SoCal native Espinosa embraces new team

Angels second baseman ready to return to familiar position

SoCal native Espinosa embraces new team

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Danny Espinosa knew his days in Washington were numbered after the Nationals acquired outfielder Adam Eaton from the White Sox in December. Eaton is slated to play center field for the Nationals, meaning Trea Turner would move back to his natural shortstop position and displace Espinosa.

"The second they traded for Eaton, I knew I was gone," Espinosa said Friday as Angels position players reported to Tempe Diablo Stadium. "I had to be gone. There's no way I could have stayed there."

Three days later, the Angels acquired Espinosa from the Nationals in exchange for Minor League right-handers Austin Adams and Kyle McGowin. Espinosa, who grew up in nearby Santa Ana as an Angels fan and attended Long Beach State, said he viewed the trade as a homecoming and welcomed the opportunity to fill the club's hole at second base.

"I was excited as could be to get to the Angels," said Espinosa, who will earn $5.43 million in 2017 and will be a free agent at the end of the season. "The position I was left in in Washington, I was ready to get out of there. I think time had run its course there. I was happy to be here, happy to come home and see the opportunity that this team has to win."

The switch-hitting Espinosa batted .209 with a career-high 24 home runs and 72 RBIs in 157 games for the Nationals in 2016. He'll add some much-needed power from the left side as well as a steady glove up the middle. While Espinosa started at shortstop for Washington last year, he has extensive experience playing second.

Espinosa will team up with two-time Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons to give the Angels one of the better double-play combinations in baseball. Espinosa is familiar with Simmons' defensive prowess after competing against him in the National League East for several seasons when Simmons was with the Braves.

"Defensively, up the middle, it should be a lot of fun," Espinosa said. "There should be a lot of double plays. Watching him play, obviously he's a very good shortstop. I had played short last year, but before that I played second for five years, so it's just going right back to what I know as well on the other side. I'm excited. It'll help clean things up."

Espinosa and Simmons won't have a full spring to learn to work together, as Simmons will leave Angels camp next month to play for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, but manager Mike Scioscia said he believes the two veteran infielders have enough experience to adjust to each other quickly.

"We're going to get a lot of work in early, and then Andrelton is going to leave for the WBC," Scioscia said. "But [first-base coach] Alfredo [Griffin] was just going through some things yesterday, and I think it's going to make some things we do on the defensive side easier. I think that those guys are going to show the range and the athleticism that we haven't had there in a while. So we're excited about that."

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.