The Los Angeles Angels have stolen the show this offseason as they continued to add to their impressive collection on Friday. Zack Cozart, the long-time Cincinnati Red, signed a three-year deal with the Angels.
The 32-year-old will make $38 million over the duration of the deal and will play third base, which was a given with Andrelton Simmons manning shortstop and newly acquired Ian Kinsler taking over at second base. Cozart enjoyed a career season in 2017, when he became an All Star for the first time in his career. Already known for his defensive prowess, Cozart added some serious offensive thump to his game, hitting .297/.385/.548 and finishing 18th among position players with 5.0 fWAR.
A plus-defensive shortstop for many years, Cozart sacrificed some defense in 2017 to add more power to his game. He finished with 2 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), which was the lowest mark in his career, but he blasted 24 home runs, which was a career-high by a wide margin. With a blend of above-average defense, power and plate discipline, Cozart really presented himself as an interesting free agent case.
While it’s almost certain Cozart will see heavy offensive regression in 2018, there were some real changes he made at the plate. He posted career-best marks with a 42.3 percent fly-ball rate and 15.6 percent home run/fly-ball rate while posting a career-low 40.6% swing rate. Cozart has made an effort in recent years to get the ball in the air more and he was more selective in 2017, which led to a career best .548 slugging percentage and 12.2 percent walk rate.
His average exit velocity, meanwhile, dropped from 86 mph in 2016 to 85.8 mph in 2017. Cozart certainly benefited from hitting at the friendly confines of Great American Ballpark and the “juiced” baseballs that helped all hitters. Fangraphs projects Cozart for a 98 wRC+ and 2.8 fWAR in 2018, which is a step back from 2017 but is right in line with what he’ll be paid.
The Angels defense was the second best unit in 2017 according to Fangraphs Defensive Metrics and they’ve only improved their group. Andrelton Simmons and Martin Maldonado, both 2017 Gold Glove winners, return to lead the middle of the defense. Ian Kinsler, also a Gold Glove winner in 2017, along with Zack Cozart, will add to an already strong group. With solid strong defensive outfield core in Justin Upton, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun, the Angels defense is going to save a ton of runs in 2018.