Once a talented defender and capable power hitter with a penchant for swinging and missing, Danny Espinosa’s flaws amplified as an Angel. The strikeouts became too large a burden to bear.
Acquired in December to wield his powerful arm at second base and hit homers, the 30-year-old Orange County native slowly lost his spot while becoming one of the easiest men in the major leagues to strike out. His .162 batting average, .237 on-base percentage and .276 slugging percentage were all league-wide worsts among players who batted at least 200 times.
Late Saturday, the Angels told him his time was up: They were letting him go. On Sunday morning, they made it official, designating Espinosa for assignment. He’s off their roster, and they have seven days to formally get rid of him. Regardless, they owe him nearly $2.4 million for the rest of this season.
“Right now, we’re at a point to look through some other avenues to see what’s going to happen at second base,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think Danny brought some good things that helped us. But on the offensive side, obviously, his struggles were obvious.”
Scioscia said the decision was not a product of the club’s inept offense.
“Even if everything was working on our team and the struggles were as big as they were with Danny, I think you’d have to do something,” he said. “If there’s a whole offense, it can absorb some shortcomings from a player, whether it’s a pitcher in the rotation or a player in the lineup, but it still just kind of masks the issue.”
Espinosa started 18 of the Angels’ first 19 games. His opportunities then waned as his struggles continued. At May’s end, he was hitting .148. He earned only three starts this month after the Angels acquired Nick Franklin from Milwaukee for a player to be named or cash.
Asked why the Angels concluded Espinosa was no longer worthy of trial, Scioscia said he believed the player “got a great opportunity.”
Now, the Angels will platoon Franklin and veteran utilityman Cliff Pennington. Scioscia stood far away from expressing long-term confidence in the duo.
“The one thing they’ll bring, we feel, is some on-base percentage, at the least,” the manager said. “We’re gonna try to look at some other things to see if there can’t be something done on the offensive side.”
Neither man offers defensive capabilities close to Espinosa; Franklin’s last two teams transitioned him into the outfield. But his current club believes he can play passable defense.
A trade to fill the hole is a possibility, as is a callup of former top prospect Kaleb Cowart, who has primarily played second base in recent weeks.
In his four starts since returning from a drug suspension, triple-A left-hander John Lamb has “opened some eyes,” Scioscia said. Lamb has a 4.91 earned-run average over 22 innings. … Right-handed reliever Andrew Bailey is on rehab assignment with the Arizona League Angels, working his way back from continued shoulder trouble. … Scioscia said he will revert to a five-man rotation by July 29th “at the latest.” Right-hander Alex Meyer is likely to rejoin the team to become that fifth man.