Does Danny Espinosa Make Angels Contenders?

With the acquisition of Danny Espinosa, the Angels may be better off than previously conceived. Read about the impact he could have on the Angels' 2017 campaign.

While visiting his mother in Southern California with his wife, Sara, and soon-to-be three-month old, Ty Daniel, a quick check of a cell phone changed the life of Danny Espinosa.

Though it wasn't his phone, Sara alerted him of something she'd seen on social media.

"I think you've been traded," she told Danny.

Within minutes, Mike Rizzo, General Manager of the Washington Nationals, texted Espinosa asking him to call back when he had the opportunity.

The call was brief, and Rizzo informed Espinosa that he had been traded to the Angels. The Angels, Angel Stadium, a place the 29-year-old infielder was very familiar with.

A native of Santa Ana, California, Espinosa grew up going to Angel Stadium - located just 16 miles from his high school - sharing season tickets with his family.

"I went to games all the time," Espinosa said in a phone conference with reporters. "Remembering Garrett Anderson, Tim Salmon, Gary DiScarcina playing ball there. Having Troy Percival come in the ninth inning. Mo Vaughn. I remember everything going to that stadium."

Now there will be new memories, but not from the stands. Espinosa will be the Halos' second baseman for the 2017 season, taking in memories from the field.

In a trade, initially reported by Josh Norris of Baseball America, the switch-hitting infielder was sent to the Angels in exchange for pitching prospects, Kyle McGowin and Austin Adams.

"I was happy," said Espinosa of his initial reaction to the trade. "I wasn't shocked because I felt it might be happening."

On Wednesday, the Washington Nationals acquired outfielder, Adam Eaton, for an abundance of top prospects. The move allows the Nationals to move rookie sensation, Trea Turner, to his initial position, shortstop, which was previously manned by Espinosa. According to a report from the Washington Post, Espinosa was unhappy about the trade. He did not participate in the team's Fan Fest over the weekend, but did not express any desire to be traded.

"I never asked for a trade. I never talked to anybody in the organization."

The trade filled a large void for the Angels. At second base, Los Angeles have not had a player with as high fWAR value as Espinosa's regular output since Howie Kendrick in 2014. Since 2014, Espinosa has been worth an average of 1.5 wins above average, according to FanGraphs.

Though his bat has never been the drawing asset, with a career slash of .226/.302/.388, the organization is pleased with the acquisition of Espinosa. In a press release, Angels General Manager, Billy Eppler, expressed his desire in attaining his new second baseman.

"We are excited to add a player of Danny's caliber," stated Eppler in the release. "His switch-hitting ability and impact bat add depth to our lineup and his defensive resume will be a welcomed addition to the middle of our infield."

With 24 home runs and 72 runs batted in, Espinosa set career highs in both categories during the 2016 campaign with the Nationals. The Angels offense as a whole saw just two players with more home runs and three with more runs batted in.

In a positional breakdown, the Angels scored 62 runs, brought in 47, while reaching base in 27.5% of the plate appearances from second baseman. Though no one can assess what a player will do in the future, if Espinosa can match what he did in 2016, it would add four runs scored, 25 runs batted in, and a rise in on-base percentage by 34 points.

With seven of the nine batting positions in the Angels projected lineup coming from the right side, Espinosa adds versatility to the lineup structure with his switch-hitting abilities. 2016 saw the Angels finish the year with a negative 10 run differential, suggesting they'd be closer to a .500 team than what their actual record would suggest, with 88 losses.

Once again, no one can predict what any player will do in the future, the addition of Espinosa on offense could give the Angels that needed push to reach what their suggested record could become. That's without looking at what he does on defense.

Despite playing over 380 innings less any ahead of him, only seven players have more defensive runs saved than Espinosa's 12 at second base since 2013. Only five have a higher UZR, according to FanGraphs, than Espinosa as the position over the same span, at 15.8.

Espinosa has not played second base since 2015, acting as the primary shortstop for the Nationals in 2016. However, in 2015, Espinosa recorded just one error at second base in 646.2 innings. Both analytics, standard statistics and scouts have noted that Espinosa is an above-average infielder, and very good defensive player at second base.

Playing next to Andrelton Simmons, who is known throughout the industry as the best fielder in baseball, the Angels could have the best defensive infield in Major League Baseball. Behind them up the middle? Mike Trout.

"Hopefully we'll have the best middle infield in baseball," said Espinosa.

With 2016 defensive metrics, the Angels now have six players in their projected positions that would rank in the top 10 in the American League in defensive runs saved.

The two pitching prospects, both 25-year-olds, traded for Espinosa were not ranked in the top 10 from any major outlet. In the upcoming rankings from Scout.com, Kyle McGowin would have ranked #16 in the organization, and Austin Adams would have ranked at #26.

Through a challenging season in Triple-A, McGowin had a 6.11 ERA in 116.1 innings in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. Fighting his mechanics through the season, McGowin was hit hard, allowing 11.1 hits per nine innings. Some scouts suggest he'd be best suited for the bullpen with his low to mid 90's fastball, and sharp 11-5 breaking slider.

"I wanna thank the Angels for starting my professional career and being a great organization," McGowin said through an Instagram post. "Also wanna thank the Nationals for welcoming me to the organization, can't wait to get started!"

Adams has fought command and control through his career, walking 6.4 per nine. However, his pure stuff has never been questioned. Working in the mid to high 90's, Adams has touched 98 miles per hour with his fastball. Considered the best slider in the Angels system prior to the trade, Adams works his slider on a fastball line with a late break in the mid to high 80's. He's constantly missed bats, striking out 11.6 per nine in his career, and permitting just a .183 average and .270 slugging percentage against 940 batters.

"I'm forever indebted to the Angels and thought I grew a ton with them and there's clearly a mutual respect there," said Adams.

The cost may not be considered a "heavy haul" such as was the case in the Eaton trade, but both prospects should be able to fight for a Major League job in Spring Training and into the 2017 season. Both the Nationals and Angels will be happy with their acquisitions.

With just three months until catchers and pitchers report, the Angels look to fill their remaining holes in the lineup. A fourth outfielder, preferably that hits from the left-side, and relief depth.

Through the off-season thus far, Billy Eppler has not made a signing for more than $5.75 million (Jesse Chavez), and has not forfeited any draft picks to help build what is considered an improving, but one of the worse farm systems in baseball. With considerably "better" free agent markets coming up over the next two winters, the Angels are in a good scenario to remain contenders.

Though it may never be considered one of the larger trades in franchise history, Danny Espinosa will show up to Spring Training, possibly with a beard as he noted he "hasn't shaved in a few months," giving the Angels an opportunity to make noise in the American League.

"I'm coming to a place where I definitely feel wanted," Espinosa noted.

Maybe the Angels aren't as dead in the water as many claim?

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