of games at second base, and on August 6th, “The Freak” was no more.

Valdez gets called up for the remainder of the season on the 7th, two days later was more-or-less the final blow. Cam Bedrosian, recently promoted to closer with Street out, gets shut down with a blood clot in his throwing arm. Brett Oberholtzer is claimed off of waivers from the Phillies to give them somebody to soak up innings (Achter is optioned yet again to make room for Oberholtzer on the 12th).

August 13th had a lot small moves, Shane Robinson goes back on the DL, Coyle is designated for assignment without even making an appearance, LHP Cody Ege is claimed off waivers from the Marlins, and AAAA player Nick Buss is called up from Salt Lake, becoming the 9th left fielder used this season (not counting Brendan Ryan’s 1 inning out there).

Andrew Bailey is signed to a minor league deal after being let go by Philadelphia on the 15th and proceeds to pitch well down the final stretch. Soto goes to the DL, again, with Perez gets recalled on the 17th. And then everyone’s favorite spark plug is DFA’d on the 20th, Johnny Giavotella wasn’t having a great season, and got cut with Cron getting reinstated from the DL.

Yunel Escobar was also placed on the 7-day concussion disabled list, with Cowart getting recalled to take his spot. Just the day after, the circus show continues, Choi is optioned, Achter is called back up, and former top prospect Manny Banuelos is signed to a minor league contract. Sadly, Achter is optioned one more time to call up Ortega on the 29th.

Not to mention two small trades of Halo fans favorites, Daniel Nava gets shipped off to the Royals for the ever so suspenseful “player to be named later” or cash considerations. Fernando Salas is dealt to the Mets for a minor league pitcher Erik Manoah (basically not Randal Grichuk is the point).


September call ups take place, Bailey, Ege, Graterol, Meyer, and Choi are recalled in a flurry of moves. Hard-throwing lefty Ashur Tolliver is claimed off waivers from the Orioles on the 3rd and optioned to the minors.

Yunel passes his concussion tests and is reinstated from the 7-day concussion DL on the 2nd. In the scariest moment of the season, Shoemaker takes a 105 mph line drive to head off of Kyle Seager’s bat on September 4th (the day the Angels so happened to claim Daniel Wright off waivers from the Reds). He suffers a skull fracture and small hematoma, ending his great season. He gets placed on the DL the day after, Achter is recalled (don’t worry, this time for good), and recently acquired Daniel Wright is activated to take his spot in the rotation.

Robinson is activated from the DL on the 6th, Rasmus the 14th, and Shoey gets placed on the 60-day DL, effectively ending this perpetual transaction nightmare that was the 2016 Angels.

The end results after all of this? The 40-man roster (of active players, meaning players not on the DL) has turned into Ege, Rasmus, Valdez, Skaggs, Guerra, Ramirez, Alvarez, Meyer, Oberholtzer, Chacin, Morin, Achter, Wright, Nolasco, Weaver, Bailey, Calhoun, Simmons, Cowart, Trout, Choi, Cron, Bandy, Ortega, Perez, Pujols, Petit, Robinson, Pennington, Escobar, Graterol, Buss, and Marte.

That’s 19 different players from the original 40-man roster, sure it takes injuries into consideration and a number of those players will be back (Bedrosian, Street, Garrett, Heaney, etc.), but to have half of your roster turned over is hard to wrap your head around. Put another way, 9 of the players to end the season on the 40-man roster were not even in the organization to start out the year (Ege, Valdez, Ramirez, Meyer, Oberholtzer, Chacin, Wright, Nolasco, and Bailey), almost a quarter of the roster.

Here are just come “fun” facts and some numbers to really let it sink in. 17 different Angels ended up on the disabled list, a combined 25 times (Nava, Street, Tropeano, Pennington, Rasmus, and Robinson were all on the DL twice, Soto three times). 7 players had season ending injuries/surgeries at some point in the season (Garrett, Heaney, Tropeano, Street, Wilson, Shoemaker, and Bedrosian). The Angels set an American League record for the amount of different pitchers earning a win with 24 (breaking the Texas Rangers record of 23). The Angels were also paying a total of $37.225 million dollars for Wilson, Garrett, Street, and Soto alone to be hurt for a vast majority, or in Wilson’s case the entirety, of the season (and that’s excluding the money they paid Josh Hamilton to sit out the entire year for Texas, there’s another $26.41 million). So a grand total of $65.635 million for 58 total games between 5 players, 2 of which didn’t play the entire year, 1 who’s not even with the franchise.

I gotta wrap this up, I’m getting carpal tunnel and want to go enjoy this beautiful fall day in Austin, Texas. I hope this offered some insight to how rare this perfect disaster actually is and was, 2017’s a new a year and it looks like Garrett should be there (providing we don’t have anymore torn UCL’s). I think the worst is finally behind us, Angels fans. Enjoy the playoffs, root for anybody but the Red Sox, Dodgers, or Rangers, enjoy fantasy football, the upcoming NBA season (go Lakers!), and the offseason activity/Winter Meetings. 2016’s behind us, and the only thing to do is look forward. And I have no problem with that after seeing it all laid out in front of me.