The Los Angeles Angels headed into the offseason with a glaring hole in left field after going the entire 2015 season with little production from the position. LA’s front office parted ways with outfielder Josh Hamilton early in the season after an off-the-field incident. The team hoped offseason addition of Matt Joyce would help fill the void, but he struggled mightily at the plate, batting a career-worst .174 with just five home runs and 21 RBIs in 93 games played.
The Halos responded by making a flurry of transactions prior to the trade deadline, acquiring three veteran outfielders, David Murphy, Shane Victorino, and David DeJesus, but none of them provided enough production in the batting order. The team has decided to cut ties with each of the veterans, which worsens their weakness. They somewhat addressed the lack of depth at the position earlier this month by adding two veterans in Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry on one-year deals, but neither are expected to step in as the everyday left fielder.
That said, the Angels were reportedly interested in and spoke with the three All-Star outfielders still in the free agent market, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, and Alex Gordon. But it sounds like the team didn’t engage in serious talks with any of these players. LA also wasn’t believed to be one of the final suitors for Jason Heyward, who signed an eight-year, $184 million contract with the Chicago Cubs two weeks ago.
This all leaves the Angels in a precarious spot with no real solution to their lack of production in left field. New general manager Billy Eppler did add a few strong pieces to the team through trades, including Andrelton Simmons, who is regarded by many to be the best overall defensive fielder in the league, and Yunel Escobar, who’s coming off a productive 2015 season with the Washington Nationals (batting .314 with nine home runs and 56 RBIs). However, none of this takes away from the fact that they need to make the outfield a priority.
If the Angels fail to land any of the top three remaining outfielders in the free-agent market, the team could once again go the trade route for help. The rumor mill continually mentions one player’s name, Carlos Gonzalez, the Colorado Rockies’ star outfielder. The 30-year-old is coming off an extremely productive campaign in 2015, hitting a career-high 40 home runs with 97 RBIs while batting .271 and playing a career-best 153 games.
Gonzalez is currently scheduled to make $37 million over the next two seasons, which could make moving his contract a little tricky for some teams, especially since he already has a checkered past with injuries. Colorado has reportedly considered several teams, including the Angels, but no talks have truly materialized with anyone. It’s rumored that the Rockies sought All-Star pitcher Hector Santiago, but conversations fell apart after Los Angeles included reliever Trevor Gott in the trade for Escobar.
Even with Gott no longer an option, the Angels could still find a way to work out a deal for Gonzalez — if they are willing to move Santiago and some minor-league prospects. The team currently has a surplus of starting pitching on the roster, with seven potential starters including Tyler Skaggs (returning from Tommy John surgery) and Matt Shoemaker (likely healed from his bothersome hip injury).
That said, Eppler has shown plenty of willingness to deal pitching prospects for proven talent at the major-league level. With the Rockies looking to move their star outfielder, the Angels should jump at the opportunity to add another power bat to the lineup; one who could provide much-need protection for Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. Although team owner Arte Moreno is hesitant to spend more money with the team near the luxury tax, he’s proven that he will surpass his preferred team salary-cap threshold to improve the team (i.e. signing Pujols, C.J. Wilson, and Hamilton).
This may be one of those scenarios where Moreno should bite the financial bullet to add a much-needed piece to the team. Gonzalez has spent the vast majority of his career in right field, but he has plenty of experience in the opposite corner of the outfield. Injuries may also be a concern with the two-time All-Star, but if last season is any indication of things to come, he’s definitely worth the risk.
Gonzalez is coming off one of his most productive seasons, and he has all-around talent at both the plate and in the outfield. He is a three-time Gold Glove award-winner, two-time Silver Slugger award-winner, and a former NL batting champion who is still in the prime of his career. All in all, if the Angels still have a realistic chance of obtaining Gonzalez, they should get the ball rolling.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
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