Grading the Angels’ Recent Moves

Updated: December 16, 2016

Earlier in the offseason we evaluated the Angels’ moves up to that point. So far, the Angels have had a slow and quiet offseason. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Angels have been bitten by those big-name free agents and big contracts before; it’s part of the reason why they’re coming off the type of the season they just had. The Angels are doing a good job of evaluating the market. None of these free agents seem like a particularly good value given the contracts that are being handed out, and the Halos are wise to avoid locking themselves into contracts at the price being set by the market so far. Since that last piece, the Angels have made a couple of small moves. Let’s judge them!

Angels trade minor league RHP’s Austin Adams and Kyle McGowin to the Washington Nationals for INF Danny Espinosa – After bouncing around positions the last few seasons with the Nats to accommodate better players, Espinosa found himself without a clear starting job after Washington added Adam Eaton to play center field, thus moving star rookie Trea Turner from center back to his natural position of shortstop, where Espinosa had been playing.

With MVP finalist Daniel Murphy locked in at second, Espinosa had no position, and reportedly made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the whole affair. The Angels apparently pounced on the situation and acquired their new starting second baseman for two low-end prospects. McGowin ranked as the number twenty prospect in the Angels’ system (which doesn’t mean that much – their system stinks, as we all know.) His potential pretty much maxes out as a back-end starter and he severely struggled in Triple-A this season. Adams finished a decent relief season in Double-A but has profound control issues, issuing 5.28 walks per nine innings.

Overall, the Angels did well in filling a position of need cheaply. Espinosa has been mostly uninspiring at the plate, slashing .209/.302/.388 last season and .226/.302/.388 for his career. The one thing Espinosa does possess is decent power, hitting twenty-four home runs last season, and in his other two full seasons he hit twenty-one and seventeen, respectively.

Most of Espinosa’s value is derived from his excellent defense, something GM Billy Eppler has placed a lot of importance on in this offseason. Pairing Espinosa with Andrelton Simmons gives the Angels arguably the best defensive double-play duo in baseball. Espinosa is only under contract for one more season at $5.3 million, as well, allowing the Angels to remain flexible as they have with all of their acquisitions this offseason.

Considering that Espinosa, who is an O.C. native, is returning home, is locked into a starting position as opposed to a super utility type role, and is playing for a contract, there’s a chance he could boost his overall offensive numbers and make himself even more valuable. Overall, this is a solid addition with the possibility of paying even bigger dividends. Overall grade: B.

Angels trade C Jett Bandy to the Milwaukee Brewers for C Martin Maldonado and minor league RHP Drew Gagnon – This trade is a hard one to make sense of. While Jett Bandy started out strong, batting .276 in his first thirty-two games, he struggled severely over the final two months of the season, batting only .199. Bandy also graded out as only average defensively. Maldonado was mostly a backup in his time with the Brewers, slashing an uninspiring .217/.299/.342. Basically a non-contributer offensively, Maldonado grades out as an above-average pitch framer with a strong arm.

Bandy, even with his struggles, had the look of a catcher who would be able to contribute offense, even if he wouldn’t be a full time starter. He also didn’t embarrass himself behind the plate, throwing out forty percent of would-be base stealers and putting up a .993 fielding percentage. Bandy is also controllable for five more years, while Maldonado is only potentially under contract for the next two years. Gagnon is not a particularly high-regarded prospect, putting up mediocre numbers in relief at Triple-A this season.

That would appear to rule out the trade being about adding Gagnon, although it’s certainly possible Eppler knows something we don’t about the young pitcher. This trade appears to be about adding more defense, then, but with a strong defensive catcher in Carlos Perez already on the roster, trading a young, controllable player with upside like Bandy for essentially an older version of Perez makes very little sense, especially considering the Angels’ lack of consistent offensive production in the lineup.

Can the Angels really afford to have an entire position be an automatic out every game? It’s unclear how much say Angels manager Mike Scioscia has had in transactions under Eppler, but this one has his name written all over it. The Angels better hope its not another Mike Napoli situation. Overall Grade: D.

The Bottom Line – The Angels did well in filling their second base hole, especially considering the context of their offseason and what the Angels appear to be trying to do. Staying flexible is obviously important to the Angels, and as far as the product on the field, they’ve added much defensive value.

With Perez, Maldonado, Simmons, Espinosa, and Mike Trout, the Angels have one of the best middle defenses in all of baseball. Expand that to add strong defenders in left field with Cameron Maybin, if healthy, (Big if) and Gold Glove winner Kole Calhoun in right field, along with C.J. Cron‘s improvement at first base last season, and the Angels have a chance to be one of the best defensive teams in all of baseball, even with Yunel Escobar at third.

Having a strong defense like that takes a lot of pressure off of your pitchers, and the Angels can use all the help they can get in that regard. Although trading Bandy hurts, it does open up the potential to see top prospects Taylor Ward or Matt Thaiss there at some point this season, and it also makes sense if the Angels are potentially looking to add one of the top free agent catchers still available like Matt Wieters or Kurt Suzuki. While that appears unlikely, the longer those players remain free agents the better value they become, and the

Angels could potentially see a deal too good to pass up. Either way, the Angels are continuing their quiet but solid offseason, making minor upgrades to positions of need on the cheap while remaining flexible for the future.

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