The Angels acquired infielder Danny Espinosa from the Washington Nationals for two prospects on Saturday, plugging a gaping hole at second base with a short-term solution.
Washington will receive minor leaguers Austin Adams and Kyle McGowin. Neither 25-year-old was considered one of the Angels’ top pitching prospects, although the Angels added Adams to their 40-man roster last month.
Espinosa, 29, has experience at second base and several other positions, including shortstop, where he started last season for the Nationals.
But when Washington acquired outfielder Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, they planned to push center fielder Trea Turner back to his natural shortstop position, and that made Espinosa a luxury.
The Washington Post reported he was unhappy with Eaton’s acquisition. Espinosa did not attend the Nationals’ long-scheduled festival for fans on Saturday in Washington.
Espinosa grew up an Angels fan and attended Santa Ana Mater Dei and Long Beach State. A switch-hitter, he fits the club’s need for a position player capable of matching up favorably against right-handers. His offensive past is checkered; he has twice hit more than 20 homers in a season, including in 2016, and has demonstrated a remarkable talent for being hit by pitches, but he’s regularly logged one of the highest strikeout rates in the sport.
For his career, he’s hit .226 with a .302 on-base percentage and .388 slugging mark. Scouts and advanced metrics each grade him positively on defense, where he was rated well even at shortstop last season. In 81 games at second base in 2015, he committed only one error.
He’ll be a free agent after his final year of arbitration in 2017, during which he’s projected to earn about $5 million, per MLBTradeRumors.com.
Adams, a 2012 eighth-round pick, struck out 61 men in 41 1/3 relief innings at the double-A level last season, but walked 24 and recorded a 3.05 earned-run average. McGowin, a 2013 fifth-round selection, had a 6.11 ERA in 22 triple-A starts after an early-season promotion.
After trading the steady Howie Kendrick for pitching prospect Andrew Heaney two years ago, the Angels opened the last two seasons with Johnny Giavotella as their starting second baseman. A poor defender, he produced improbable hit after hit in high-leverage situations in 2015, but could not repeat the performance in 2016, and the club discarded him in August. He’s a free agent.
The Angels and Nationals made a similar trade a year ago Saturday, swapping right-handers Trevor Gott and Michael Brady for third baseman Yunel Escobar.