The Angels have had talks with the Nationals about third baseman Jeimer Candelario, reports Jon Morosi of MLB.com (Twitter link). The Halos just pulled off the biggest trade of deadline season thus far and continue to look for ways to upgrade the roster. It’s unclear whether a deal between the clubs is likely to come together.
Candelario, 29, spent several years as the Tigers’ primary third baseman before struggling through a career-worst season in 2022, when he hit just .217/.272/.361 in 124 games. Detroit non-tendered him rather than giving him a raise in what would’ve been his final year of arbitration eligibility, and the Nationals scooped him up on a one-year, $5MM deal in free agency. The gambit could scarcely have worked out better for the Nats.
In 94 games and 398 plate appearances, Candelario has rebounded with a .257/.338/.486 batting line, swatting 16 homers in addition to 29 doubles and a pair of triples. He’s already swiped five bases, a career-high, and should surpass his career-best mark of 19 home runs before long. The switch-hitting Candelario has never been known for his glovework, but he’s posted positive marks at third base in the estimation of Defensive Runs Saved (1), Ultimate Zone Rating (2.0) and especially Statcast’s Outs Above Average (6) so far in 2023.
The Halos certainly didn’t foresee themselves in position to be poking around the third base market at any trade deadlines in the near future three years ago, when they signed Anthony Rendon to a seven-year, $245MM contract. At the time, they hoped to be adding a perennial MVP candidate into a lineup that already featured MVP-caliber talents Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Rendon garnered MVP votes each season from 2017-19, including a third-place finish in his final season with the Nats before he became a free agent.
Although he was excellent for the Halos in the shortened 2020 season, things haven’t gone well since. Rendon has played in just 148 games since Opening Day 2021, hitting .235/.338/.364 while battling myriad injuries along the way. He’s currently on the shelf with a shin injury. The Angels have already acquired third base options Mike Moustakas and Eduardo Escobar in earlier summer trades, to say nothing of their signing of Brandon Drury as a free agent this past offseason. They’re not necessarily lacking in options at the hot corner, but Candelario would nonetheless provide an affordable, high-quality bat to slot into the lineup. If Rendon were to come back from the injured list and reclaim the third base job, Candelario could certainly fit into the mix at first base; he’s logged 518 career innings at the position.
The Angels sudden, blockbuster acquisition of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez from the White Sox has already pushed them north of the luxury tax line, so the remaining $1.8MM that Candelario would add to their luxury ledger isn’t likely to be a major deterrent. They’ve already taken Ohtani off the trade market, and the Giolito/Lopez trade — for their two top prospects — only underscores the notion that owner Arte Moreno and GM Perry Minasian are going for broke in Ohtani’s final year of club control. Whether or not a deal involving Candelario comes together, it seems quite likely that the Angels will be in the market for further upgrades in the lineup. At this point, there’s no sense in holding anything back. They’ve committed to pushing in for a 2023 postseason bid, and there’s no turning back.