TEMPE, Ariz. — The Los Angeles Angels are trying to fill a hole at second base that’s dragged down their offense the past couple of years.
Enter Ian Kinsler.
Kinsler is part of a revamped Angels’ infield that will include Zack Cozart, an All-Star last year in Cincinnati, at third base while usual designated hitter Albert Pujols is expected to get more time in the field at first base.
The Angels’ second base position has been one of the least productive in baseball the past two years.
In 2016, the Angels went with Johnny Giavotella and Cliff Pennington; the pair combined for a minus-1.6 WAR, among the worst in baseball.
In 2017, the Angels went with slick-fielding Danny Espinosa at second. But he hit just .162 in 77 games and had 91 strikeouts in 228 at-bats. They also tried Pennington and Kaleb Cowart.
The position produced such miniscule combined numbers as a .206 average, 14 homers and a .274 OBP. They acquired veteran Brandon Phillips late to try to push them to a wild-card spot but fell short.
So the Angels gave up two minor league prospects in swinging a trade with Detroit, where Kinsler had an off-year, batting .236 with 22 homers, 52 RBIs and a .725 OPS. But he is a four-time All Star with 234 career homers and a .273 batting average, and won an AL Gold Glove in 2016.
Kinsler also has plenty of experience playing for championship-contending teams from his years with Texas.
“Ian is a winner,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s a gamer. He brings an intensity that’s going to be good for all of our guys.”
“He’s a talented, experienced player. He runs the bases very well. He knows his way around the league,” he said.
The Angels, Kinsler said, are “pretty comparable” to his Rangers’ teams in that, “This lineup is extremely deep.”
“Defensively, this should be the best team I’ve played on. That’s going to be a lot of fun, try to save the pitchers some pitches and some outs,” he said.
Kinsler has the advantage of working with Andrelton Simmons, one of baseball’s best defensive shortstops, on plays up the middle.
“He makes it look easy,” Kinsler said. “It’s a lot of fun to play with a guy like that.”
NOTES: The Angels are lowering the home-run height in right field from 18 feet to 8 feet. Angels officials said the new marker makes the park more “equitable. Tim Mead, the team’s vice president for communications, said the new home-run boundary was made in part because of a new out-of-town scoreboard but also because of “philosophical changes.” The Angels, of course, are introducing Japanese pitcher-slugger Shohei Ohtani this season. He is a right-handed pitcher but a left-handed batter. … Scioscia and pitcher Matt Shoemaker, the Angels’ representative to the players’ union, said they are OK with limitations on mound visits designed to speed up the game. Shoemaker indicated that mound visits will now focus more on strategy; visits designed to calm a pitcher during a rough inning may be sacrificed. … Scioscia sounded more enthusiastic about the potential to speed the game by emphasizing a reduction in time between innings. “When I played, if you made the last out, you had to hurry to get your (catching) equipment on if you wanted to throw the ball to second base. Now it seems like some things have gotten away from us.”… With the Angels going with a six-man pitching rotation, they will have seven pitchers in the bullpen, leaving a small bench for position players, Scioscia indicated. This will be somewhat offset by Ohtani both pitching and hitting, he said. “Our roster is going to be unique,” he said.