The Angels have been hunting around for a third baseman. Today, they found one by signing a shortstop.
Source: Cozart deal with #Angels is for three years, $38M. LAA just announced signing.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 15, 2017
Zack Cozart’s timing of his breakout was a bit unfortunate, as most contenders are already set at SS, so he found his home with a winning team by agreeing to play next to one of the few guys who can legitimately push Cozart off the position. Andrelton Simmons and Cozart playing side by side is going to be a pretty special left side defense combination.
That said, any time there’s a position switch, we don’t know exactly how the skills are going to translate. While Cozart has been an excellent shortstop and likely will be excellent at third as well, there could be some diminishing returns here, with his range less well utilized at third than it was at second. And I will continue to have some reservations about how much of his offensive breakout should be counted on, given that Cozart had the third-largest gap between his wOBA and his xwOBA in MLB last year.
Given that offense is a bit more expected at third base, Cozart might end up closer to a Chase Headley type than Angels fans are hoping for, though younger Chase Headley was still a perfectly solid player, and 3/$38M for that kind of production is just fine.
And realistically, if Kinsler gets hurt, this gives them some 2B depth, as Cozart should shift to the other middle infield spot, and then they could play Luis Valbuena at 3B again. So this does give them some protection at both middle infield spots while also upgrading 3B. It’s a nice little signing at this price, and should help set the Angels up as legitimate Wild Card contenders. They just shouldn’t expect to slug .550 ever again.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.