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Trade Targets: Middle Infield

Posted By Eno Sarris On May 31, 2011 @ 1:31 pm In Astros,Blue Jays,Brewers,Daily Graphings,Giants,Indians,Mariners,Mets,Orioles,Red Sox,Reds,Royals,Tigers,Yankees | 33 Comments

Continuing our Trade Targets series, here are five middle infielders who could be available at (or before) the deadline.

PLAYER: Jose Reyes
TEAM: Mets
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Giants, Reds, Brewers
CONTRACT STATUS: $11 million, free agent after the season
PROJECTED WAR: 3.3

The 27-year-old Jose Reyes would be the prize acquisition of this trading season if the Mets choose to move him. He’s got his walk rate and power back and looks healthy. But nothing is set in stone. Yes, his owner has disparaged him and his contract demands before they were officially made. Yes, the rumor is that his general manager has talked to every team in baseball about every player on his roster. Yes, his oscillating walk rate and iffy health make him a risky long-term signing. But nothing is set in stone.

Most likely, Sandy Alderson is going to quietly ask Reyes and his representation to submit their first demands before deciding if his popular shortstop is even signable. If he is, even the reduced payroll next year (reportedly around $100 million) would allow for one good signing and Reyes could be that guy. If not, Alderson will have plenty of serious suitors in a year where the average shortstop is putting up a .260/.318/.372 line. Given the owner’s comments, however, a trade seems more likely.

Even if the Red Sox could trump the Giants’ offer for Reyes, their interest level has changed. With Jed Lowrie playing like they believed he could, Marco Scutaro on the mend and Drew Sutton providing depth, Boston is probably set at the position. The Giants could offer Zach Wheeler and some secondary parts, and the Mets — now last in starting pitcher WAR — would enjoy that infusion of talent. If that price seems too strong, consider that the Giants GM has historically shown a belief in TINSTAAP (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect). The Reds could offer pieces closer to the major leagues in Homer Bailey and Zach Cozart, if they wanted. They certainly have an offensive hole at short now. It’s unclear if the Brewers have enough left in their cupboard to be real contenders for Reyes.

PLAYER: J.J. Hardy
TEAM: Orioles
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Giants, Reds, Brewers
CONTRACT STATUS: $5.85 million, free agent after the season
PROJECTED WAR: 2.4

The projected WAR in this case might catch some eyes. Hardy has only topped the number three times in a full season over his career. But that’s the rub — health. The 28-year-old has had trouble staying in the lineup, and this projection assumes that he manages another 350 plate appearances over the rest of the season. That’s no small assumption.

But his value, when healthy, is real. He’s been a positive with the glove every season he’s played. Though he’s a little less than scratch with the bat over his career, he walks at about an average rate and has shown the capacity for league-average power. That combination of skills alone puts him ahead of most shortstops. He’s also cheaper than Reyes in both dollars and prospects required, which makes him slightly more attractive despite his health problems.

The same suitors will call Andy MacPhail and Sandy Alderson, most likely. Would the Brewers reunite with their former shortstop? Would the Orioles be interested in San Francisco’s Thomas Neal, or do they feel like their corner outfield is not a priority? What would the Reds give up for Hardy? Unless behind-the-scenes negotiations with Hardy’s agent are currently underway, we’ll most likely get the answer to one of these questions.

PLAYER: Rafael Furcal
TEAM: Dodgers
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Giants, Reds, Brewers
CONTRACT STATUS: $13 million, free agent after the season
PROJECTED WAR: 1.5

If Hardy has health issues, then Rafael Furcal has full-blown health problems. In the past five years alone, he’s hit the DL five times, for everything from broken thumbs to microdiscectomies. It’s that last phrase that is most worrisome, as his back alone has accounted for 183 missed days since 2008. Back problems can be scary.

On the other hand, even in his decline the 33-year-old is an offensive option at a tough position. His glove has ranged from about +5 to -5, but call him a scratch defender with an above-average rest-of-season wOBA and you see that he has some trade value. Given that the Dodgers have Jamey Carroll at $2.3 million this season and are having much-publicized problems making payroll, they are strongly motivated to move their more famous shortstop.

If the Dodgers’ trading partner is willing to take on all of the rest of the cash on the deal, they would probably have to give up fewer prospects. Perhaps that makes Milwaukee the more likely destination, considering their dearth of prospects. That would certainly help the Dodgers save face compared to sending Furcal north to help the hated Giants reach the postseason once again.

PLAYER: Mike Aviles
TEAM: Royals
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Jays, Indians, Tigers, Marlins
CONTRACT STATUS: $640K, free agent after the 2014 season
PROJECTED WAR: 1.5

The cheapest player on this list, Mike Aviles also has the most question marks. What is his true position? Is he a perennial .300 hitter despite his current batting average? Is that enough value to overcome his lack of power, patience, or defensive value? Does his team even want to trade him? Why wouldn’t the Royals trade Wilson Betemit, who will be a free agent after his $1 million contract expires at the end of the season?

The answers are not easy, but they point to his availability. Aviles has been better, by UZR/150, at second base than third base over his career, and his arm (especially post-Tommy John) is not his best quality. At second base, the team has Chris Getz, who has even less power, but features a strong walk rate and a strong glove. Even at third base, Mike Moustakas is knocking on the door and should be up at some point this season. It seems the Royals value batting average, but they’ve seen enough of the 30-year-old Aviles to know about his flaws. With the team nine games out and behind three teams, they might even trade both Aviles and Betemit.

Since these two guys are not shortstops, their list of suitors is a little different. If the Blue Jays don’t want to rush Brett Lawrie, or want to give him a caddy, Mike Aviles might make sense in Toronto. The Indians have a gaping hole at third base, and Lonnie Chisenhall could use more seasoning. The Tigers are obviously having problems at second base and seem to be in win-now mode. The Marlins have not had a good third baseman since Mike Lowell. Since Aviles is still under control for a few years, he won’t be as cheap as you might expect for a player with his skill set. But he’ll still be gettable.

PLAYER: Jack Wilson
TEAM: Mariners
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Giants, Brewers, Yankees
CONTRACT STATUS: $5 million, free agent after the season
PROJECTED WAR: 0.4

Jack Wilson can be had for a song. Literally, another GM could sing a song to Jack Zduriencik and be awarded Jack Wilson for his efforts. It’s not that Wilson has been so different in Seattle than he was in Pittsburgh, though. He hasn’t walked, but he never did. He hasn’t shown power, but he never did. He’s made plenty of contact and played a good defensive shortstop, as he always has. It’s just that he can’t stay on the field — he’s only just now collected over 300 plate appearances in Seattle, in his second year.

So he can be had cheaply. Given his muted offensive upside and health problems, the 33-year-old shortstop probably more interesting as a defensive replacement for a juggernaut team. That means the Yankees could swoop in and install him as their late-inning utility man, and if they paid the rest of the contract, they wouldn’t have to give up much more than a low-A flier arm to get him. Of course, the usual suspects could just get Wilson to supplement their current options at shortstop. He still wouldn’t make sense in Cincinnati, as they are starting a defensive replacement right now anyway.

The Mariners also have Adam Kennedy on the block, as top prospect Dustin Ackley should be up sometime this year. Kennedy is cheap and a free agent at the end of the year, and he could be helpful to any of the teams that don’t want to pay for Mike Aviles but do want an upgrade at second or third. Another player in the middle infield that might change teams is Clint Barmes. The Astros have him on a $3.93 million contract for the rest of the season and if they know what’s good for the team, should probably take whatever offer comes their way. But they are still the Astros, and they don’t always sell when they should.


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