The Angels acquired outfielder Cameron Maybin from the Detroit Tigers for minor league right-hander Victor Alcantara on Thursday, filling for the first time since Josh Hamilton’s relapse and subsequent departure their gaping hole in left field.
General Manager Billy Eppler said Maybin will play the position regularly in 2017. Calling back on his start in professional sports as an intern for the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Eppler said Maybin fits the scheme he envisions the Angels employing.
“In baseball, the version of the scheme is two-fold: the ballpark, and how your manager wants to manage the game,” Eppler said. “What does he like to do? Does he like to move guys? In addressing that, it’s nice to have Cameron.”
Eppler enumerated the games his team will play in spacious outfields next season: 81 at Angel Stadium, nine each in Oakland and Seattle, three apiece in Cleveland and Detroit, and so on.
“Because of that, run prevention is of the utmost importance to us,” he said. “Taking balls that fall in the outfield away is just as important as hitting.”
Eppler also praised Maybin’s plate patience and baserunning ability. The 29-year-old experienced a resurgent 2016 season following a turbulent start to his career. Playing center field exclusively and playing it well according to advanced defensive metrics, he hit .315 with a .363 on-base percentage and a .418 slugging percentage. But he played only 94 games. He broke his wrist when hit by a pitch in his first at-bat of spring training, then missed much of August because of a thumb sprain.
Maybin will be paid $9 million in 2017 via a club option the Angels exercised Thursday. It’s the last season of a five-year contract he signed with San Diego in March 2012, a deal that became a burden until his rebound 2016.
In 2015, with $125-million-man Hamilton in Texas, Angels left fielders were the 10th-worst in the last century in terms of OPS. Then hired and working within a constrained budget, Eppler tried to fill the hole by platooning veterans Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry. It did not work: The 10 men who appeared as Angels in left field in 2016 logged an even-worse OPS, .584, tied for eighth-worst in the last 100 years.
Alcantara, 23, logged a 4.30 earned-run average in 111 innings for double-A Arkansas last season, moving to the bullpen in August. Overall, he struck out 79 hitters and walked 57. A hard thrower, he has long been one of the few prospects in the Angels’ system with standout potential, but he has consistently walked too many men.
“He’s got youth, he’s got power in his delivery, he’s got a good deal of upside,” Eppler said of Alcantara. “He’s going to realize his potential.”
Eppler’s next order of business will be deciding on Yunel Escobar’s $7-million club option for 2017. The team has until Monday to exercise it and is likely to do so.
“I have some resources to continue to operate,” Eppler said when asked about the budget.
His biggest transaction last winter, acquiring shortstop Andrelton Simmons, was for the future as much as the present. Simmons remains under contract for four more years. The move for Maybin, a pending free agent, is more urgent.
“It shows our thinking,” Eppler said. “That thinking is to improve, and put a club out on the field that can make some moves. We haven’t hid those intentions. We’re going to do what we can to signal that to our fans.”