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Veteran infielder Danny Espinosa took a stand on Saturday, electing to skip the team’s annual WinterFest event in protest of his assumed role with the team. Hours later, general manager Mike Rizzo took a stand of his own, sending Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for right-handed pitchers Kyle McGowin and Austin Adams.
Baseball America’s Josh Norris was the first to report a deal has been completed. It honestly took a few minutes for the news to sink in, as many were still digesting the news of Espinosa’s discontent. Clearly, Rizzo isn’t one to entertain or tolerate a disgruntled employee. He acted quickly, ending a short but contentious standoff by sending Espinosa to a team that should provide regular playing time.
And let there be no doubt playing time is at the heart of the issue.
Espinosa’s reported unhappiness stemmed directly from Washington’s acquisition of center fielder Adam Eaton, who to his credit was at WinterFest on Saturday. Eaton’s presence will lead to a reshuffling of Washington’s lineup and defensive alignment. As it stands, Eaton is expected to play every day in center field, which will send Rookie of the Year runner-up Trea Turner to shortstop. As a result, Espinosa was ticketed for the bench behind Turner, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon, who are locked in at second base and third base respectively.
The utility role is one Espinosa has handled before. In fact, he played all four infield positions and left field before settling in at shortstop last season. However, at age 29 (and with two years left until free agency), it’s understandable if he’d prefer a more stable opportunity in his effort to establish his value.
That’s what he’ll get now in Los Angeles. Espinosa joins Cameron Maybin as new additions to an Angels offense that manufactured little production beyond Mike Trout and Albert Pujols last season.
They still need more, but Espinosa offers nice upside as a switch-hitting shortstop who connected for 24 home runs last season. If he brings up the .209 batting average and cuts down on the strikeouts (174 in 2016), the Angels will probably be happy they added him.
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