Over the years, the GM of the Angels has changed a number of times. What has not changed is one job description: take under performing players away from Mike Scioscia so he’s forced to play better ones.
Whether it was Raul Ibanez stumbling around left field while hitting .157 out of the cleanup spot before getting DFA’d by Jerry Dipoto or Steve Finley getting the boot from Bill Stoneman, there is a long pattern of GMs being forced to take players away from Mike and preventing him from causing further harm.
Now, it is Billy Eppler’s turn to take the scissors away from the kid running down the hall. It is time for Eppler to cut bait on Luis Valbuena.
Valbuena no es buena
The primary reason to release Luis Valbuena is his performance. Luis currently sports a slash line of .211/.256/.354, good for production over 30% worse than the average Major League hitter. Over the last month, the line is even worse: .176/.186/.338. And he’s completely inept when facing a left handed pitcher.
Defensively, Valbuena was good for -0.5 dWAR last year and is halfway to that total this year. Having a minus sign in front of a number is not a good thing.
Yet Scioscia has given him the start nearly every night, to the tune of 80 games played and 254 plate appearances. He’s also started 17 of the last 23 games, during the worst of his production, and was used to pinch hit while Shohei Ohtani was available for the same duty.
Better Now and Later
Removing Valbuena would lead to more at bats for David Fletcher, who has a higher batting average and on base percentage than Valbuena and a nearly identical slugging rate. Plus, he’s better with the glove and a far better base runner than Luis.
Valbuena’s roster spot would likely go to Jose Miguel Fernandez, a left handed hitting infielder currently sporting a .340/.401/.542 line across 279 AAA plate appearances. Fernandez would almost assuredly better Valbuena’s offensive production while covering the same positions.
Not only would replacing Valbuena with Fletcher and Fernandez likely improve the team for 2018, it would give Eppler a chance to get an extended look at the newcomers before making out his off season shopping list. Valbuena will be let go at the end of the year, but Fletcher and Fernandez should figure into the team’s 2019 plans.
The Scioscia Factor
Mike will keep rolling Luis out there. If we know it, Eppler must know it. Yes, Luis was signed by Eppler in what was one of his worst decisions as Angels GM, but Eppler has a financial background and should be well versed in the concept of sunk cost. The fact Scioscia will keep penciling in Valbuena’s name is yet another in the litany of reasons Mike should be shown the door after this season, but that is another topic.
Ideally, Fletcher would take the every day job at second with Fernandez covering third and the under performing Ian Kinsler backing up both, but that kind of forward thinking is too much to ask of a Scioscia led team. Plus, getting rid of Kinsler would mean playing time for Nolan Fontana in the event of an injury. Valbuena is the first domino that needs to fall.
Come September, hot prospect Taylor Ward should get a look. A good look. Not the “play one day and watch an unproductive veteran for a week” look that Mike likes to give rookies.
Ultimately, Eppler has the control, he needs to use it.
Let me have it. Is there any reason to keep Luis around? Am I wanting to bring up the wrong players? Let me know below.