The Angels announced Wednesday that they’ve acquired right-hander Guillermo Zuñiga from the Cardinals, who’d previously designated him for assignment. Anaheim sent cash to St. Louis in the deal. To clear a spot on their own 40-man roster, the Halos designated righty Austin Warren for assignment.
Zuñiga, 25, made his big league debut with the Cards in 2023, tossing two innings and allowing a run on two hits and no walks with four strikeouts. That’s the only MLB experience of his career to date. After becoming a minor league free agent following the ’22 season, he inked a surprising Major League deal with the Cards but ultimately spent the bulk of his season in Triple-A Memphis, where he posted an unsightly 7.63 ERA in 30 2/3 innings.
The results might not be pretty, but Zuñiga features a triple-digit heater and misses bats at a high level. Like so many pitchers who can approximate the eye-popping 99.4 mph average on Zuñiga’s fastball, however, he’s battled his share of command issues throughout his minor league tenure. Zuñiga walked 13.7% of his opponents in Triple-A last year and has issued a free pass to 10.6% of his minor league opponents.
Zuñiga still has a pair of minor league option years remaining, so the Angels will be able to move him freely between Anaheim and their Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake this season and next — if he sticks on the team’s 40-man roster. Barring another DFA, he’ll head to big league camp with the Angels and vie for a spot in a massively overhauled bullpen that has added veterans Robert Stephenson, Matt Moore, Luis Garcia, Adam Cimber and Jose Cisnero on free agent deals this offseason.
As for the 28-year-old Warren, he’s spent time in the Angels’ bullpen in each of the past three seasons, compiling a total of 38 innings with a solid 3.55 earned run average. Most of his success came as a rookie in 2021, however, when he tossed 20 1/3 innings of 1.77 ERA ball. Since then, Warren has been tagged for 11 runs in 17 2/3 innings with just a 14.5% strikeout rate against a strong 6.6% walk rate.
Warren’s struggles began in 2022 and culminated with a stint on the injured list in 2023. By early May, the team revealed that he’d been diagnosed with a torn ligament in his pitching elbow and would require Tommy John surgery. As such, Warren is slated to miss the early portion of the 2024 campaign and may well have been ticketed for the 60-day injured list, were it not for today’s DFA.
The Angels will have a week to trade Warren or attempt to pass him through waivers. Any team looking to acquire him would have to do so knowing that Warren will likely be shelved into the summer at the earliest.