Kolten Wong’s $12.5 million option has been declined by the St. Louis Cardinals, making him a free agent. The Angels have been described as active in talks with the 5’7 second baseman.
With the departure of shortstop Andrelton Simmons, the Angels have a spot to fill in their middle infield. They can fill the position internally, which doesn’t seem likely considering now they have shown interest in free agent options, specifically Kolten Wong.
Wong, who has spent the entirety of his 8-year career with the Cardinals, will enter the free agent market this offseason. Ironically, he has been considered the second base version of Simmons; an elite defender with a league-average bat. In 2020, he recorded a slash line of .265/.350/.326 with 5 XBH and 16 RBI in 181 at-bats. Wong doesn’t hit the ball hard either, his 0.6% barrel rate puts him in the bottom 1% of the league, his hard hit rate of 26.6% puts him in the bottom 6% of the league, and his 86.5mph exit velocity puts him in the bottom 15% of the league.
The lack of ability to hit for extra bases is concerning, however, this past season was a bit of a down year for Wong in that department, as in 2019 he hit 25 doubles, 4 triples, and 11 HR, which added to a .423 slugging percentage. These numbers are nothing special, but it shows that Angels fans can definitely expect more from Wong than what he showed in 2020.
While Wong will never win a batting title or be crowned the home run king, one aspect of his bat that is elite is his proficiency to avoid striking out. In 2020, his K% was 14.4%, which puts him in the top 10% of the league. In fact, over the course of his career, he has been eerily consistent in that regard. His career best was 14.4%, which he recorded in both 2016 and 2020, whereas his career worst was 15.5%. With the game trending toward high power and high strikeout numbers, it would be a nice change of pace to have someone like Wong in the lineup.
Wong’s offensive profile is nothing really to get excited about. However, the defensive side of his game is where he truly shines. In 2019, he had a 5.2 UZR which was 21st in the entire league and 1st among second baseman. He also led all second basemen with 19 defensive runs saved, which puts him at 8th in the league. For his defensive excellence, he was awarded the National League gold glove for keystone.
If the Angels in fact sign Wong, he would be the starting second baseman immediately, which would slide David Fletcher to shortstop. Wong would be an ideal fit to replace Simmons, as the Halos wouldn’t lose the defensive prowess that Simmons provided. Wong may even be the better option, as he is a year younger than Simmons, and as a left-handed hitter, would provide a bit more of a balance to the Angel’s right-handed dominant lineup.
Personally, I wouldn’t hate the move. I have a bit of a bias toward offense-first players, but I cannot deny that Wong would be a good fit. This would be especially true if the Angels sign Marcus Stroman. In a recent article, I talked about Stroman’s proficiency for inducing ground balls. With someone like that on the team, it is important to have a rock solid infield, and a Wong signing would provide just that.