With less than two weeks until the trade deadline, a number of clubs find themselves in need of infield help. The Yankees, Royals and Angels, in particular, stand out as first-place clubs that have gotten little production out of the second base position. Though the Cubs and Nationals don’t presently appear to have a spot open, either club could shift other assets around and move its incumbent second baseman to another spot in order to improve its overall lineup production. Here’s a look around the league at some players that could at least theoretically make sense as trade options…
- Zobrist is the most interesting name on the second base trade market and has been for quite some time, though reports out of Oakland have consistently indicated a reluctance to sell. Zobrist is a free agent at year’s end, however, and his versatile nature (he can play virtually any position) and solid bat make him a very appealing trade chip for the A’s. Because he can play anywhere, one could reasonably present a case to be made for 20 teams to show interest in Zobrist, who will be one of the only credible infield bats on this year’s trade market.
- A number of road blocks stand in the way of trading Phillips. First and foremost, the veteran and longtime Red has 10-and-5 rights, meaning he’d have to personally approve any trade to another club. Secondly, he’s still owed about $5.5MM in 2015 and $32.5MM through the 2017 season. The trouble with that, of course, is that Phillips is no longer the offensive threat he once was. While the 34-year-old still is considered a plus defender at second, he’s batted just .271/.311/.370 since Opening Day 2014 despite playing his home games in one of the better hitting environments in Major League Baseball. (His OPS+ of 89 this season matches his 2014 output exactly.) Expensive, aging assets with declining skills at the plate are tough sells on the trade market.
- There’s been nothing to this point that would indicate that LeMahieu is available, but the 27-year-old’s value isn’t likely to get much higher than it presently is. LeMahieu is not yet arbitration eligible but will be this winter. He’s a premium defender in the midst of a career year at the plate. While many teams won’t be sold on his offense — and rightfully so; his home OPS is 216 points higher than his road mark — there’s probably enough bat and certainly enough speed/defense here for the last place Rockies to receive a solid offer or two.
- The Diamondbacks’ middle infielders have drawn consistent interest, and Owings could be viewed by some as a long-term piece at shortstop or at second base. He’s not hitting in 2015 (.231/.261./.328), but he was a Rookie of the Year candidate prior to getting hurt in 2014 and is controllable through 2019.
- Gyorko’s stock peaked at the end of the 2013 season, resulting in a five-year, $35MM extension. It’s been all downhill from there, as Gyorko has followed up a 23-homer, .249/.301/.444 rookie season with a .214/.283/.334 triple slash in 171 games. He was signed by San Diego’s former front office, so it’s possible that the new regime isn’t as fond of him as former GM Josh Byrnes and Co. (Byrnes is now with the Dodgers.) Gyorko’s still just 26 and is not far removed from ranking as one of the game’s top prospects, so perhaps a team with a need at second can dream on Gyorko a bit and buy low on the change-of-scenery candidate. Getting out of Petco Park would certainly help any hitter.
- Utley, like Phillips, has 10-and-5 rights that allow him to veto a trade to any club. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has already stated that he doesn’t think Utley is his team’s best second baseman (though Amaro walked those comments back somewhat), so perhaps that potentially abrasive statement will make Utley more amenable to a trade. Of course, a team would still have to express interest in Utley, which may not be likely. He’s slashing .179/.257/.275 and earning $15MM in 2015.
- The Royals shopped Infante for much of the offseason and would undoubtedly like to escape from the remaining $3.44MM on Infante’s 2015 salary — to say nothing of the $17.75MM he’s owed in 2016-17. It’s tough to envision a taker, given Infante’s .232/.245/.303 batting line, though. I would think he could be moved in a swap of bad contracts or that a rebuilding club could take on what’s left of his deal in order to entice Kansas City to part with more talent in a trade.
Current Backups/Utility Options
Alex Guerrero (Dodgers), Brad Miller (Mariners), Grant Green (Angels), Derek Dietrich (Marlins), Aaron Hill (D-Backs), Cliff Pennington (D-Backs), Stephen Drew (Yankees), Emilio Bonifacio (White Sox), Gordon Beckham (White Sox), Brock Holt (Red Sox), Eric Sogard (A’s), Yangervis Solarte (Padres), Dan Uggla (Nationals), Adam Rosales (Rangers), Ryan Goins (Blue Jays), Eduardo Escobar (Twins), Eduardo Nunez (Twins), Ryan Raburn (Indians), Pete Kozma (Cardinals)
- Guerrero may be the most interesting name here. He’s come up in trade rumors on numerous occasions and shown excellent power in a pitcher-friendly environment. However, he also gains the right to become a free agent at season’s end if he’s traded at any point throughout his deal.
- Miller is young and has the upside remaining to profile as a starter for interested teams (though possibly at shortstop and not second base). He’d probably be difficult for the Mariners to move, but they have Robinson Cano at second base and other internal shortstop options such as Chris Taylor and the currently injured Ketel Marte.
- Green and Dietrich have been looked at as potential starters in the past and have been productive Triple-A bats with limited success in the Majors. Neither exactly fits the mold of top prospect, but a team looking for controllable infield depth could inquire on either. Dietrich is hitting well for the Marlins this season, but he grades out poorly from a defensive standpoint at both second base and his current position, third base. He’s already 26, and if the Marlins hang onto Martin Prado, he’d be left without a starting spot for 2016.
- There’s been nothing to suggest that Holt is available in trades, but from a purely speculative standpoint, his versatility would make him appealing to other clubs if the 42-49 Red Sox are open to dealing from their big league roster.
- Hill falls into the “overpriced veteran” territory, as does Drew (to a lesser extent). The rest of the list consists of utility types (Solarte, Bonifacio, Pennington) and/or defensive specialists (Goins, Kozma).
Currently in the Minors
I kept the list of players at the minor league level to those that have experience in the Majors already, as listing every productive minor league second baseman that could be dealt opens an extremely wide range of speculation — even for the purposes of a post like this. Baez’s name is the most highly regarded in this bunch. His power and bat speed are well known, but so, too, is his proclivity for strikeouts. He’d still probably have to be a return for a pretty notable piece in order to be traded. Alcantara and Franklin have both been viewed as potential starters in the past, while Pirela’s probably more of a utility option. Arruebarrena is an expensive defensive specialist that has seemingly fallen out of favor with his organization.