Angels assistant general manager Steve Martone revealed some of the team’s infield plans in an interview with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of Sirius XM Radio on Sunday, noting that second base is their biggest need area (Twitter links).
“Second base is more of a priority with our club than any other positions,” said Martone, who added that the Halos’ aim at third is to platoon the left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena with a right-handed bat.
The fact that the Angels are prioritizing the keystone isn’t surprising, considering the nightmarish output they received at the position last season. Only two teams had a worse fWAR at second than the Angels’ minus-0.3, which was largely the result of the horrid .207/.274/.318 slash line that Danny Espinosa, Cliff Pennington, Brandon Phillips, Kaleb Cowart, Nick Franklin and Nolan Fontana produced. The club is reportedly considering Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler and free agents Neil Walker and Zack Cozart to man the position in 2018. Other potential targets could include Howie Kendrick (an ex-Angel) and Eduardo Nunez via free agency, and trade candidates in Dee Gordon (Marlins) and Cesar Hernandez (Phillies). The Angels previously showed interest in both Gordon and Hernandez.
Should the Angels remain true to their word at the hot corner, it would rule out a pursuit of Los Angeles native Mike Moustakas in free agency. Righty-swingers in Kinsler, Nunez, Cozart or Todd Frazier could team with Valbuena, though all four are overqualified to serve on the short side of a platoon. The right-handed Yunel Escobar, the Angels’ primary third baseman from 2016-17 and now a free agent, may be a more realistic option if the two sides are interested in staying together. He and Valbuena worked in tandem to mediocre results last season.
With Valbuena apparently in line to play third next season, it’s unclear what the Angels will do at first base. C.J. Cron looks like the in-house front-runner to occupy the position, but he hasn’t been particularly effective since debuting in 2014. As such, the Halos could attempt to upgrade over Cron in free agency with Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda, Yonder Alonso or Frazier (Santana and Duda are already on their radar). Hosmer and Santana will collect the largest paydays of the group, and because the two rejected qualifying offers, signing either would cost the Angels their second-highest draft pick in 2018 (No. 56 overall) and $500K of international bonus pool money.