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Angels third base candidates for 2018

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Do the Angels need a third baseman or is Valbuena already here for that job?

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

If you saw my recent article, you know my feelings about the Angels needed a third baseman this off season. That sure generated a lot of buzz, including comments from Chase about how the Angels haven’t really had a regular solid third baseman since Troy Glauss. The rest have all been stop gaps. Freese. Escobar. Valbuena. It sure would be nice to get a guy there who can stick around a while wouldn’t it? However, right now I’ll settle for a guy who at least has average defense and can get on base with 300+ OBP and generate at least a little bit of power. Yea I know - low expectations, but the options are limited.

The bar was set pretty low last year with output received from the hot corner.

Overall MLB rankings:
WAR 2.0 (21st)
AVG .235 (26th)
OBP .313 (20th)
SLG .411 (21st)
wRC+ 96 (21st)

Among 42 third baseman with 250 or more plate appearances, the Angels had the 34th (Escobar) and 35th (Valbuena) ranked players in terms of overall WAR. In terms of wRC+, Valbuena fell in at 35th with 94 and Escobar ranked 27th with 100. There were 26 third baseman in all of baseball who put up a better wRC+ than either of the Angels two third baseman. These included 38 year old Adrian Beltre and 23 year old Braves rookie, Yohan Camargo. Ouch.

Third base was a hole - no doubt - and it really won’t take much for the Angels to upgrade there next year.

Internal Candidates

Luis Valbuena, 32
Valbeuna, who turns 32 in a few weeks, is signed through 2018 with a 2019 mutual option. If you read the prior mentioned article, you’ll see I’m not a huge fan of Valbuena in a potential full time role. Aside from my thoughts on his 2017 performance, Valbuena has also only played more than 117 games twice in his 10 years in the big leagues. He’s probably more of a platoon player candidate for next season.

Kaleb Cowart, 25
Cowart was the once touted future 3B prospect we were all hoping for, but his bat has never really materialized at the big league level. He may have a role on the roster next year as a utility player with his new found versatility and ability to pretty much play second as well as third.

Zach Houchins, 25
Houchins was snagged by the Angels in the 13th round of the 2014 draft and went 7 for 14 in a late season call-up to AAA. However, given his limited AAA experience, Houchins is a candidate to start the season at AAA and look for a call up some time later in 2018. Houchins is playing winter ball right now and is 6 for 12 with a HR in his last 3 games.

Free Agents

Todd Frazier, 32
Frazier will be 32 at the start of next season and he’s on of the higher profile free agents available at third base. Last year he hit 27 home runs in 474 ABs and had a 3.4 WAR. Frazier has a career .245/.321/.459 slashline. Frazier also has a history of putting in long seasons with 157-158 games played in the 2014-2016 season and 147 games this past year. He can provide some pop as well as an upgrade if Eppler went after him.

Mike Moustakas, 29
There have been rumors flying lately that the Angels are interested in Moustakas, but he’s been linked to other teams as well. Rahul recently did a good breakdown of just how valuable (or not valuable) Moustakas would be. Moustakas had a 1.8 WAR last season with a career high 38 home runs and a second best .314 OBP. He not a super athletic player though, nor is he very fast (He’s faster than Valbuena and the same speed as Escobar). Like Fraizer, Moustakas would also likely be an upgrade for the Angels at the hot corner.

Yunel Escobar, 35
Eppler signed Escobar as another stop gap measure and most likely would not be interested in a reunion for 2018. Escobar had a noticeable decline last year and his injury riddled season limited him to just 89 games. He also just turned 35 which further limits his sign-ability.

Danny Valencia, 33
Valencia is certainly not a sexy option here with a 1.0 WAR and .314 OBP in 2017, but he is available and probably for much less than Fraizer or Moustakas. Valencia is familiar with the AL West since he spent the last 3 season playing with Oakland and Seattle. He’s perhaps not much of an upgrade and I doubt he’d be Eppler’s first choice.

Jose Reyes, 34
Reyes actually had a negative WAR value last year, thanks to his pretty bad defense. At the plate he put together a decent season with 15 home runs and a .315 OBP. Reyes also has a bit of speed and swiped 24 bags in 2017. Reyes has a .338 career OBP but would probably be one of the last people on Eppler’s Christmas list. Notable for Reyes is that he’s also a switch hitter, but is much better at hitting righties.

Trade Targets

David Freese, 34
Freese is signed through 2018 and will make 5.5 million next year. The Pirates have Jung Ho Kang returning which could make Freese available if the they think they can rely on Kang. Though perhaps not a super likely trade, Freese put up a 2.0 WAR in 2017 and hit 10 home runs with a .368 OBP.

Martin Prado, 34
The Marlins have made it no secret they want to dump money and Martin Prado is due 13.5 million in 2018 and another 15 million in 2019. An interested team could probably have Prado with very little in return if they were willing to take on all his salary. But with a .279 OBP this year, the Marlins might be hard pressed to find someone willing to pay 28 million over the next two years. Prado only played 37 games games in 2017 though, and he has a career .291/.340/.422 slashline so any interested team would have to hope they see the 2016 and prior version of Prado.

Josh Donaldson, 31
Donaldson would be the biggest long shot and major win by Eppler if he could pull it off. The Blue Jays have said they may be willing to trade the former MVP if they get enough pieces in return that are major league ready to help them compete. Who would the Angels have to offer? Donaldson had some injury issues in 2017 but still hit 33 home runs in 113 games.