Posted on December 15, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Los Angeles Angels have already had arguably the best offseason of any team and they are still refusing to rest on their laurels. The Angels announced on Friday that they have signed free agent shortstop Zack Cozart. The deal is for three years and $38 million. The addition of Cozart comes after the Angels re-signed Justin Upton, landed Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani, and traded for second baseman Ian Kinsler.
The 32-year old Cozart is coming off a career year with the Cincinnati Reds in 2017. Cozart hit .297 with a career-high 24 home runs. He also amassed 63 RBIs, tying a career high, while posting a .933 OPS. Cozart had spent his entire big league career in Cincinnati after being drafted by the Reds in 2007. However, the Reds were always unlikely to spend the money necessary to re-sign him. Cozart now finds himself heading out to the west coast.
Of course, signing with the Angels means a position change for Cozart. The Angels already have Andrelton Simmons entrenched at shortstop with Kinsler now in line to play second base. That will mean Cozart will make the switch to third base. Cozart has never played anywhere but shortstop in the big leagues. However, as a longtime shortstop who’s over 30, a move to third base shouldn’t be all that difficult for Cozart.
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Angels GM Billy Eppler says he had initially approached Cozart about the team’s vacancy at second base. But after the Angels made the trade for Kinsler, Eppler asked Cozart about moving to third base instead. Cozart was receptive to the move, making him and the Angels a good fit for one another.
The Angels received little offensive production at both second base and third base last year, making both positions a priority this offseason. The presence of Cozart also gives Los Angeles coverage at second base and shortstop. It’s now easier for them to give Simmons and Kinsler time off or survive a long-term injury to either player.
With all of their additions this offseason, the Angels now appear to have a logjam at first base. Luis Valbuena was originally penciled in at third base. But he will now look to get most of his at-bats as a first baseman after the addition of Cozart. Also, if Ohtani spends time at DH on days he doesn’t pitch, Albert Pujols will have to spend more time at first base in order to stay in the lineup. C.J. Cron has also started more than 90 games at first base for the Angels each of the past two seasons.
Of course, none of those three are coming off particularly impressive seasons in 2017. The Angels may look to trade either Valbuena or Cron. They could look to flip one of them for bullpen help or perhaps a reliable fourth outfielder. Outside of that, the Angels would appear to have little else to do this offseason aside from hope their starting pitchers can stay healthy in 2018.
No matter what happens from this point forward, the Angels will be one of the biggest winners of the offseason. Friday’s signing of Cozart may end up being just the cherry on top. Epple and company have done an outstanding job of improving the team in such a short period of time. At least on paper, the Angels look like a bonafide contender heading into 2018.