Power-hitting outfielders may not fit Angels' plan, but Alex Gordon might

Power-hitting outfielders may not fit Angels' plan, but Alex Gordon might
Kansas City outfielder Alex Gordon celebrates after winning a World Series game against the Mets. Could Gordon fill the Angels outfield needs? (Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

There are three attractive power-hitting free-agent outfielders — Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton and Chris Davis — available even after the Chicago Cubs took Jason Heyward off the board with an eight-year, $184-million deal Friday.

Angels General Manager Billy Eppler said he is still "having conversations" with agents for the sluggers, "and we're kicking all the options around," but he also thinks he can improve the offense with more players like Yunel Escobar, the third baseman acquired from the Washington Nationals on Thursday.


Escobar, 33, hit .314 with a .375 on-base percentage, nine homers, 25 doubles and 56 runs batted in last season. He has a.350 career OBP and has not struck out more than 73 times in any of his nine big league seasons.

"One of the areas of focus is on getting guys who make contact, who have an idea of the strike zone," Eppler said. "We don't have to chase after multiple 20-plus homer guys. They're fun, and there's an attraction toward them.

"But you can have an above-average offense and not just have guys who sit and spin and lift the ball out of the park. You can still be a championship-caliber club without that."

Eppler's comment could be an indication the Angels are leaning more toward Alex Gordon in their pursuit of a left fielder. Gordon doesn't have the power of the Big Three, but his .348 career OBP is significantly better than Davis' (.330) and Cespedes' (.319) and he strikes out far less than Upton, who has a .352 OBP.

Gordon, who hit .271 with a .377 OBP, 13 homers and 48 runs batted in during an injury shortened 2015, is the best defender of the four. He bats left-handed, which would help balance a predominantly right-handed Angels lineup, and he would cost less than the other three.

Gordon was part of a World Series-champion Kansas City team that relied more on contact and speed than power. The Angels already have two prolific sluggers in Mike Trout (41 homers last season) and Albert Pujols (40), and Kole Calhoun added 26 homers. But they ranked 26th in baseball with a .307 OBP, which is one reason they ranked 20th in runs (661).

"Getting guys on base is always a good thing, especially around Calhoun, Trout and Pujols," Eppler said. "It gives you an opportunity to score some runs."

Escobar, traded for Angels reliever Trevor Gott and double-A pitcher Michael Brady, should help. He has hit in all nine spots but has made 535 of his 1,164 career starts batting leadoff or second, so he will be an option for Manager Mike Scioscia to pair with Calhoun at the top of the order.

"He can hit for average, he's selective at the plate, he can hit a handful of home runs, he makes a lot of contact, and he's solid on defense," Eppler said. "He can do a lot of things Mike [Scioscia] likes to do during the course of a game."

Escobar, who will be playing for his fifth team in seven years, also comes with baggage, though it's more the carry-on variety compared to the steamer trunk full of self-inflicted problems fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig hauls around.

A young Escobar clashed with Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox, who thought he was too flashy and lackadaisical at times. In 2012, while playing for Toronto, Escobar earned a three-game suspension for writing a homophobic slur in Spanish in his eye black.

Escobar apologized to reporters, saying it was meant as an inside joke and he didn't realize it could be offensive. He told the Washington Post last spring that he's "matured maybe 60, 70 percent as a person."

Did Escobar's reputation cause concern for the Angels?

"None whatsoever," Eppler said. "I had those conversations prior to acquisition with a number of different people on the playing and coaching side, people who have had him before, and we're good to go, man."


Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna