The Los Angeles Angels are sick of wasting Mike Trout’s prime. The team continued its strong offseason Friday, picking up former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart on a three-year deal, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. The deal is worth $38 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
The 32-year-old Cozart broke out in a big way in 2017, hitting .297/.385/.548, with 24 home runs, over 507 plate appearances. That performance was enough to send the veteran to his first All-Star game.
Prior to 2017, Cozart’s main draw was his solid defense at short. That won’t be needed with the Angels. With Andrelton Simmons already at the position, and Ian Kinsler now at second, it’s assumed Cozart will play third base. That should be a new challenge for him, as Cozart has never played third base in the majors or minors.
Cozart marks the third major move made by the Angels already this offseason. The team kicked things off by being the surprising winner of the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. They then solidified second base by trading for Kinsler. Cozart gives them yet another solid weapon that inches them closer to the postseason, especially if he can retain his offensive gains from 2017.
Whether he can do so is an open question. In his first six seasons in the majors, Cozart hit just .246/.289/.385. His breakout in 2017 can be traced to two big improvements. Cozart was far more patient at the plate. He not only saw his walk rate spike, but he was more selective with his swings. His swing rate decreased almost seven percent.
But when he saw a fastball, Cozart took advantage. He clobbered the pitch last season, hitting .283 with a .613 slugging percentage. Cozart hit 15 of his 24 home runs on fastballs, according to Brooks Baseball.
Cozart probably doesn’t have to produce at that level to justify the deal. As long as his bat doesn’t completely collapse, he should provide enough offensive and defensive value to help the Angels in the short-term.
For a team that came up just short of the postseason in 2017, that’s all they need.
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