The Angels Are Dirty Dogs This Offseason!
Billy Eppler is turning into an opportunist. You could say that he has gotten away with paying less for the position players he’s acquired this offseason than he would normally have. Cameron Maybin was on the verge of being an outcast on a Detroit Tigers team that was looking to strip it down and go younger. So Billy swooped in and grabbed the outfielder for a hit-or-miss pitching prospect that may just be a typical journeyman reliever at best. Then, over the weekend this happened…
Today the #Angels have acquired INF Danny Espinosa from the Washington Nationals in exchange for RHP Kyle McGowin and RHP Austin Adams.
— Angels (@Angels) December 11, 2016
This is probably another underpay. Some could argue it isn’t. But when looking at the peripheral numbers of all pieces involved, this was almost a steal. But we must also factor in the clubhouse situation going on when new Angels second baseman Danny Espinosa complained about playing time and skipped the Washington Nationals Winterfest in protest of the team favoring Trea Turner at shortstop after the latter was pushed to the position from centerfield after the acquisition of Adam Eaton.
Danny has a gripe. But maybe it didn’t have to go that far. Because one year ago (to the day) the Halos grabbed another surplus infielder from the Nationals in Yunel Escobar. You could say Eppler underpaid on that one since Escobar was coming off his best offensive season, and repeated that in 2016. Escobar was without a starting spot because of infield depth, and Washington dealt him here.
That could’ve just been the situation with Espinosa without any other issues, which have also been downplayed by the Nationals’ front office. But it is what it is, and Danny is now an Angel.
The club has finally filled the gaping hole at second base. And with a player who possesses a stellar glove, although not spectacular like his up-the-middle counterpart Andrelton Simmons. Either way, the Halos now have one of the best defensive middle infields. Not only that, add Mike Trout in center, as well as the emerging Jett Bandy at catcher, combining his defense with Carlos Perez. The team is rock solid up-the-middle defensively, and on paper have better offense up-the-middle than most teams.
A Closer Look At The Numbers
In breaking down Espinosa’s offense, the low batting average does stand out. He’s one of those players that doesn’t seem to have a lot of batted balls ‘fall where they aint’. BABIP was not his friend in 2016. At .261 — the league average being .300 — luck was the main issue, as it always is when breaking down balls in play. This factored a lot into his .209 overall batting average.
His on-base percentage, however, was still .309. That’s low-end Erick Aybar territory. He can also steal some bases, like his fellow switch-hitter could. But what Aybar did not have was plenty of walking ability, and power! Espinosa hit 24 homeruns this past season, and drew a healthy 54 walks in 157 games, the most he’s played since 2012.
When looking into more advanced statistics, WAR had Espinosa at 1.7, which paints his value as a typical second baseman overall. That’s all the Angels really needed, as their offense was not the problem to begin with. But it’s always good to add on any way.
As for Runs Created, Espinosa posted 65, which is a little more than the 57 by Maybin. But Maybin played in only 94 games. Regardless, Espinosa, in addition to Maybin, solidifies a starting lineup to a that scored 717 runs and had 720 Runs Created — the stat is not 100% accurate and one has to give or take a few runs. Not saying they will have the best offense in the Majors as they did in 2014. But if all goes well, the Angels have a formidable lineup that can, as this past year’s lineup was returning to, the highly productive offense they had from 2012 through 2014.
As for the prospects given up by the Halos, nothing to see here! I’m not even going to get into their numbers because they could easily be replaced by minor league journeymen. That’s not to say one or both could figure something out and turn into a Brendan Donnelly or a Matt Shoemaker. But those are rare cases. The Angels got away with this one, as with the Maybin deal.
Angels’ projected starting lineup:
Yunel Escobar 3B
Kole Calhoun RF
Mike Trout CF
Albert Pujols 1B/DH
C.J. Cron 1B/DH
Danny Espinosa 2B
Andrelton Simmons SS
Cameron Maybin LF
Jett Bandy/Carlos Perez C
What’s Next This Offseason?
This trade is another example of how a team can jump on a player surplus at a position or an overall area of a team’s game and use leverage to grab said player without giving up a whole lot. Because on one hand, the Nationals aren’t desperate, and they have enough pitching depth already. This was a case of ‘take him’. And the Angels scored.
What’s interesting as well is the fact that the club hasen’t really begun to pluck away at the free agent market outside of Jessie Chavez. They’re still eyeing a fourth outfielder, and perhaps another starting pitcher, and a couple relievers. That will all likely come off that market between now and the end of January. And things are slowly looking better for an Angels club that is working towards bouncing back into contention in 2017.
And after this move, FanGraphs already has the Angels slated as the fourth best team in the American League with an 85-77 record and the first Wild Card spot! Still have to play the season out, but just goes to show how quickly things can turn around for a high market ball club.