Over the last 24 hours, the Los Angeles Angels made a trio of minor moves to improve their outfield performance. Well, left field performance. The Angels are set for years to come in center and right; Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun have combined to accrue just over 20 fWAR since the beginning of the 2014 season. Despite the success in 2/3 of the outfield, Angels left fielders have collectively been worth -0.4 fWAR this season, thanks in large part to Matt Joyce and his 66 wRC+. The Angels were clearly in need of an upgrade in left if they were to sustain their recent surge to the top of the American League West.
Enter Shane Victorino, David Murphy, and David DeJesus. Victorino was acquired Monday night for Josh Rutledge, while Murphy and Dejesus cost the Halos Eric Stamets and Eduar Lopez, respectively. None of the erstwhile Angels are likely to make much of an impact for their new teams (at least not in the near-term), so we will keep the focus on the players headed to Los Angeles.
In isolation, each deal makes sense on its own merits. Victorino has struggled to stay healthy over the past few years, but he was arguably the best player on the World Champion 2013 Boston Red Sox. When healthy, he provides excellent defense (his UZR of 25.0 runs above average in 2013, his last mostly healthy season, ranked third in the majors) and he's a productive hitter who rarely strikes out.
Murphy adds a bit more power and is hitting at a rate of 19 percent better than league average this season. His current strikeout rate of 12.7 percent would be the second lowest of his career.
DeJesus brings an ability to draw walks, hit for solid power, and provide average outfield defense. In addition, much like his recently acquired bretheren, DeJesus is adept at avoiding the strikeout.
Much of the confusion around the deals, however, surrounds the apparent surplus of outfielders that LA now possesses. A platoon in left field would make sense, but platoons traditionally involve just two players, since they are usually formed because players who demonstrate severe lefty/right platoon splits. It is likely, then, that one of the three acquired outfielders will see time elsewhere.
Victorino will safely slot in as the right-handed half of the platoon in left field. Over his career, Victorino has hit lefties at a rate 34 percent better than league average. A switch-hitter in his early years, he stopped batting left-handed during the 2013 season due to his struggles against righties, particularly as a left-handed batter. Victorino provides solid defense, and seems like an obvious platoon candidate in left.
Both Murphy and DeJesus bat left-handed, and each hitter shows a similarly strong platoon split: Murphy's OPS is 146 points higher against right handers than it is against southpaws, while DeJesus' is 144 points higher. DeJesus makes more sense as the other half of the platoon in left, however, due to his superior defense. DeJesus is a traditionally solid defender with a career UZR/150 of 4.5 runs above average, while Murphy's UZR per 150 chances sits at 1.0. Curiously, and perhaps promisingly for LA, DeJesus' career UZR/150 in left field, the position at which he likely takes over, is 18.4 runs above average. For this reason, DeJesus likely sticks as the left-handed half of the platoon in left field.
This allows Murphy to shift over to designated hitter, a spot where Cleveland utilized him often this year as well. C.J. Cron, Los Angeles' current DH, has a wRC+ of 127 against southpaws this season, freeing up Murphy to face only righties (northpaws?) and presumably continue to hit them at a level better than league average.
So how much better do the three trades make the Angels this season? Assuming (perhaps generously) that a combination of Joyce, Colin Cowgill, and Daniel Robertson would provide replacement level production in left for the rest of the season, it is easy to see a marked improvement in value. A platoon featuring Victorino and DeJesus could produce at a level greater than the sum of its parts, as each player would face only opposite-handed pitchers. Plus, as both Victorino and DeJesus are aging and have been injured recently, a platoon system would allow ample rest for all. It is reasonable to assume that the two would be worth a full win above replacement level together, especially if both remain healthy.
The addition of Murphy should increase Cron's productivity, allowing him to face only lefties. A hitter with Cron's skills against lefties and Murphy's skills against righties projects to be a good bit better than league average.
Because they do not play defense, there is a limit on how much value designated hitters can provide when they do field. However, the combination of Murphy and Cron could be half a win more valuable than whomever the Angels would have employed in their stead.
A win and a half may not seem like much, but to a team with a narrow division lead, it may mean the difference between having to participate in a one-game playoff and hosting a first round series.
If the Angels are able to properly utilize each of their new pieces, there are certainly gains to be made, and in a year when seemingly every American League contender is swinging for the fences, perhaps those gains could come in the form of a pennant victory.
Tom O'Donnell is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score and a junior at Colby College. You can follow him on Twitter @Od_tommy.