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Billy Eppler spent just $14 million guaranteed on the fourth-best bullpen in baseball

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Now when you put it that way, it’s even more impressive.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a subpar year in 2016, there were many reasons to be skeptical of the 2017 season: gaping holes on the roster, a lack of talent, inability to stay on the field, the many national writers who questioned whether the Angels could field a winning team during Trout’s tenure, and so on. Even so, the bullpen was one of the greatest areas of concern.

General Manager Billy Eppler did not leap at one of the many quality relievers on the free agent market, but rather turned his efforts to cheap, reclamation projects and talented journeyman waiver claims. In doing so, he not only stretched the budget but also assembled the best bullpen the Angels have had in years.

According to beat writer Jeff Fletcher’s payroll spreadsheet, the Angels spent just $14 million in guaranteed money on relievers in the offseason: Huston Street ($9M), Yusmeiro Petit ($2.25M), Bud Norris ($1.75M), and Andrew Bailey ($1M).

Supplanted by waiver wire claim of the century Blake Parker, incumbent Cam Bedrosian, and quick-riser Keynan Middleton (and that’s not even mentioning the David Hernandez acquisition), the bullpen has easily been the biggest area of strength that the Angels have had this season, good for the 4th-best Fangraphs’ WAR in all of baseball. Despite the 5th-heaviest workload, Angels relievers have the 5th-best ERA (3.67) and the 5th-best FIP (3.65). Keep in mind, this is a bullpen without a Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, or Aroldis Chapman-type player.

Perhaps even more incredible is that Huston Street and Andrew Bailey have thrown a combined eight innings and that Bedrosian has pitched less effectively after returning from a groin injury that has prevented him from throwing his usual upper-90s heat.

And what’s more? Billy Eppler is doing it yet again. Blake Wood throws upper-90s with deception with a hard slider - he had one bad outing and five good ones. Wood is controllable via arbitration for the 2018 season. Noe Ramirez, another waiver claim, is a funky sidewinder with a slow-slower-slowest approach that leaves hitters flailing at the changeup. Ramirez has come in with multiple runners on in the middle of a playoff race and stranded 100 percent of runners.

The best part of all this? Eppler has a sublime eye for pitching talent, for this can no longer be an accident. With the help of pitching coach Charles Nagy, Eppler is constantly conjuring controllable pitching assets out of thin air, freeing up dollars to be allocated towards more glaring holes in free agency. That combination of scouting, knowledge, and actions are crucial traits that, when successful, will find the Angels more value and get them towards where they want to go.