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The Angels need a 3rd baseman, and they need him now

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We can’t afford to wait another year and pay a high premium for one of the best third baseman in the game

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Justin Upton is locked in, the next big target for Billy Eppler should be a third baseman. Why? That’s what I’m here to tell you. Here are a few reason and then I’ll go into more detail.

  • No 3rd baseman in the pipeline
  • It would limit ABs by Valbuena and Cron
  • Second base should be easier to fill
  • Next’s years best option (Manny Machado) is going to be VERY expensive

There are some free agent options like Mike Moustakas who Rahul pretty much ruined for all of us. To be fair, it was some great analysis and he really had me on his side after that whole bit about Moustakas being SLOWER than Pujols. Yeah we don’t need that. Todd Frazier is also on the market but I’m not a big fan. He’ll be 32 at the start of the season and I think the Angels need to go younger - especially if they are going to sign someone on a multi year deal. Okay, let’s look at why this position needs to be a priority.

There is no Third Baseman in the pipeline

The Angels don’t have a single dude on their top prospect list who plays 3rd base. I think we’ve seen that Kaleb Cowart doesn’t fit that bill, and the next up - Zach Houchins, might be nothing more than a stop gap or depth piece (though he still needs a chance to prove himself and he’s not yet major league ready). Pretty much up and down the system, you are underwhelmed with guys who will probably not stick as regular major league third baseman. There is no hope on the horizon.

It would limit ABs by Valbuena and Cron

Barring a miraculous trade or release, Vabuena and Cron will both be on the roster next year and both had less than impressive 2017 seasons. However, a full time 3rd baseman would push Valbuena and Cron into a platoon situation at first base and keeps Valbuena around for those rest days the Angels new third baseman would need.

The main problem is that both Valbuena and Cron hit righties better than lefties. Valbuena was just plain terrible against lefties, putting up a slashline of .105/.211/.423. At least Cron managed a .233/.290/.500 vs. southpaws. Cron had a wOBA of .331 and wRC+ of 109 against lefties and Valbuena had a wOBA of .324 and wRC+ of 104 against righties. Those numbers aren’t great, but the platoon splits put them in the top 20 of major league 1st baseman where as their solo stats put them in the 27-28 range. Platooning them at 1st upgrades the output at that position (if only by a little bit). That small upgrade is probably okay since you already upgraded left field and will need to upgrade third base, followed by second base.

Second base is easier to fill

This might seem like a silly statement given the struggled the Angels have had at filling this spot since Howie left, but I think it’s true. IN GENERAL, second base is easier to fill at a lower cost than a solid third baseman.

You want some production out of a third baseman and those guys are surprisingly few and far between and they cost money. It’s a lot easier to fill the second base spot with a smaller payroll hit. Sure there are big money free agents out there like Neil Walker and maybe Brandon Phillips, but you don’t need to spend that kind of money to get an upgrade.

The Angels were LAST at the second base spot in the American League last year in OPS (.601), WAR (-1.2), and SLG (.327). There were last in just about every category which means even a replacement level players gives you a pretty big boost at second base. If you read Rahul’s piece about second base options, you can see some good choices. Even Kaleb Cowart managed a .695 OPS and 0.3 WAR which would have been a HUGE improvement out of second base had he played there all year. A few good lower priced trade targets are available too like Cesar Hernandez. I’m NOT in on Dee Gordon since I think our money is better spent elsewhere.

In short? Second base was such a HUGE hole last year you can pretty much roll the dice and end up with better production there so I think we are better served by getting a quality third baseman.

Next Year’s best option will cost a lot

As much as I would love to have Manny Machado taking up a spot on the diamond next to Andrelton Simmons - he’s going to have a hefty price tag. On top of Pujols, Trout, and Upton, adding Machado to a 300+ million deal is maybe not something the team is prepared to take on. In 2019 and 2020 you’d be looking at a price tag around 130 million for Trout, Simmons, Machado, Upton, and Pujols. Unless one of them gets traded I’m here to tell you that a Machado signing is probably not in the Angels future. So why hold out? The time to act is now.

What’s Next?

Looking at the best third base candidates probably warrants an entire new article, but it’s where I think the Angels need to go. Now that Yunel is gone, the Angels are left with Luis Valbuena as a full time third baseman and I’m pretty sure none of us want that. Proof:

Valbuena 2017 Stats

117 401 22 42 65 12.0 26.4 0.199 0.294 94

Dude can’t even hit 100 RBIs so I think that alone proves my point ;)

The Angels were 14th in 2017 with a .713 OPS at third base and that was WITH Yunel Escobar playing a good chunk of the season. They also had only 96 wRC+ which landed them at 11th in the AL at the position. An upgrade here could make a huge impact in this overall lineup. Even the aforementioned Frazier or Moustakas could be a huge boost to the Angels. In the later case - a power left-handed bat? Sure! Yes there are concerns about his BB/K rate, athleticism, and fielding, but you can’t win em all - can you?

Let’s go Billy - find us that third baseman next!