Angels bulk up infield with trade for Urshela

November 18th, 2022

ANAHEIM -- The Angels have been looking to add to their overall depth this offseason and did just that on Friday, acquiring third baseman from the Twins in exchange for Minor League right-hander Alejandro Hidalgo.

Urshela, 31, gives the Angels a veteran third baseman who also has some experience at shortstop and first base. He’s coming off a solid year, as he batted .285/.338/.429 with 13 homers, 27 doubles and 64 RBIs in a career-high 144 games with Minnesota last season. General manager Perry Minasian said he sees Urshela as an everyday player who can split time between third base and first base, while also seeing occasional time at shortstop, second base or the outfield.

Angels receive: 3B Gio Urshela
Twins receive: RHP Alejandro Hidalgo

“You’ve heard me say this a lot this offseason, but it’s about depth and protecting ourselves in a lot of different spots,” Minasian said. “He’s a really good player. He can do a lot of different things. Obviously, his natural position is third base, but we feel like he can play first. He can stand in at second and can even fill in at short. So just the ability to add a player of this caliber to our group of infielders we currently have, we thought it was the right move.”

The Angels were hurt by a lack of quality depth last year, as they couldn’t withstand injuries to third baseman Anthony Rendon and outfielder Mike Trout. First baseman Jared Walsh also dealt with thoracic outlet syndrome all season, which limited his production and led to season-ending surgery in early September. Urshela can now move around the infield and fill that need, while also playing third when needed for Rendon, who has had a history of injuries since joining the club in 2020.

Urshela, a Colombia native, is headed into his last year of arbitration and was a non-tender candidate because he’s due for a raise next season. He earned $6.55 million last year and is likely to earn more than $9 million this season. But it’s another indication the Angels are willing to spend this offseason after also signing lefty Tyler Anderson on a three-year deal worth $39 million earlier this week.

Urshela is also familiar with manager Phil Nevin and hitting coaches Marcus Thames and Phil Plantier from his time with the Yankees from 2019-21. Minasian said he heard nothing but good things from the coaching staff about Urshela, who is considered a solid presence in the clubhouse as well.

“There’s history there,” Minasian said. “When you have a manager and a hitting coach that have been around him, there’s a huge comfort level when you’re in this chair. It had a huge impact on pulling the trigger on this one.”

Urshela is known for his above-average defense, but his addition also helps the Angels add some contact to their lineup. The club led the Majors in strikeouts last year, while Urshela made strides in that regard, cutting his strikeout rate from 24.7 percent to 17.4 percent and making contact on 81 percent of his swings. For context, the Angels struck out in 25.7 percent of their plate appearances with a contact rate of 75.1 percent.

“One of the things we’ve talked about is that we led the league in strikeouts, and we’re trying to find more contact,” Minasian said. “This is a player that has the ability to put the ball in play and produce and shows versatility.”

To make room for Urshela on the 40-man roster, left-hander was designated for assignment. Diaz, 26, has posted a 3.49 ERA in 28 1/3 innings over the last two seasons with the Angels.

Hidalgo, meanwhile, made 10 starts for Single-A Inland Empire last year, posting a 4.62 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 39 innings. The 19-year-old, who was ranked as the Angels' No. 22 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has a career 4.64 ERA in two seasons in the Minors, with 89 strikeouts in 66 innings.

“It’s always tough to trade young players, especially a great kid with a good arm and a bright future,” Minasian said. “But at the end of the day, you have to give to get. I think he’s going to have a great career, and hopefully this trade works out for both sides.”