The LA Angels are searching for a second baseman to replace last year’s acquisition of Brandon Phillips. There are options on the free agent market, but a turning point for the franchise could come from a trade with the Chicago Cubs for Javier Baez.
Second base has been a dark hole for the LA Angels since the trade in December 2014 that sent Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers for Andrew Heaney. In 2017, offensively, the position was an absolute nightmare. Team rankings last season had the Angels’ second base position at 28th in AVG, 29th in OBP, and 30th in SLG as well as OPS.
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The only player on the roster capable of becoming the starter at second base is Kaleb Cowart, but he disappointed for the 3rd consecutive season after getting called up. Also, the trade that brought Brandon Phillips over gave the sense that Billy Eppler does not see Cowart as a future starter for the team.
Why would the Chicago Cubs even think about trading Javier Baez? He is coming off his best season, with career highs in home runs (23), RBIs (75), and SLG (.480). He also played in 145 games for the Cubs, and played solid defense up the middle. Baez only made 4 errors in over 503 innings at second base, and also saved 5 runs in 2017.
Well, after Chicago was knocked out of the playoffs by the Dodgers, Theo Epstein stated that the team would be open to trading some major league talent if the right deal presents itself. He went on to say that the team has great depth in the field, making it obvious that a trade would involve a position player. The Cubs are looking to improve the pitching staff, and Baez should be available, considering Chicago has Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ capable of playing second base.
Javier Baez would bring stability to the Angels at second base. Offensively, he will bring power, speed, and a presence to the lineup. He is soon-to-be 25 years old, will not become a free agent until after the 2021 season, and eligible for arbitration in 2019.
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He is known as a defensive magician in the middle, providing flashy plays and energy that would make him a fan-favorite in Anaheim. The biggest thing he needs to work on is his strikeout rate (28.3%). That number is way too high for a middle infielder with that talent he possesses, but fixing this would in turn provide a better on-base percentage and batting average.
He will be able to learn from Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, and his old assistant hitting coach, Eric Hinskie, who has recently been hired as the Angels’ hitting coach. Those three will be able to help Baez hone in abilities at the plate. He was also compared to Manny Ramirez from Chicago Cubs’ Manager Joe Maddon, which shows the type of upside Baez can provide in the future if he puts all his tools together. If the Angels pull of a trade, Baez would become a building block for Los Angeles, form one of the top middle infield combos both offensively and defensively, and be heading into the prime of his career.
In order to acquire Baez, it seems like the Angels would surely need to offer a Major League rotation piece. The Cubs want a proven arm that has shown success in the league, that can come in and provide a stable part of the staff, and become part of the future.
When looking at the Angels’ pitching staff, Matt Shoemaker looks like an interesting option that could make a deal come to fruition. The Angels also have intriguing arms like Andrew Heaney, J.C. Ramirez, and Parker Bridwell, but all three have not shown success for an extensive period of time. The Angels would also likely have to throw in a mid-level prospect to go along with a rotation arm, but I do not believe that would be a deal-breaker.
Trading for Javier Baez would give the Angels an impact player at second base. Javier is young, plays great defense, and has an improving bat. With the proper steps, he can become a superstar in the league. Baez is an ideal candidate for Billy Eppler and the Angels’ front office to consider, and would be another step forward this offseason. The Angels are built to win now, and Javier Baez has the experience, the charisma, and the tools to help take the team back to the playoffs in 2018.