While the pitching market is a clear seller’s market this summer, the market for second basemen appears to be another story. The number of potentially available second-base options on losing clubs looks to outweigh the number of clubs looking for a genuine upgrade at second base by a fair margin. The Royals and Blue Jays, for instance, have received poor offensive output from second base as a whole but have strong defenders at those positions right now that are still providing some value. The Pirates haven’t seen much offense at second either but have their fair share of infield depth, and the Cardinals solved some of their second base woes by shifting Matt Carpenter to the position (though Jhonny Peralta’s injury could potentially create a need).
The second base market could be relatively quiet this season barring a notable last-minute injury, but here are some of the possibly available names…
- Pearce isn’t a second baseman in the traditional sense of the word, as he’s been more of a fill-in there over the past couple of seasons in Baltimore and Tampa Bay. The Rays are clear sellers, however, and Pearce has mashed at a .322/.393/.540 clip this season. He’s played just 240 innings at second, so asking him to man the spot regularly down the stretch could be a reach, but his bat could offset his lack of experience there. Plus, he’s earning a bargain $4.8MM on a one-year deal.
- Nunez is reportedly among the most frequently asked-about Twins, which is perhaps no surprise given the numbers he’s put up over the past two seasons. While many still think of him as a utility option, Nunez boasts a .790 OPS, 16 homers and 31 stolen bases across his past 155 games in a Twins uniform. He’s earning a mere $1.475MM this season and is eligible for arbitration one final time this winter before hitting free agency following the 2017 season. Nunez could fill in for a team looking for a regular second baseman or bounce around between second base, shortstop, third base and left field. He doesn’t excel defensively at any of those spots, but the versatility is nice.
Controllable Starting Options
Jed Lowrie/Marcus Semien (Athletics), Jean Segura/Chris Owings (D-backs), Yangervis Solarte (Padres), Logan Forsythe (Rays), Brian Dozier (Twins), DJ LeMahieu (Rockies), Jace Peterson (Braves), Jonathan Villar/Scooter Gennett (Brewers)
- Lowrie could technically go in the above category as well, but the cheap 2018 club option ($6MM) on his contract prompted me to put him in the “controllable” bucket as opposed to the “short-term” slot. (Plus, I just felt like being than Jeff Todd, who slotted Lowrie into the short-term section of the shortstop trade market.) Lowrie has cooled off as of late, but he’s still hitting .281 with a .333 OBP. His power has been nonexistent for most of the season (.334 slugging, .053 ISO), but he’s affordable, versatile, and owns a .330 OBP over his past five big league seasons. Like Jeff noted when looking at shortstops, I doubt that Semien is actually a likely candidate to be moved, but the A’s are typically willing to listen on everyone but a select few players, so he’s worth at least a mention.
- It’s not clear that the D-backs would entertain the notion of moving either of their controllable second base options. Owings is currently on the disabled list and has been for quite some time, which could limit his value. As for Segura, he’s keeping the average just north of .300 thanks in part to a pair of massive BABIP spikes in April and June, though it should be noted that he’s also showing a bit more pop and plate discipline than in years past. The D-backs have only shown a willingness to trade relievers thus far, so moving Segura (controlled through 2018 via arbitration) or Owings (2019) would come as a surprise.
- San Diego has already moved James Shields, Fernando Rodney and Drew Pomeranz, and a versatile, controllable asset like Solarte figures to generate interest as well. He has significant experience at both second and third base and despite his status as a minor league signee with the Yankees prior to his big league debut in 2014, he’s done nothing but hit since arriving in the Majors. Solarte has batted .270/.334/.419 as a big leaguer, and his best work has come this season, when he’s slashed .295/.368/.521 in 212 PAs. He’s controllable through 2019, so perhaps the Padres have a greater temptation to hold, but they’ve already traded one cheap young asset that was controlled through 2018 in Pomeranz.
- Forsythe has very closely approximated his 2015 breakout in 2016, and he’s combined to bat a hefty .279/.352/.446 with 25 homers in his past 891 plate appearances. He’s fairly pedestrian against right-handed pitching but mashes lefties and plays solid to above-average defense at second (depending on your metric of choice). He’s earning just $1MM this season (the rest of his salary coming via signing bonus), with $5.75MM owed to him in 2017 plus an $8.5MM club option for 2018 that comes with a $1MM buyout.
- Dozier’s inclusion may or may not be realistic, but now-former Twins GM Terry Ryan said before his dismissal that he felt the need to be open for business and listen on any player. His interim successor, Rob Antony, could very well be reluctant to listen on Dozier, but given the Twins’ standing, teams will almost certainly check in. The 29-year-old is on the cusp of his third straight 20-homer, 10+ steal season. His .247/.332/.454 batting line in 2016 is indicative of his low-average, plus pop skill set, but he’s sliced his strikeout rate and upped his walk rate this season. Dozier is earning $3MM this year and is owed $6MM in 2017 and $9MM in 2018.
- The Rockies have, more often than not, shown a strong resistance to selling off big league assets in July. However, GM Jeff Bridich moved Troy Tulowitzki last summer and was willing to part with a controllable outfielder this winter in Corey Dickerson. There’s no contractual need to move LeMahieu, who is arbitration eligible and controllable through 2018. He’s really upped his offensive game over the past two seasons, though, which should make him appealing to other clubs.
- There’s no indication that the Braves are looking to move Peterson, but they’ll listen on virtually anyone and project to have Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies as their long-term double-play tandem as it stands. Peterson could be a fine utility player, but if a club believes his .313/.395/.473 line since being recalled from a demotion to Triple-A is in any way sustainable, the Braves could net a nice piece for a player with four years of control beyond 2016.
- Villar has had a breakout season with Milwaukee and is cheap and affordable for another four years following the 2016 season. Orlando Arcia will push him off shortstop soon, but Villar can play third base once that happens. A better question would be if Milwaukee would entertain the thought of moving Scooter Gennett, who is arbitration-eligible this winter and is limited to a platoon role. There’s no urgency to deal Gennett either, but his impending arbitration and lesser club control make him a more plausible option than Villar in my mind.
Reserves and Utility Options
Gregorio Petit/Cliff Pennington/Johnny Giavotella (Angels), Alexi Amarista/Adam Rosales (Padres), Daniel Descalso (Rockies), Andres Blanco/Cesar Hernandez/Freddy Galvis (Phillies), Nick Franklin/Tim Beckham (Rays)
Any of the players listed here could add to a club’s bench mix, but most look like they’d be miscast as starters. There aren’t really any prohibitive salaries in the bunch, and any of the listed names is capable of playing all over the infield, with the possible exception of Giavotella. I don’t think anyone here would fetch much in return, but there’s something to be said for a club deepening its bench in advance of a playoff push.
Brandon Phillips : Phillips is in somewhat of his own category, as he’s owed $5.26MM through season’s end and another $14MM next year. The Reds would probably love to move him — they tried this offseason but he invoked his 10-and-5 rights to veto the deal — but a 35-year-old hitting .260/.297/.372 with $19.5MM remaining on his contract isn’t going to generate tons of demand. And, as noted before, he hasn’t shown a willingness to approve a trade anyhow.