Garrett Richards has been with the Angels all eight seasons of his career. But 2018 might have been his last in a Halos uniform. How can we describe his career in Anaheim in one word? If you were to play the word (guessing) game “Taboo!”, bumpy would probably be on Garrett’s card.
In Richards’ first season as an Angel, he had promising potential, but he just couldn’t be consistent. It started with his major league debut against the Yankees after he took Joel Piñero’s spot. That start didn’t go well at all as he gave up six runs in five innings. He ended up his rookie season pitching 14 innings while allowing 16 hits, four home runs, and seven walks (5.79 ERA).
In his sophomore season, Richards got a few more opportunities. He started nine games, pitched 71 innings but still gave up too many hits (77 hits) and surrendered too many walks (34).
In his third season in 2013, as he turned 25, Richards became a fixture in the Halos rotation. He pitched in a career high 145 innings. On the other hand, he still gave up more hits (151) than the innings that he pitched. On top of that, he gave up a good number of home runs (12). Despite that, he had career highs in wins (7) and strikeouts (101) while posting a respectable 4.16 ERA.
Then all of the sudden, Garrett had a breakout season in 2014. He went 13-4, had 164 strikeouts (a career high) and a 2.61 ERA. He did this despite throwing a major league high 22 wild pitches that season. It became clear that he was the ace of the Angels rotation before all of that came crumbling to an end on August 20. Here’s what happened according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com: “With one out, runners on the corners and the Red Sox leading, 2-0, in the bottom of the second, Brock Holt hit a grounder to the right side that Albert Pujols fielded and fired to shortstop Erick Aybar at second. Richards came over for the potential inning-ending double play, but collapsed just before reaching the bag and was on the ground for about eight minutes.
Richards was diagnosed with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee and caused his 2014 season to end prematurely. This led to him getting knee surgery on August 22 of that season.
Richards was activated on April 19, 2015 and won a career-high 15 games in 2015 with his most innings ever at 207.1. He did that in spite of leading the league in wild pitches again (17).
But Garrett’s luck ran out again. He didn’t last very long in the Angels rotation in 2016 due to the fact that he only pitched in 6 games and had a 1-3 record with a 2.34 ERA. What happened? He found out that he had a significant tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, but elected to get a stem cell injection instead and he was 100 percent that he made the right decision. This later turned out to be a mistake.
After just one start in 2017, Richards complained of pain in his biceps. It was diagnosed as only “biceps cramp”. However in September 2017, An MRI exam confirmed that Richards’ elbow had a damaged ulnar collateral ligament. This ongoing problem cost him most of the 2017 season. When he was on the field, Garrett looked like he hadn’t missed any time at all, posting a 2.28 ERA in six 2017 starts. But he was mostly a cheerleader on the bench in 2017 as he was in 2016.
In 2018, Richards had injury issues yet again. He left abruptly in the fifth inning against the Mariners on July 17 and said afterward it was as if someone had punched him in his pitching arm. He complained of “forearm irritation”. At that point, both Richards and Scioscia hoped the right-hander would be fine for his next start.
Richards, 30, then told reporters he would undergo Tommy John surgery once he realized that he couldn’t avoid surgery any longer. He said he didn’t expect to pitch again until 2020. In the same season, Richards also missed three weeks due to a hamstring issue as if he didn’t experience enough injuries already. He finished the 2018 season at 5-4 with a 3.66 ERA with limited innings (76.1). GM Billy Eppler said at the time, “I’m very disappointed. I’m disappointed for the rest of the players in that locker room too. I wanted to see him be all right, which he’s shown at times, but he hasn’t been able to do as much as he wanted to. I feel bad for him.”
As we head into the Winter Meetings, Richards is now a free agent and will probably seek an incentive laden contract. There’s a small chance that Richards could return in 2019, but the Angels have had enough injuries to their starting pitchers the past few seasons that they cannot take a risk counting on him any longer. The same goes for Matt Shoemaker. There are too many talented and durable starting pitchers on this market this winter to look into.
Here’s just a short list of possible starting pitchers the Halos should pursue in my order of preference:
1. Patrick Corbin (a former Angels farmhand)
2. Dallas Keuchel
3. Charlie Morton
4. Gio Gonzalez
5. Lance Lynn
6. J.A Happ
Let’s hope the Angels can at least get one of these guys to bolster the rotation. In the meantime, in case Richards doesn’t come back to the Angels in 2019, Halos fans should wish him the best of luck. He has been a competitor, although not exactly the most durable one.
Featured Image: Orange County Register