The LA Angels have two positions that seemed to be a revolving door every season in recent years: second base and third base. Yesterday I profiled the Angels options at second base now it’s time to look at third base.
Fifteen years ago the Angels had a solid third baseman in Troy Glaus. He had a very good glove, strong arms and could hit for power to the tune of 35-45 home runs per season. Since Glaus walked away via free agency after the 2004 season the Angels had a void to fill at the hot corner.
For five seasons Chone Figgins who was more of a middle infielder manned the hot corner admirably for the Angels. His arm and glove were adequate and he was a catalyst wherever Mike Scioscia put him in the line-up however he was not your prototypical third baseman. David Freese, Alberto Callaspo, and Yunel Escobar all manned the hot corner for two seasons a piece and all three did a decent job, with Freese being a part of the 2014 AL Western Division Championship team. However, none of them lasted that long and their second seasons were not as good as their first which led to the Angels looking elsewhere when their contracts expired after two seasons.
Last season the Angels signed Zack Cozart to a three-year contract worth close to 40 million dollars and they thought they would be set for a few seasons. Cozart unfortunately tore the labrum in his shoulder in June and was lost for the season. Enter the revolving door situation again. Luis Valbuena and Jefry Marte got the first shot at the hot corner and did not fare so well this led to the call-up of prospect David Fletcher. Fletcher was who like Chone Figgins was over 10 years prior is more of a middle infielder, but he performed admirably planning third base for the first time in his professional career.
Later in the summer the Angels also called up another top prospect Taylor Ward when Ian Kinsler was traded away to Boston and Fletcher switched to second base to fill the hole he left. Kaleb Cowart also came up once again and was part of the September mix in the infield without much success at the plate.
So with this being said these are the in-house options for third base for 2019. The Angels are hoping for a full recovery for Zack Cozart and that he produces the way he did in his final season in Cincinnati in 2017. In 58 games for the Angels Cozart hit .219 with a .296 OBP hitting five homers and driving in 19 runs. Not a very good statline for the money the Angels spent on him.
After Cozart the Angels have the up and coming Taylor Ward who hit .178 with six homers and 15 RBIs including a dramatic end of the season walk-off 9th inning two-run homer to send Mike Scioscia out a winner in his last game as manager. In addition to Ward, Fletcher could also play third if needed although he will most likely be at second base for the Angels when the season starts. Kaleb Cowart could be in the mix but probably not as a starter. If Cozart is healthy and performs things will go the way Angels GM Billy Eppler envisioned when he signed Cozart after the 2017 season.
The Angels could also move Cozart to second base to make it easier for his injured shoulder to recover with a shorter throw at second base and then Taylor Ward and Fletcher could man the hot corner instead. The wild-card option is for the Angels to either make a trade or sign someone in free agency. Many Angel fans are hoping that the Angels pursue Josh Donaldson who is the most intriguing free agent at third base. However, more than likely Donaldson will command a higher salary than the Angels are willing to pay. There are some less desirable options the Angels could pursue Chase Headley and Danny Valencia, but again are they willing to pay for those with Zack Cozart under contract for 13 million per year over the next two seasons.
This will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next few months, but whatever happens hopefully third base will be a position of strength rather than weakness.