Posted on July 16, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Los Angeles Angels are running out of time to make a move for a playoff spot, and they have also run out of patience with second baseman Danny Espinosa. The Angels designated Espinosa for assignment prior to Sunday’s series finale against the Rays. Espinosa has had a disappointing season after being acquired in a trade with the Nationals over the winter.
“I think right now we’re at a point to try to look for some other avenues to see what’s going to happen at second base,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Sunday. “I think Danny brought some good things that helped us, but on the offensive side, the struggles were obvious.”
On the season, Espinosa is hitting just .162 with an OPS of .513. The Angels were hoping that Espinosa could provide them with some power after he hit a career-high 24 home runs last year. But six home runs and eight doubles was not enough for a player hitting well below the Mendoza line.
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Offense has been a problem for the Angels for much of the season. The team did survive a long stretch without reigning MVP Mike Trout, who recently returned from the DL. However, the Angels have scored just four runs over their first two games following the all-star break, both losses. As a result, the Angels felt they had to do something to get their offense moving in the right direction.
“Danny is an exceptional defensive player,” explains Scoscia. “But even if everything was working with (the other hitters on) our team, and the struggles as big as they were with Danny, you have to look to do something.”
With Espinosa out of the picture, the Angels will likely turn to Nick Franklin and Cliff Pennington at second base. Franklin has struggled mightily this year with both the Angels and Brewers. However, he had a solid season with the Rays last year, hitting .270 with an OPS of .771. He could benefit from regular playing time.
Pennington, meanwhile, is hitting just .234 and brings little power to the table. But he is steady defensively and a seasoned veteran. The Angels figure to use a straight platoon with Franklin starting against righties and Pennington against lefties.
“I think that the one thing they’ll bring is on-base percentage, at the least,” Scioscia said of a Franklin-Pennington platoon. “We’re going to try to look at some other things to see if there can be something to help us on the offensive side.”
The Angels are also trying to convert third baseman Kaleb Cowart to second base. Cowart is hitting .301 with an OPS of .834 at triple-A this season. He has started 30 games at second base this year, as Los Angeles is trying to get him acquainted with the new position. If Franklin and Pennington don’t get the job done, it may not be long until Cowart gets called to Anaheim.
One more option for the Angels is the trade market. The club has been linked to Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon. Ian Kinsler is another second baseman who may be available via trade in the next two weeks. However, the Angels don’t have a particularly impressive farm system, and so trading for a quality second baseman may not be in the cards.
At the moment, the Angels are on the periphery of the playoff race. In order to get into the thick of the wild-card race, they could not continue to move forward with a second baseman hitting .162. However, it may take more than parting ways with Espinosa to make the Angels a playoff team in 2017.