Angels Select Michael Stefanic, Designate Tyler Wade For Assignment

The Angels announced that they have selected the contract of infielder Michael Stefanic. Infielder Tyler Wade has been designated for assignment as the corresponding move.

Stefanic, 26, was signed by the Angels as an undrafted free agent back in 2018. Since then, he has worked his way up the minor league ladder, garnering attention for his contact and on-base abilities, though without offering much in the power department. In 46 games at Triple-A this year, he’s hit just a single home run but has a 11.9% walk rate against just a 5.7% strikeout rate. That’s resulted in a slash line of .320/.410/.399, 113 wRC+. He did manage 16 homers at Triple-A last year, but that’s the outlier on his ledger, as he’s never hit more than three in any other season of his career.

Despite that lack of power, the contact skills have been enough to garner some attention from prospect evaluators. Baseball America considered Stefanic the 14th-best prospect in the system in their most recent update, with FanGraphs currently ranking him 26th and comparing him to Nick Madrigal.

Defensively, Stefanic is ticketed for utility duty, as he’s played every infield position, as well as brief appearances in the outfield corners. However, the reports from both BA and FG note that he’s not an excellent defender anywhere, not even his primary position of second base.

For the Angels, they’re likely interested in taking that tradeoff, as they’ve had poor production from their non-first-base infielders this year. The infield group was weak on paper coming into the season and has since lost David Fletcher, Matt Duffy and Anthony Rendon to the IL, with Rendon’s injury being season-ending. As a result, the club’s overall second base output comes in at .227/.276/.308. That amounts to a wRC+ of 67, placing them 25th in the majors in that regard. Adding a bat-first player like Stefanic will hopefully give a boost to the offensive production from the dirt.

Stefanic is the second recent addition to the Angels’ infield, as the club signed Jonathan Villar yesterday. The two of them will bolster a group that consists of Luis Rengifo, Andrew Velazquez and David MacKinnon to cover second base, third base and shortstop. The club is 37-43, six games back of a playoff spot in the American League. With the August 2 trade deadline now less than a month away, they will surely be hoping for a solid stretch of play to get themselves into a firmer buyer position before then.

As for Wade, he was traded from the Yankees to the Angels in November of last year. During his time in the Bronx, he earned a reputation as a glove-first player, hitting .212/.298/.307 for a wRC+ of 68. Despite that lackluster offensive production, he was at least a valuable bench player given his versatility, lining up at second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield positions. Although Wade changed uniforms, his game stayed largely the same this season. He has taken the field at those six positions again this year, while hitting .218/.272/.272 for a wRC+ of 57. The Angels are apparently looking for a little more thump in their lineup, swapping out a glove-first player for a bat-first one.

Wade surpassed three years of MLB service time last year, allowing him to qualify for arbitration for the first time. He and the Angels agreed to a salary of $825K, just a bit north of the $700K league minimum. The Angels will have one week to trade him or put him through waivers. Should he clear waivers, he would be eligible to reject an outright assignment and return to free agency, by virtue of having surpassed three years’ service time. However, doing so would mean forfeiting the remainder of his salary, as players need more than five years’ service to reject an assignment while still being guaranteed the money owed to them through their contracts.

J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group reported the selection of Stefanic prior to the official announcement (Twitter links). Wade also revealed his DFA to reporters, including Sam Blum of the Athletic, prior to the announcement.

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