With only one proven second baseman available in free agency, the trade market at the position could resemble a game of musical chairs, Angels general manager Billy Eppler acknowledged Monday.
Surely, he will take a seat somewhere this winter. But between first and third base, where the Angels have another need, Eppler has far more options.
“I like left-handed bats,” Eppler said. “I have generally appreciated left-handed bats.”
That’s as far as Eppler would range into his preferences on the first day of Major League Baseball’s annual general managers meetings at the Waldorf Astoria. Early indications are that Eppler and the Angels will take initial aim at first base, where Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison and Yonder Alonso are available. The Angels are scheduled to meet Tuesday with Morrison’s agent.
Morrison, 30, is a left-handed hitter coming off a career year. Once rated highly as a prospect, he bounced between three teams in four years before he re-signed with Tampa Bay — for a modest $2.5 million — one week before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training last season.
He stands to quadruple that in annual salary on a contract spanning at least two years after hitting 38 home runs with a .868 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Morrison was particularly tough on right-handed pitching. His .905 OPS against right-handers was 37% better than the league average, according to one advanced metric.
The Angels have right-handed-hitting C.J. Cron and left-handed-hitting Luis Valbuena at first base, but Valbuena also can play third. The Angels could mix and match at either position.
“C.J. Cron is perfectly capable of taking the lion’s share of first-base games for us,” Eppler said. “We’ll continue to keep an open mind.”
The Angels are expected to keep their payroll at about $165 million. They already have committed about $135 million.
Earlier this month, Angels third-base coach Ron Roenicke became the bench coach for the Boston Red Sox. To replace him, the Angels will shift bench coach Dino Ebel to third-base coach, a role he previously held for eight seasons. Eppler will conduct interviews for the bench-coach position when he returns home from the GM meetings.
One Petit is not enough
The Angels plan to meet with representatives for free-agent reliever Yusmeiro Petit.
In February, Eppler plucked Petit out of obscurity and signed him to a minor league contract. The 32-year-old right-hander improbably became the club’s most valuable pitcher and is now seeking a multiyear contract.
Petit led all major league relievers in innings (87 1/3) and made one spot start. The Angels value that flexibility, and Eppler is hoping to build a bullpen of relievers who are similarly versatile.