The Second Base Glut

Last year, bad defensive outfielders got a rude awakening in free agency, as Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, and Bobby Abreu learned first hand that teams were beginning to value defense at positions besides catcher and shortstop. There were too many lumbering sluggers available, and the excess supply drove prices down for all of them.

This year, the hurt is landing on second baseman. Between teams who want to trade their incumbent away (Dan Uggla, Luis Castillo, Jose Lopez) and some talented free agents looking to get paid (Orlando Hudson, Felipe Lopez, Placido Polanco), the market was flooded with available second baseman. It didn’t help when Kelly Johnson was non-tendered by the Braves. Polanco is the only one of the seven who has found a new home, and he had to switch positions to land his deal with Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, the Marlins are still struggling to find a good deal for Uggla, who they assumed would be a hot commodity. The Mets would like to sign Hudson, but have to trade Castillo first, and there’s no market for his services. The Mariners have made no secret of the fact that Jose Lopez is available, but other teams are apparently not fond of him for the same reasons Seattle would like to move him. And there has been nary a rumor about Felipe Lopez, despite the fact that he’s coming off a +4.6 win season.

The news just got worse for these guys yesterday. The Dodgers, one of the few teams actively looking for a second baseman, signed Jamey Carroll to a two year, $4 million contract, and will let him and Blake DeWitt split time at the position. Like the Tigers, they preferred to go young and cheap as opposed to paying for a name player at the position.

Now, you have to wonder where any of these guys are going to land. The Giants would probably take one of these guys if they came at a bargain, but might require them to shift to third base if they aren’t as good defensively as Freddy Sanchez. Perhaps the Cubs may get involved, but they seem unlikely to hand out more than a one year deal to anyone, given their stated plan of shifting Ryan Theriot across the bag once young Starlin Castro proves ready for the big leagues.

Who else is really looking for a second baseman? The Twins, perhaps, but certainly not on a significant contract, and they may prefer a third baseman instead. Just looking at the demand for the position and the supply of players currently available, I’m guessing that Uggla, Johnson, and Felipe Lopez may have to end up switching positions in order to find a new home. For the Mariners and Mets, they’re probably stuck with the guys they already have. This is just not the year to be trading a second baseman.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Paul
Member
Paul
6 years 7 months ago

Makes the Aki Iwamura deal look awfully good, doesn’t it? Rays wound up getting a reasonably priced near-elite level closer for what would have been a non-tender, and they did not have to give up a draft pick.

I was attacked here for criticizing the Pirates for giving up anything for Aki, and questioning the rationale for adding him at all, noting that nobody needed a 2B.

Dave makes a stupid decision by Hunts official.

AJ
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AJ
6 years 7 months ago

No Alberto Callaspo mention?

Section 3, my sofa
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Section 3, my sofa
6 years 7 months ago

No Nationals mention? They’re saying Cristian Guzman is moving to second, but he’s never played there. If Rizzo sees the right deal I think they’re in this, too.

Max
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Max
6 years 7 months ago

I don’t see it as that flooded. You basically have three FA starters listed (I’d add Adam Kennedy as well), one of whom has already signed as a 3B. I don’t think too many teams see KJ as a starter, more of a utility guy. Then you have three guys teams are looking to deal, but none of those teams have incumbents to take over 2B, so they’d presumably need to look for a 2B as well.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
6 years 7 months ago

The Rockies seem like a team that could use an upgrade at 2nd, unless Eric Young Jr is the answer.

Michael
Member
6 years 7 months ago

It looks increasingly like Clint Barmes is their answer.

DME
Guest
DME
6 years 7 months ago

The rockies must hate EYJ, cuz they didnt call him up in 2008 or 2009. And its not like clint barmes is lighting the world on fire. Just ian stewart

BX
Guest
BX
6 years 7 months ago

EYJ and Barmes should stand as the answer, for now at least.

Luke I am your Father
Member
Luke I am your Father
6 years 7 months ago

Good thing the Giants were able to cash in the Alderson chip before they had to sign one of these guys to play second.

X
Guest
X
6 years 7 months ago

Pirates fans <3 Sabean

Jason F
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Jason F
6 years 7 months ago

Why, for letting him steal Jason Schmidt away and having him pitch like an ace through his time with the Giants or for giving you a prospect like Tim Alderson who is proving, with his recent performance, that the Giants seemed to know something no one else did and got something for him while his value was still high?

JoeyO
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JoeyO
6 years 7 months ago

Jason F,

dont forget the 15MM (or so) sunk cost Sabean dumped on them in the form of Matt Morris. Still dont understand why the Rats made that move.

Basil Ganglia
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Basil Ganglia
6 years 7 months ago

Reliably, Dayton Moore, sizing up the market early, makes his move early to snare Chris Getz before someone else has the chance to do so.

Mike Green
Member
Mike Green
6 years 7 months ago

There’s a repeating Rodney Dangerfield theme in the attitude of some in baseball towards second basemen. The Hall of Fame has had a particular weakness at recognizing their talents and importance. Some Managers (Dick Williams being the most obvious one) appear to have believed that you could just stick someone from triple A there. And then there’s the curious lack of MVP support for Chase Utley.

joser
Guest
joser
6 years 7 months ago

If only some national media outlet would provide an opportunity for a HOF 2B to make a credible case for appreciating the position using all the available analytical tools. Somebody like, I don’t know, Joe Morgan.

Sandy Kazmir
Member
Sandy Kazmir
6 years 7 months ago

He speaks so well.

Phil Gurnee
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

Ronny Belliard maybe the best hitting FA 2nd baseman is also available. Anyone who combines Kennedy/Belliard is probably putting together a very nice tandem.

Choo
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Choo
6 years 7 months ago

I see “the glut” as combination of two things: 1) The recent explosion of modern player valuation which has unveiled an ever-flowing watermill of affordable second base options; and 2) standard ebb and flow.

Second base will always be a funnel for misfit shortstops and light-hitting third basemen, but the position is thriving right now. In 2009, 11 second basemen posted wOBA’s of .350 or higher and there were 12 in ’07. In the 17 seasons prior to ’07, an average of 5.75 second basemen posted wOBA’s of .350 or higher. A second baseman that isn’t either indispensably good and/or in-house might be wise to undercut the market to land a regular job. Otherwise, he is better off waiting for an emergency in February/March.

Joel C.
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Joel C.
6 years 7 months ago

Don’t forget 4th outfielders (Skip Schumaker) and Catcher (Craig Biggio). Slim to decent chance that prospects Dustin Ackley and Wil Myers both end up there as well.

twinsfan
Member
twinsfan
6 years 7 months ago

I would prefer the Twins invest in a 2nd baseman while acquiring a stop-gap at 3rd (hoping that Valencia shows to be ready sometime during the season). The in-house options for 2nd form a never-ending list of futility infielders.

BX
Guest
BX
6 years 7 months ago

Dayton Moore actually looks smart for once for getting value for Teahen before the 2B market collapsed and a bunch of these 2B could move to 3B, flooding both the 2B and 3B markets.

BX
Guest
BX
6 years 7 months ago

And, if Castro is ready, I think the Cubs would be a lot better off replenishing their farm system by trading Theriot for prospects in a weak SS market and signing one of the FA 2B.

Matt S
Guest
Matt S
6 years 7 months ago

I think the FA/ Trade glut is partly the product of a minor renaissance at 2B. Right now you have a recent MVP (Pedoria), a perennial MVP-caliber player (Utley) and several other high value stars at the position (Phillips, Cano, Hill etc). With such a large gap between those players and the available alternatives, it is might be that GM’s are underwhelmed when they see guys like Lopez or Hudson on the market. It is especially hard to stomach a defensive butcher like Uggla when you view him in the company of the current upper-tier pivot men. He is clearly miscast as at 2B anyway. Of those available only Hudson seems like a player who will have any meaningful impact while staying at 2B.

Michael
Member
6 years 7 months ago

RE: Uggla

Call me a homer, but 3 – 3.5 WAR second basemen aren’t “miscast” at the position. Uggla and Hudson posted similar numbers last year at second (though Hudson would have been better likely with more playing time), and the Fans seem to like Uggla a lot more than Hudson for next year.

Now, could Uggla play a different position perhaps a bit better? Likely, I’d say. But if he produces at 2B, it’s hard to complain about that.

Fergie348
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Fergie348
6 years 7 months ago

The Giants would take him for 2 years at 3rd (stone glove and all) and shift Panda over to 1st. The Giants offense is so woeful, Uggla at 3rd with anything close to his ’09 wOBA would be their second most productive to Sandoval. No one else on the Giants roster so far for ’10 was above .330 for ’09. With the exception of the Panda, this was truly a replacement level offense.

Fergie348
Guest
Fergie348
6 years 7 months ago

Sorry, him being Uggla..

JoeyO
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JoeyO
6 years 7 months ago

“Perhaps the Cubs may get involved, but they seem unlikely to hand out more than a one year deal to anyone, given their stated plan of shifting Ryan Theriot across the bag once young Starlin Castro proves ready for the big leagues.”

The Cubs are probably an unlikely destination as signing/trading for a 2B would mean adding a new one to the flooded market. Currently they have Fontenot, Baker and Blanco who are all out of options.

Blanco being the best defender of the bunch (and only real SS backup) means either Fontenot or Baker would replace the 2B the Cubs would have removed from the stockpile.

JoeyO
Guest
JoeyO
6 years 7 months ago

Also, I might expand your list a tad. You give

(Trade)
Dan Uggla
Luis Castillo
Jose Lopez
(Free Agent)
Orlando Hudson
Felipe Lopez
Placido Polanco (signed)
Kelly Johnson

But I would probably include
(Trade)
M.Izturis/Kendick (the Angles said they would look into moving one)
Phillips (Rumored to be available in an effort to save money)
Callaspo (mentioned in multiple talks)

(Market)
Belliard (did take the job from Hudson last season)
Uribe (had a great season on the cheap for SanFran)
DeRosa (was a 2B a short time ago – and is a factor to those on the list thinking 3B might be the destination)
M.Tejada (similar to DeRosa, will be a middle infielder making the jump to 3rd and will present a roadblock to others hoping to do so.)

Circlechange11
Guest
Circlechange11
6 years 7 months ago

I would love to see Phillips at 2nd in StL, and Skip back in the OF or platoon.

AZ fans seem to have a funny relationship with Lopez. They’re all over his lack of hustle, specifically not hustling down the line, but he did have a productive season.

PhD Brian
Guest
PhD Brian
6 years 7 months ago

Nats need either a second basemen or a move of Guzman to second and a SS. I’ll bet they sign a second basemen.

Michael
Member
6 years 7 months ago

The idea I believe was to let Ian Desmond take over at short. He is the guy of the future in that organization, right?

peytondowdy
Guest
peytondowdy
6 years 7 months ago

The real guy of the future for the Nats at ss is Danny Espinosa, but he is at least another year away. Ian Desmond has some solid range but a wild arm. Might end up being a utility player.

Misopogon
Guest
Misopogon
6 years 4 months ago

There’s a little hope on the horizon for the 4-spot market. The Tigers let Polanco go (not a popular move among fans) because they believed that Scott Sizemore was ready to step into the role. But Sizemore hasn’t had any Major League experience, and is missing Spring Training because of an ankle injury suffered late last year.

Utility glove man Ramon Santiago is the most likely man to fill the hole until Sizemore steps in. The team’s current ‘Organizational Rudy’ (1) Don Kelly is providing some March false hope right now, and AAA-kid-with-awesome-name Brent Dlugach is the beneficiary of the extra looks. Utilityman Ryan Raburn can also play second, but of the ‘Phil Garner Specials’ (2) on this team, Kelly has more infield experience and a left-handed bat working in his favor.

But fast forward a few months from now. If Sizemore isn’t producing, the chances that the Tigers will be happy filling the position with Kelly or Raburn are slim. Santiago is part of the shortstop rotation, because Adam Everett.

All signs point to the Tigers being a good pitching team and horrible hitting team this year, which is the kind of team that you always seem to see outperforming an ugly-as-sin Pythagorean W-L. If the Twins or White Sox don’t run away with Al Central, the Tigers could be in a position to contend in August, and desperate to fill their rather large hole in the hole.

One more thing: forget what you’ve heard about Detroit economics, because owner Mike Ilitch is still selling pizzas and is easily distracted by shiny things (see Damon, Johnny). Last year he picked up a hugely expensive team option on a mid-30s hitter whose power (and locks) had completely disappeared. This is the same Macedonian who had the chutzpa to bring back Dom Hasek for $8 million when he already had Curtis Joseph for $8 million. If Ilitch smells a playoff chance, he’ll shell out for an infielder.

So to sum up, unless A) The Tigers stink (likely), or B) Sizemore is among his position’s top 10 in WAR (unlikely), you will see them making a move for a Rent-a-4 later this season.

1. Like a Timo Perez — every team has a guy like this, who seems to have a good glove and spends some time on a hitting hot streak, and has that one neat triple at a key time that everyone loves him for, but then he’s back in AAA because he doesn’t really have a lot of talent and like no power.

2. When will GMs ever learn: letting Phil Garner shop for utility men market is like letting your kid be in charge of buying the Halloween candy. If you could win at baseball by constantly surprising teams with which guy was in what position, Phil Garner would be awesome at managing baseball.

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