The Angels have a new infielder on their roster.
Gio Urshela, who has played third base and shortstop, was traded to the Angels on Friday from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for minor league pitcher Alejandro Hidalgo. The Angels designated pitcher Jhonathan Diaz for assignment to make room for Urshela on the 40-man roster.
By signing Urshela, the Angels have addressed at least one of the big problems they had for much of last season: league-level depth at third base and shortstop, with the ability to also play first base and a proven offense.
Amid the various injuries during the 2022 season, the Angels often found themselves without a viable third baseman, sometimes searching for a first baseman, and late in the season, losing one of their best arms.
The roster, as it currently stands, will have a healthy Anthony Rendon back at third base. Third base is Urshela’s best position, but the Angels plan to use him as an everyday player. General manager Perry Minasian hinted that they plan to use Urshela as a first baseman, but by acquiring him they still add to the depth those other needs they had in 2022.
“We’re protecting ourselves in a lot of different spots,” Minasian said on a Zoom conference call after the Angels announced the trade. “He is a very good player. … The ability to add a player of that caliber and add him to the group of infielders that we have right now, we thought was the right move.”
The Angels haven’t finished upgrading their roster. Minasian reiterated Friday that they are still trying to address the lack of depth in the outfield.
Last season with the Twins, Urshela had career highs in hits (143) and walks (41) in 144 games, the most he played in a season. Urshela finished the season hitting .285 with a .767 on-base-plus-slugging rate. He had an especially good second half, hitting .317, which ranked 11th in the American League.
“We drove the baseball in hits [last season] and we’re trying to find more contact,” Minasian said, “and he’s a player that has the ability to put the ball in play and produce offensively and show some versatility.”
Urshela, who hails from Cartagena, Colombia, signed with Cleveland in 2015 as an international free agent. But his breakout year was 2019, as a member of the New York Yankees, who got a chance to prove himself after former New York third baseman Miguel Andujar went down early in the season with a torn right labrum. .
Urshela that season would become known as part of the Yankees’ B-Bombers, a lineup and roster made up mostly of call-ups and players previously demoted to the bench after many of the 2019 starters went down with a series of injuries. He was impressive enough to become the third baseman the following season.
Urshela has worked with Angels hitting coach Phil Nevin and new Angels hitting coach Marcus Thames – both of whom were on the Yankees’ coaching staff at the time and were key figures in Urshela’s development in New York.
Both Nevin and Thames vouched for Urshela when Minasian mentioned his name as a player they were looking at.
“Obviously there’s history there. … When I mentioned his name [to Nevin], his voice changed to a degree,” Minasian said. “He was really excited about the opportunity to get him.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.