Evaluating Second Base Options for the 2014 Blue Jays
Here’s my attempt to sift through all the players that could be available via free agency or trade that could make sense for the Jays at second base for next year. All stats are from Baseball-Reference.com as I looked at Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) quite extensively and poked around with OPS+ too.
But first, let’s look at what Toronto has for internal options:
1) Ryan Goins – Now that Goins is hitting a minuscule .567 OPS after his torrid hot streak that began his MLB career, it looks increasingly unlikely that he can even be considered for a starter’s job just yet. On the plus side, in 24 games played, he’s been worth +10 DRS for his excellent play at second base, so a back up job may be possible for him next year if not another year at Triple A where he can try and hone his bat. Verdict: Triple A depth.
2) Munenori Kawasaki – He’s been a revelation this year when he filled in for Jose Reyes, but at the end of it all, he’s just a .226/.324/.309 player worth 1.4 WAR. While Munenori is an average defender who makes all the routine plays (+3 DRS at SS), I would be happy if he can fulfill the bench utility role next year. Verdict: Bench player.
3) Maicer Izturis – Maicer’s had the worst season of his life producing a line of .236/.288/.310 with bad defense (-6 DRS at 2B), it’s hard to imagine him just being given the starting job in 2014. Verdict: Utility player.
As for other options, here it goes – in no particular order:
1) Brian Dozier, Twins – Twins blog Grading On the Curve projects the 2015 Twins team and Dozier is no where near it, but that doesn’t mean GM Terry Ryan will get it through to his head that they should full-on rebuild to be ready for the forthcoming promotions of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano pretty darn soon. It’s inconceivable that the Twins didn’t trade Josh Willingham and Glen Perkins this past trade deadline, but I digress. In 2013, Dozier has turned himself into quite the asset by hitting .240/.308/.418 – a marked improvement upon his rookie year, and is worth 3.4 WAR so far! He’s also been worth +10 DRS so far this year playing second base, and he ranks as 1st in range factor! This guy has learned how to take a walk and has developed some power while playing outstanding defense. Verdict: Interesting possibility to work out a trade for.
2) Jose Altuve, Astros – Altuve is signed for a team friendly deal that kicks in next year for the next four years at $12.5M. He was extended as one of Houston’s building blocks so a deal here is unlikely, but you never really know considering how GM Jeff Luhnow likes to ship out any possible assets for even younger, more controllable pieces. However, if he was available, would Toronto even pony up for him? Defensively, he’s -4 in DRS, and isn’t even hitting .700 OPS. Overall, he’s just another guy who doesn’t walk much. Verdict: Pass.
3) Omar Infante, Free Agent – He’s had a real good year (.316/.342/.450) on the cusp of free agency, so look out for regression here. In fact, his year has been pretty comparable to his 2010 year with the Braves with a couple of barely passable seasons in between where he flirted more or less around the .700 OPS mark. At second base, he’s -3 in DRS plus he’ll be 32 by the start of spring training. Verdict: Be weary of this one.
4) Ian Kinsler, Rangers – Kinsler is signed for 4 more years at $62M plus an option and will be 35 at the end of the deal. This year, he’s ranked 3rd in the AL for Range Factor/Game, is +12 DRS, and is a three time All-Star who regularly rakes with the bat as his career OPS+ is 110. One could argue he is slowly declining as his peripherals are a shade down the past two years, but he’s a way above average player whom has been part of Texas’ core. The question is, will that change? Verdict: He’ll be great to have, but what will Toronto have to give up to acquire him?
5) Kelly Johnson, Free Agent – I doubt a reunion with Toronto is likely considering they just let him walk to begin with. He signed with Tampa Bay last offseason to be a utility type player playing all over the diamond especially the outfield having already logged 50 games in LF. With Toronto in 2012, he was worth +5 DRS at 2B which isn’t bad as he made all the routine plays, but his bat wasn’t especially effective producing an OPS+ of 85 which is well below the average of 100. He’ll be 32 next spring as well which is past his prime. Verdict: Move on.
6) Daniel Murphy, Mets – Murphy is an interesting case as some think he’s a top 10 second baseman in MLB, however that’s mostly due to his bat and not the glove. Moving away from Citi Field, one would think he might even improve upon his offensive numbers as he’s been consistent in producing an OPS+ of 103 and 104 the last two years. The downside to him is his range (-10 DRS), however on the field, he’s known as a gamer, a team player, and hard worker. While Murphy would most likely provide more offense in a hitters park like Rogers Centre, he likely would need a defensive replacement late in games. Verdict: A possibility, but not ideally what the Jays need in terms of defense.
7) Freddy Galvis, Phillies – With Utley resigned, Philadelphia could look to Toronto for a bullpen piece since that’s where their depth lies, but the Phillies may want Galvis around as insurance to offset any Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins injuries. With that said, I’m not even sure Galvis is even an upgrade to what the Jays currently have since he hits too meekly, strikes out too much, and walks little. Verdict: No thanks.
8) Howie Kendrick, Angels – While already 30 years of age, but still a productive player, Kendrick could be an interesting target, but the Angels want young starting pitching and the Jays would be hard pressed to surrender a Marcus Stroman or Sean Nolin for one year of Kendrick. Verdict: Probably not the best option given the cost to acquire.
9) Rickie Weeks, Brewers – He’s had an awful season – .209/.306/.357 is by far his worst – that may be proportionate with the Brewers false confidence as contenders. He’s currently on the 60-day DL with hamstring issues and unless he’s dealt, he may be looking at platooning next year with rookie Scooter Gennett. While he could be a legitimate bounce-back candidate, his defense isn’t anything special to write home about (-15 DRS in 2013) as he’s had negative defensive WAR throughout his career. Verdict: Probably not the answer.
10) Gordon Beckham, White Sox – Surprisingly already in his fifth season, the recently turned 27 year old is putting in a better year offensively, but still has only managed an OPS+ of 84. An encouraging sign however was the fact that he produced a line of .335/.357/.443 before the All-Star break in 158 AB’s. So far this year, he’s worth -2 DRS so he’s near league average defensively. Verdict: It’s too risky to trade for a player and hope that he breaks out, but it’s possible.
11) Willie Bloomquist, Free Agent – It’s hard to get a gauge on Bloomquist as he’s been hurt most of this year, but he’s produced an OPS+ of 108 thus far in 120 AB’s (warning for small sample size) and an OPS+ of 93 in 2012 in 324 AB’s. He’s been pretty much league average defensively, so I wonder does Toronto already have a Bloomquist type player? Verdict: Given his statistical history though, he’s not a starting player at any position.
12) Darwin Barney, Cubs – A very good defensive player to the tune of +11 DRS in 2013, he is also tied for 1st in NL Total Fielding Runs Above Average. The thing is though, Barney can’t seem to amount to much on offense as his OBP is 4th worst in MLB. I don’t think the Jays need two low OBP guys in the same lineup to go along with J.P. Arencibia. Verdict: The Jays need more offense than what Barney can provide.
13) Brian Roberts, Free Agent – Roberts hasn’t been relevant since 2009, pretty much due to all the injuries he’s sustained. He’s worth a flyer perhaps to some team, but obviously would be a question mark as to whether or not he can regain some resemblance to his former all-star self. He has 0.4 WAR thus far in 2013 and is near average defensively in DRS. Verdict: At 36, he’s very likely a role player now.
14) Mark Ellis, Free Agent – It’s so easy to look past Ellis due to the fact that he was previously dumped by Oakland and Colorado, but in looking at his numbers, I was surprised at what he’s producing with LA this year. So far in 2013, he’s a 2.9 WAR player, and has a 5.0 range factor which is 4th in the NL. At 36 though, it might be hard to imagine him surpassing the .700 OPS plateau unless he moves to a more hitter friendly ball park because his Extra Base Hit percentage is the lowest of his career at 4.2%. Verdict: Probably too old for any wishful thinking.
15) Nick Punto, Free Agent – Another 36 year old that is having a pretty good year having produced 2.3 WAR thus far in 2013, however 2008 was the last time he produced a WAR over 2, so it’s probably an aberration. His DRS of -1 seems to be not too shabby at second base, but let’s be honest, he’s a utility player that the Jays don’t need. Verdict: Move on.
Through this entire process, there really are few ideal candidates to be had here. It’s really up to GM Alex Anthopoulos and his staff to conduct a cost/benefit analysis, and consider all their research and scouting reports on these players to see what can be done to compliment Toronto’s current core and fill their areas of need.