Los Angeles Angels Add Infield Depth with Luis Valbuena
The Los Angeles Angels made another offseason addition to their infield by agreeing to a two-year deal with Luis Valbuena.
The Los Angeles Angels entered the offseason with a need in their infield, which they have now addressed with a couple of moves. The latest is a two-year deal with a team option with Luis Valbuena, as per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 20, 2017
At first glance, the 31-year-old Valbuena doesn’t appear to have a clear spot on the field. The Halos had a glaring hole at second base at the start of the winter, one they filled by trading for Danny Espinosa from the Washing Nationals. Yunel Escobar is over at third base, while Andrelton Simmons, acquired last offseason, handles the starting shortstop duties. Meanwhile, C.J. Cron is penciled in at first base. Cliff Pennington is an option off the bench.
Fortunately, Valbuena brings some legitimate defensive versatility that should allow him to make it into the lineup in multiple ways. Although primarily a third and second baseman throughout his nine-year major league career, he has also played some first base and shortstop, and has even made four appearances in the outfield.
The Halos’ willingness to plug in Valbeuna at less familiar positions will largely depend on how he performs with the bat. He has shown some pop in the past, knocking 66 home runs over the past four seasons, including a career-high 25 in 2015. Last year he looked like he was headed toward his best campaign yet, slashing .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI through 90 games for the Houston Astros. He was gradually heating up, too, hitting .291 with seven long balls from June onward.
More from Call to the Pen
However, a strained right hamstring cut Valbuena’s promising season short in late July. Had he finished out the year at the pace he was maintaining, he likely would have generated significantly more interest on the free agent market. As it is, he still got a multi-year deal from the Angels, although the specific financial details aren’t known at this time.
If Valbuena can pick up where he left off, the Angels would have to be pleased with the addition. While he’s never been much of an asset with the glove at any position, his offensive production over the last few seasons remains intriguing. If he can stay healthy, he might be a solid lineup piece as Los Angeles attempts to boost the support around franchise cornerstone Mike Trout.
Valbuena will also provide some insurance beyond this year for Espinosa and Escobar, who are eligible for free agency at the end of the season. If one or both leave, Valbuena can slide in at either position for 2018.
If Espinosa can bounce back on his new club, the Halos could have the makings of a decent infield mix. While Espinosa’s batting average and OBP sagged to .209 and .306 last year, respectively, he still belted 24 homers. Escobar doesn’t bring much power, but he slashed a respectable .309/.365/.403 over the last two seasons. Simmons is one of the game’s best defenders at shortstop, and Cron racked up 16 home runs and 69 RBI in 116 games last year.
The Angels are hoping to start making better use of Trout’s prime years this season by contending in the AL West. They just signed Kole Calhoun to a three-year extension in an effort to keep something of a core together over the next few seasons. It will certainly be a challenge, though. The Astros and Seattle Mariners have made some notable improvements, and the defending division champion Texas Rangers should be formidable once again as well. L.A. will hope that Valbuena can be a small but important piece of the puzzle.