After doing nothing at the Winter Meetings, much to the disgruntle of Angels fans, the Angels made a move just days later, acquiring Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa. The former Mater Dei and Long Beach State standout will be making a homecoming back to Anaheim at least for the 2017 season as he is a free agent following the year. Sent packing to Washington was right handed pitcher Kyle McGowin and right handed pitcher Austin Adams. First, let’s look at what the Angels acquired.
Espinosa has long frustrated Nationals fans as he’s an extremely gifted athlete with a cannon of an arm, raw power and can run well. With that said, he’s had a productive MLB career to date. The 3rd round pick from the 2008 MLB Draft burst onto the scene in 2010 when he showed some raw power and plus defense in his first little stint. In his 1st full big league seasons from 2011-2012, Espinosa racked up an impressive 6.8 WAR, showing league average offense and good defense and base running. Since then, he hasn’t been quite the same but has still been a productive major leaguer. He was hurt in 2013 and bad in 2014 but rebounded with a 2.3 WAR season in 2015 and 1.7 WAR season in 2016. The package is still generally the same as it was when he first came up: Lots of homers(career high 24 in 2016), lots of strikeouts(174 Ks in 2016) but great defense(8 Defensive Runs Saved in 2016).
Sent to the Nationals are 2 pitchers who weren’t much of prospects in a very thin Angels system. Kyle McGowin is a fringe starter at this point who may benefit by moving to the bullpen to let his solid fastball and slider play up. He features a 4 pitch mix that has been able to get a decent amount of swings and misses in the minors but he’s had some nasty home run issues that have stalled the one time highly thought of prospect. Austin Adams is the guy who the Nationals may have targeted, as he’s a lottery ticket with electric stuff but zero command. Adams had the best slider in the Angels system along with a solid 92-94 mph fastball but he didn’t show signs of cleaning up his command. He owns a decent career 3.75 minor league ERA along with an impressive 11.6 K/9 but his 6.4 BB/9 is unacceptable. Adams is one of those guys who either figures it out and becomes a big time bullpen weapon or fizzles out completely in the minors.
It’s easy to see why the Angels and Nationals pulled the trigger here. Espinosa was nearly non-tendered in recent weeks and just hours before the trade, he was rumored to have been unhappy with the Nationals treatment of him with recent transactions that would relegate him to a bench role. With that in mind and his estimated 5.3 million dollar arbitration figure for 2017, the Nationals weren’t going to receive much of a haul for him. For the Angels, the fit is obvious: He’s an inexpensive 1 year option that fills a hole and is a guy who will hit for power, play great defense up the middle and has the flexibility to play shortstop if needed. The Angels and Billy Eppler have made it very obvious what their route is this offseason with all their transactions being 1 year deals(Cameron Maybin, Andrew Bailey, Jesse Chavez, Danny Espinosa). The Angels have now essentially filled the majority of their needs while only spending 20ish million dollars in the process. The team is now in a position where they can field a competitive team in 2017 and if things don’t go well, they can sell off a bunch of different players who will become free agents at the end of 2017 anyways. This is a solid move for the Angels.