On Wednesday we looked at the free agent market for third basemen, noting that it's Adrian Beltre and not much else. The Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Indians, Tigers, Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Marlins, Cardinals, and Giants can't all sign him, so let's analyze the trade market at the hot corner.
Best Available Regular
There is sentiment that new Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers could shop Mark Reynolds in hopes of changing the team's offensive approach. Reynolds led MLB in strikeouts in each of the past three seasons, and those totals hold the top three spots as single-season records. He hit 44 home runs and slugged .543 in '09, but slipped to 32 and .433 this year. Former GM Josh Byrnes locked Reynolds up in March; he's owed $5MM in 2011, $7.5MM in '12, and has an $11MM club option for '13. Reynolds being under contract doesn't help his market value, but at half the price of Beltre he will draw suitors despite his difficulty making contact.
Sell High Opportunity
Wilson Betemit isn't known to be available, but Royals GM Dayton Moore would do well to field offers. The soon-to-be 29-year-old has hit a little in the past, but nothing like this year's .297/.378/.511 line in 315 plate appearances. The Royals are his fifth organization; he'll be arbitration eligible for 2011 before hitting free agency after the season. Betemit is expendable and coming off the best year of his career at a time when decent-hitting third basemen are hard to come by.
Three Under Contract
Chone Figgins didn't play third base for the Mariners this year, but he's played it well in the past. He slipped to .259/.340/.306 this year and has $26MM left on his contract for 2011-13. A $9MM salary for 2014 could vest with 600 plate appearances in '13. A fresh start makes sense for Figgins, who still qualifies as a useful leadoff man. Another burdensome contract will have to be involved.
Mark Teahen, inexplicably locked up through 2012, hit .258/.327/.382 in 262 plate appearances in his White Sox debut. He fractured a finger on May 30th and returned to the team on August 13th. The Sox could change course and try Brent Morel or Dayan Viciedo as their third baseman next year, perhaps swapping Teahen for another bad contract.
The Twins' Brendan Harris is under contract at $1.75MM for 2011. He was outrighted in June, so he's presumably available.
Former Top Prospects
Brandon Wood's stock is low – he hit .146/.174/.208 in 243 big league plate appearances for the Angels this year and turns 26 in March. He's shown big power at Triple A and is capable of playing shortstop, so a few clubs would be interested in seeing if a change of scenery helps.
Mat Gamel, 25, had a solid year in the minors but saw little big league time with the Brewers. He dealt with a slight tear in his right lat muscle in the beginning of the season but eventually hit well enough to earn a September call-up. He had toe surgery at the end of the month, however. Casey McGehee is locked in at third base for the Brewers. They could use Gamel elsewhere or shop him for starting pitching this offseason.
As we mentioned before, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Lopez, Andy Marte, Andy LaRoche, and Kevin Frandsen could be trade bait as non-tender candidates. There may be a few clubs willing to tender Kouzmanoff a contract if the Athletics aren't, so a trade is possible for him if the A's find a third base alternative. Regarding the others, teams might wait until the December 2nd non-tender deadline passes.
The trade market for third basemen offers worthwhile gambles. Will Reynolds and Figgins bounce back and will Betemit regress? Can Wood and Gamel hold down everyday jobs? Can Kouzmanoff and Teahen hit enough to justify salaries north of $4MM?