Friday 3 October 2014

Offseason 2015: The "2B Experiment" Edition

I'm not going to lie.  This is going to be a lot less interesting than the previous post.  There's just not a whole lot at 2B.  I think it's a lot more likely that we see Lawrie at 2B more and more as we move forward, and I'll explain that in a minute.

You can have a quick look at the MLBTR 2015 Free Agent list and realize that holy fuck, Ryan Goins may be a viable option.  I mean, yeah, at the end of the day, Ryan Goins was below replacement level, on account of his 26 wRC+, so he's really not a viable option at all, but other than that. We can't forget, either, that Maicer Izturis will be back, and Steve Tolleson is totally serviceable in a platoon situation.

Since there's nothing out there, though, and someone has to play 2B... I dunno, suffice it to say that we're going to expand this to look at shortstops too, just to scrape the bottom.  I think it's reasonably safe to say that if the Jays have a lazy offseason, or are more worried about, say, re-signing Melky and building a bullpen, 2B is a spot in the lineup where we can just go with a platoon-ish situation and worry about rebuilding the rest of the lineup.

Anyway, that's probably enough words to qualify as a warm-up, so let's have a look.  Again, we're using the previously linked MLBTR Free Agent list, as well as Fangraphs' leaderboards.

Brandon Phillips (Trade)

Phillips is one of the more overrated players in baseball, in my opinion, but he's certainly had some good seasons.  He put up a big stink when the Reds signed Joey Votto to a big extension, and was then inexplicably signed to a 6-year extension to lock him up through age 36 or 37.  The Reds have since had Kris Negron emerge as a quality infield option.  If they can find a taker, I'd bet the Reds look to trade Phillips, even if they don't blow the whole team up.  I'd blow the whole team up, though.

Phillips, for his part, is a ~2WAR player going forward (sidenote-- wait, 2015 Steamer projections are out? (sidenote on the sidenote-- Edwin Encarnacion listed as a 3B, eh?)), owed $36MM over the next three years.  He's still a positive defensively, but that's about it.  Having said that, available second basemen aren't exactly good at hitting, so you could do worse than Phillips with the bat, even in his decline (wRC's of 101, 91 and 88 in the last three years).  There's very little, if any, surplus value there, so if Cincinnati wanted something in return, they'd need to eat some money.

For whatever it's worth, Phillips has been pretty healthy throughout his whole career, so the turf shouldn't be a huge deal.

Asdrubal Cabrera (Free Agent)

Cabrera was a shortstop, right up until the Expos acquired him at one of the trade deadlines and stuck him at 2B.  I'd guess that he would want to go back to playing shortstop, but I've never actually asked him since we've never met.  The Tigers and Yankees (and Dodgers, maybe), and probably more, need a fucking shortstop and there's really only JJ Hardy (and Hanley Ramirez, if he can still be considered a shortstop) available, so I'd be a little surprised if Cabrera is playing anything other than short in 2015.

Cabrera isn't exactly as good as he once was, but he's got a couple pretty good seasons under his belt, was a roughly average player in 2014, and he's not even 29 yet.  If he's open to playing 2B again, he may end up as a target, but I'd classify this one as unlikely.

Rickie Weeks (Free Agent)

I'm assuming the Brewers don't exercise Weeks' option for $11.5MM, because that would be insanity.  He put up .274/.357/.452 this year though, over 286 plate appearances in a part-time role.  There's probably very little upside there, but he's not Ryan Goins, which is as good as upside.  He hits lefties, which is something that happens already with Tolleson, so heh.  He probably gets the old 1-year deal forever, and at like $4-5MM so it's not a huge risk, but I just can't imagine him being a big upgrade over what's already in the organization.  Plus, the 2014 return to form was fueled by a .355 babip outlier, versus the .305 career norm.  Probably nothing.

Cliff Pennington (Trade)

Pennington should make about $4MM through arbitration this year, which is certainly affordable.  He's really a backup player, but he is serviceable defensively and he walks a lot.  Could be worth a flyer.  Not sure if the DBacks are looking to trade him or not, but it's not like he's completely irreplaceable or anything.  Again, we're scraping.  He's a switch-hitter, but is practically useless against righties, so, again, Steve Tolleson.


Ben Zobrist was worth a bunch of WAR this year, but he only has one year left on his contract, and is a trade candidate, considering the way the Rays do business.  I'd be incredibly shocked if they traded him within the division, but I can dream.  Would be fucking sweet though.

If we're looking at shortstops, The Mariners might trade one of Brad Miller or Chris Taylor (Taylor seems like he's actually good, so they'd probably keep him), so if one of those guys wants to play 2B...

Of course, there's a glut of mediocre second base-types in the organization already; Izturis, Goins, Tolleson, etc.  We can also dream of Jose Reyes moving off shortstop and finding someone to fill SS, but that's probably at least a year away, if it ever comes.

And that's really about it.  There's just not a whole lot available out there.  There are a bunch of guys who are never getting traded (e.g. Pedroia, Cano, Altuve) and then a bunch of 1WAR guys that aren't really worth fussing about.

This is why I'm guessing that if a big infield upgrade comes along, it's going to be a 3B, moving Lawrie to 2nd full time.  Hopefully he likes it there.

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