Angels reserve infielder Luis Jimenez was claimed off waivers on Monday. The 26-year-old was snatched off the wire by the Milwaukee Brewers, leaving the Halos with few back-up options at the hot corner should they choose to non-tender Gordon Beckham in the next month. Lucho got playing time with the Halos in 2013 and 2014 only, which would usually leave the team with another year to move him at will between Triple-A and Anaheim. But because he also spent all of 2012 on the 40-man roster, his option years were exhausted. This means teams are now required to pass him through waivers unclaimed to send him to the minors.
While Jimenez’s hit tool carried him through the Angels’ farm system, his hacktastic approach at the plate never translated to success in the majors. He batted .234/.268/.291 in Anaheim the last two years, drawing just two walks in 151 plate appearances. What allowed him to keep coming back to the show was his much-improved defense, which garnered praise across the league and quickly earned him fan-favorite status. (A quick perusal of Lucho’s MLB dot com highlights page returns mostly defensive gems, like this one and this one.) There was never really a strong #LibreLucho campaign—at least that I’m aware of—but there was still an abundance of love for the always smiling infielder.
His departure shouldn’t have too much of an impact on the team’s offseason plans, other than to make a non-tender decision a bit tougher. With Jimenez around, the Angels could have reasonably opted to part ways with Gordon Beckham and his projected salary of ~$5 million, saving some change for a move elsewhere. With Jimenez (and John McDonald) gone, however, the only line of defense at third beyond Beckham is Grant Green, who has a hard enough time playing second base. The Halos are going to be on the hook for at least $6 million to retain David Freese, so the question becomes just how much faith they have in his health and production. Do they need to cough up considerable money for a failsafe like Beckham? Or are they better off grabbing cheap filler from the open market and hoping they don’t have to rely on it? I’d lean toward the latter, if only because the available funds this winter are so low.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t make note of Jimenez’s decision to play each game in extreme discomfort. I speak, of course, of his choice to wear his baseball cap over his ears, as though they might get clipped by a stray ball if not tucked safely under his hat’s brim. How or when Lucho settled on the ski-cap look is a bit of a mystery, as his team photo has standard ear placement. All I know for certain is that it makes me uncomfortable as all get-out. I guess that means I have a weird ear thing? Anyway, here’s to hoping Milwaukee has hats that fit his head.