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Angels Sign Jose Cisnero

The Angels have signed right-hander Jose Cisnero to a one-year deal, per a club announcement. To make room for Cisnero on the 40-man roster, the club has designated Livan Soto for assignment. MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports that the deal guarantees the veteran righty $1.75MM.

Cisnero, 35 in April, made his big league debut with the Astros back in 2013. Over two seasons in Houston, the righty struggled to a 4.66 ERA across 48 1/3 innings of work before elbow issues brought his 2014 campaign (and his Astros tenure) to an end. After a brief 5 1/3 inning stay in the Reds’ minor league system, Cisnero stepped away from affiliated ball for several years, pitching in independent leagues across North and South America until he signed on with the Tigers during the 2018-19 offseason.

Upon joining Detroit’s roster in June on 2019, Cisnero found his home for the next half decade. In 35 1/3 innings of work during his return to the majors that year, the right-hander posted a solid 4.33 ERA (111 ERA+) with a 4.66 FIP. Those respectable numbers earned Cisnero a shot at a larger role headed into the 2020 season, and he made the most of it during the shortened campaign as he posted a sterling 3.03 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 29 appearances. The righty continued to put up strong numbers while covering the middle innings for the Tigers over the next couple of years, and entered the 2023 season with a 3.26 ERA and 3.89 FIP across 151 2/3 innings of work during his time in Detroit.

Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse last season. The veteran righty saw his ERA balloon to 5.31 despite posting a 26.2% strikeout rate and a 9.4% walk rate, both of which were career bests outside of the shortened 2020 campaign. Some of that drop in quality of performance can be explained by Cisnero’s inflated .338 BABIP and a 68.4% strand rate that came in somewhat below his usual norms. With that being said, the biggest red flag in Cisnero’s profile last year was clearly his issues with the long ball. Cisnero allowed ten homers in his 59 1/3 innings of work last year as a whopping 15.6% of his fly balls left the yard for home runs.

Despite those blemishes, taking a flier on Cisnero is a sensible move for the Angels. At a guarantee of just $1.75MM, Cisnero joins the likes of Adam Cimber and Luis Garcia as veterans looking to rebound after a difficult 2023 season who can cover the middle innings for a bullpen that has already added the likes of Robert Stephenson and Matt Moore to handle late-inning duties. On the other hand, the addition of Cisnero sees the Halos double down on their strategy of focusing their offseason additions primarily on the club’s bullpen. While the club’s relief corps posted a lackluster 4.88 ERA last season, it’s fair to wonder why the club has yet to make significant moves targeted at improving the club’s lineup and rotation mix following the departure of two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, instead making complementary additions in those areas such as Aaron Hicks and Zach Plesac.

The addition of Cisnero may spell the end of Soto’s time in the Angels organization. The 23-year-old infielder made his MLB debut with the club back in 2022 and impressed over the course of a brief, 18-game cup of coffee. In 59 plate appearances that year, Soto slashed a strong .400/.414/.582 with seven extra base hits in just 55 at-bats. Unfortunately, Soto’s strong performance in his first taste of the big leagues didn’t carry over to the 2023 season. The youngster hit a mediocre .237/.342/.358 in 110 games split between the Double- and Triple-A levels last year, and his four games in the majors last year saw him go just two-for-nine with zero extra base hits, though he continued to flash solid on-base ability by drawing three walks during that time. Going forward, the Angels will have seven days to trade Soto or attempt to pass him through waivers. If Soto clears waivers, the Angels will have the opportunity to retain him as non-roster depth headed into the 2024 campaign.

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