ANAHEIM — Looking for more depth this offseason, The Angels did so on Friday by acquiring third baseman Gio Urshela from the Twins in exchange for Minor League righthander Alejandro Hidalgo.
Urshela, 31, gives the Angels an experienced third baseman who also has some experience as a shortstop and first base. He’s had a solid year, as last season he hit .285/.338/.429 with 13 home runs, 27 doubles and 64 RBI’s in 144 games with Minnesota. 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 the occasional shortstop, second base or the outfield.
Receiving Angels: 3B Gio Urshela
Having twins: RHP Alejandro Hidalgo
“You’ve heard me say this a lot in the off-season, but it’s about depth and protecting ourselves in a lot of different places,” said Minasian. “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 come second and even fill in. So alone the opportunity to add a player of this caliber to our roster of infielders we currently have, we thought it was the right move.”
The Angels suffered from a lack of quality last year, as they could not withstand the injuries of third baseman Anthony Rendon and outfielder Mike Trout. First baseman Jared Walsh also battled thoracic outlet syndrome all season, which limited his output and led to season-ending surgery in early September. Urshela can now move around the infield and fill that need, while also being able to play third when needed for Rendon, who has had a history of injuries since joining the club in 2020.
A native of Columbia, Urshela is entering his final year of arbitration and was a non-enrollment candidate as he must receive serve next season. He made $6.55 million last year and is likely to make more than $9 million this season. But it’s another indication that the Angels are willing to spend this offseason after also signing lefty Tyler Anderson to a three-year, $39 million contract 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 also considered a solid presence in the clubhouse.
“There’s history there,” Minasian said. “When you’ve had a manager and a hitting coach around him, there’s a tremendous level of comfort 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 connecting on 81 percent of his swings. For context, the Angels lashed out in 25.7 percent of their at bats with a contact rate of 75.1 percent.
“One of the things we talked about is that we led the league in strikeouts, and we’re trying to find more contact,” said Minasian. “This is a player who 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 Jhonathan Diaz was assigned to an assignment. Diaz, 26, has posted a 3.49 ERA in 28 1/3 innings over the past two seasons with the Angels.
Meanwhile, Hidalgo made 10 starts for Single-A Inland Empire last year and posted 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 with the Minors, striking out 89 in 66 innings.
“It’s always hard to trade young players, especially a great kid with a good arm and a bright future,” said Minasian. “But in the end you have to give in order to get. I think he’s going to have a great career and hopefully this trade will work out for both parties.”