Last summer, we saw several second base options change hands in the form of veterans Emilio Bonifacio, John McDonald, Alberto Callaspo and Michael Young, while young options like Leury Garcia and Grant Green included as returns in deals. There’s no shortage of contending clubs that have received little to no production at the keystone this season; the Cardinals, Athletics, Braves, Orioles, Marlins, Royals, Giants and Nationals have all seen their second basemen combine to turn in a wRC+ of 76 or lower (per Fangraphs).
Here’s a look at some names that could potentially be available on the market…
Daniel Murphy (Mets), Ben Zobrist (Rays), Aaron Hill (D’Backs), Martin Prado (D’Backs), Gordon Beckham (White Sox), Nick Franklin (Mariners), Danny Espinosa (Nationals), Chase Utley (Phillies), Luis Valbuena (Cubs)
- Murphy is controlled through 2015 and is well on his way to the finest season of his career (already at 2.5 fWAR). He’s improved his defense steadily over the past few years and is hitting .302/.343/.411. Reports have indicated that the Mets could also extend Murphy rather than trade him, a possibility which I examined in depth late last month.
- Also controlled through 2015, Zobrist may be the most desirable second base option on the market. Zobrist is a highly versatile defender and switch-hitter with a solid bat from both sides of the plate, and even if his offensive game is declining at age 33, he still has a .268/.350/.411 batting line (118 wRC+) and adds value on the bases as well. His $7.5MM club option is a bargain that most teams can afford.
- The 32-year-old Hill is having arguably the worst season of his career and certainly his worst with the D’Backs, but he’s just a year removed from a strong .291/.356/.462 batting line. Hill’s contract — he is owed $12MM in 2015 and again in 2016 — is a detriment, and Arizona would likely need to eat some salary.
- Prado, 30, hasn’t played second baseman extensively since 2010 with the Braves, but he has nearly 2000 career innings at the position. He’s not as strong defensively at the keystone as he is at third base or in left field, however. He’s also owed about $27MM through the 2016 season and hitting a sub-par .268/.313/.365 in 2014. Those numbers translate to an OPS+ of just 89, but he had a mark of 109 from 2008-13.
- Beckham, 27, is hitting just .244/.298/.389, having cooled off after an excellent month of May. He’s controlled fairly cheaply through 2015, earning $4.18MM in 2014 before being arb-eligible one last time this winter. However, he doesn’t come with a great defensive reputation, and he’s had some injury issues. Still, the rebuilding ChiSox are reportedly willing to deal him.
- The 23-year-old Franklin was recently considered one of the game’s top prospects. He’s been displaced by Robinson Cano and used some in a utility role with Seattle, but most of his time has come in the minors. He’s hitting .298/.396/.487 at Triple-A this season and is likely ready for a full-time crack at the Majors, despite his ugly numbers there in his brief stint this season.
- An Espinosa trade wouldn’t be ideal for the Nationals, but it would clear up their latest roster logjam. However, the Nats would also be selling low on Espinosa, which they’ve previously shown an unwillingness to do. The switch-hitter has just a .216/.283/.347 batting line this season and hit just .158/.193/.272 in 2013. While an Espinosa trade seems at least plausible, it doesn’t seem likely at this time.
- Utley’s inclusion on the list is simply due to the fact that there’s bound to be speculation regarding the lifetime Phillie. However, he’s gone on-record to say that he’s not planning on waiving his 10-and-5 rights, and I’d put the odds of him being traded under five percent, personally. Still, teams will likely at least ask GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about Utley, who is in the first year of a two-year extension that contains three vesting options.
- Valbuena hasn’t played much second base since 2010, and some clubs may prefer him in a utility role, but he’s hitting well enough in 2014 to justify regular at-bats. Controlled through 2016, Valbuena is earning $1.7MM this season and has a solid .260/.344/.427 triple-slash line.
Backups/Utility Players/Defensive Specialists
Darwin Barney (Cubs), Cliff Pennington (D’Backs), Rickie Weeks (Brewers), Chone Figgins (Dodgers), Logan Forsythe (Rays), Sean Rodriguez (Rays), Ryan Goins (Blue Jays), Daniel Descalso (Cardinals), Dan Uggla (Braves), Josh Rutledge (Rockies)
Uggla isn’t so much a trade candidate as he is a release candidate, but if and when the Braves cut him loose, another club could buy low on his powerful bat and hope a change of scenery turns him around. Weeks has been a serviceable right-handed component of a platoon in Milwaukee, but the Brew Crew may be open to shedding some of his salary and going with a cheaper option there if someone wants to roll the dice on giving Weeks a bigger role (though that’s just my speculation). Rutledge could be viewed by some teams as a starter, and Colorado could feel comfortable in dealing him and going with Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu up the middle (again, my speculation). But, he’s posted some pretty pedestrian numbers in his career despite hitting at Coors Field.
Some players on this list — Descalso, Figgins, Goins — are under control with contenders, but they could conceivably moved for another piece and replaced with an internal option. The recently designated Donnie Murphy (Rangers) could be of interest to teams in need of bench help as well. He struggled in 2014 but did mash 11 homers in just 164 PA for the Cubs in 2013.