Danny Espinosa started 157 games at shortstop for the Nationals in 2016, but his relationship with the team became strained this offseason when Washington acquired Adam Eaton, signaling a move for Trea Turner to shortstop. Washington then sent the disgruntled veteran to the Angels. On the field, 2016 was a mixed bag for Espinosa. He hit just .209/.306/.378, but set career highs in home runs and RBI. Espinosa has never been a good hitter for average, with his career high of .247 coming in 2012, so his decrease to .209 was not totally unexpected. He figures to move to second base for the Angels, with Andrelton Simmons having shortstop locked down. Don't expect Espinosa to become something he's not -- he probably won't hit for even a decent average next season -- but at least his playing time should be fairly secure. It's not like the Angels have many quality alternatives.
Espinosa went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Saturday's loss to the Dodgers, bringing his Cactus League batting average down to .105 in 19 at-bats. The Angels brought Espinosa in from Washington to help alleviate their weakness at the keystone, but he has struggled to find his groove with his new club. The 29-year-old has never been a great contact hitter, striking out at least 25 percent of the time in all seven of his major league seasons. Despite his struggles, Espinosa will start the year as the Angels' everyday second baseman. He will undoubtedly be a drag on batting average, but the switch-hitting infielder has 20-plus home run potential over the course of a whole season.
Espinosa agreed to a one-year, $5.425 million contract with the Angels on Thursday, avoiding arbitration, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. The former Washington National will see close to a $3 million pay raise with his new club in 2017. Espinosa had a disappointing final season with the Nationals, slashing .209/.306/.378 with 174 strikeouts. He did, however, mash 24 home runs and drove in 72 runs. Espinosa figures to be the Angels' primary second baseman, which is a position that the club struggled to find production from last year.
Espinosa was traded to the Angels on Saturday, Josh Norris of Baseball America reports. Espinosa will head to Los Angeles after playing 779 games with the Nationals over parts of the last seven seasons with the Nationals. He played shortstop in Washington, but with Andrelton Simmons playing that position for the Angels, Espinosa will presumably move to second base. Espinosa hit just .209 last season, but did set career highs with 24 home runs and 72 RBI over 157 games.
Espinosa went 1-for-4 with a two-run homer and a walk in Friday's 6-5 extra-inning loss to the Pirates. His 423-foot shot in the second drove in Ryan Zimmerman, making it a 3-0 Nationals lead at the time. Espinosa has six RBI over his last four games, but is only slashing .131/.206/.295 overall in September. However, his power and RBI numbers have seen a resurgence in a season where he's played his highest number of games since 2012, with his 23 round-trippers and 69 RBI both serving as career highs.
Espinosa powered the Nationals' offense on Monday, going 1-for-2 with a three-run homer in a 4-3 loss to the Marlins. The blast was Espinosa's 22nd of the year, but just his second in the last 15 games, a period over which he's hit an abysmal .146/.212/.292 while striking out 21 times in 48 at-bats. The 22 home runs set a new career-high for Espinosa, although his .384 slugging percentage is indicative of some luck in that home run tally and a potential reversion to the mean in 2017.