The demand side of the shortstop market just isn’t clear. That’s not to suggest that every contender is receiving outstanding production at the position — the Mariners, Royals, and Marlins, in particular, have not. While Seattle might be moved to take action, particularly with Ketel Marte suffering an ankle injury last night, it’s hard to see Kansas City prioritizing that position when it has Alcides Escobar on hand and other needs to address. As for Miami, we’ve heard some suggestion that the club would be willing to move on from Adeiny Hechavarria, though the scenario posited doesn’t sound particularly realistic.
The Royals could always make an addition that would help at both short and second, and it’s that kind of approach that might sway other teams toward some names on this list. Tim Anderson has been useful overall, and Tyler Saladino is still around, but the White Sox could look for depth. The Giants have been looking at infield help and could add a shortstop type that could also see action elsewhere, and there are a handful of others that might fit that profile.
Ultimately, there’s not likely to be much movement at short. But teams that do have interest will be looking at this group of names:
Zack Cozart (Reds) — Cozart has carried a 108 OPS+ in each of the last two seasons, and while that’s still not a huge sample given his injury-shortened 2015, it represents a full season of above-average offensive production. That’s more than enough bat for a player who is one of the game’s very best defenders. He’s owed less than $3MM this year and comes with another season of control.
Eduardo Nunez (Twins) — It’s a somewhat similar story on the offensive side for Nunez, who has been quite useful at the plate over his last 544 plate appearances dating to the start of 2015 (.304/.337/.464 with 16 home runs and 30 steals). He isn’t the glove magician that Cozart is, but he’s cheaper, offers loads of versatility, and also comes with that extra year.
Jed Lowrie (Athletics) — The 32-year-old hasn’t spent much time at short of late, but was a regular there as recently as 2014. He also isn’t doing much at the plate, with a .282/.332/.345 batting line on the year, and is owed $7.5MM this year with an equal amount to go for 2017 (including the buyout on an option for another season). Lowrie could nevertheless represent a utility option who is capable of playing up the middle.
Alexei Ramirez (Padres), Erick Aybar (Braves), Jimmy Rollins (Free Agent) — All of these players have been solid regulars in the not-so-distant past, but none have shown much in 2016. Still, experience counts down the stretch, and contenders in need of a veteran presence could look here for a bench piece.
Jonathan Villar (Brewers), Marcus Semien (Athletics), Brad Miller (Rays), Jean Segura, Chris Owings & Nick Ahmed (Diamondbacks), Jurickson Profar & Elvis Andrus (Rangers), Andrelton Simmons (Angels), Eduardo Escobar (Twins), Freddy Galvis (Phillies)
- While all have their warts as players, Villar, Semien, and Miller are all interesting assets. As noted above, there’s not much demand, so it’s hard to see another club doing what it would take to pry these players loose from their respective organizations, who will value them for their low cost and future control. It’s not clear that the Diamondbacks will look to cash in any of their controllable, shortstop-capable infielders, but they’d have some interesting trade pieces if they did.
- Profar holds an odd place on this summer’s trade market. He’s playing an important role for a contending team, albeit one that doesn’t strictly need him. It’s a bit strange to place him on this particular list, since Texas likely won’t be swapping him for prospects, but he is performing well right now at the major league level and it isn’t inconceivable that he somehow ends up with a contending club in some kind of creative scenario. There’s an alternative scenario where the Rangers try to move a somewhat resurgent Andrus while shifting Profar to short, but the veteran’s career-best 97 OPS+ still doesn’t make his monster second extension appear to be a very good value — particularly since metrics no longer rate him as an elite baserunner and defender.
- I’m not including Simmons here because I think he’ll be marketed. Halos GM Billy Eppler made him the signature move of his first offseason, and it’s difficult to see that happening. But stranger things have occurred, and a contender seeking a top-flight defender with lengthy control rights wouldn’t have any other realistic options.
- Escobar is fading at the plate, and the odds are quite high that it’ll make more sense for Minnesota to hold on to him and hope he can turn it back on in the future. Galvis is one of the Phillies’ few trade pieces, though in his case, too, it isn’t an opportune time to act. Philadelphia still needs a bridge to J.P. Crawford and an eventual back-up, and Galvis offers cheap defensive versatility.
Reserves and Utility Options
Andres Blanco (Phillies), Alexi Amarista (Padres), Nick Franklin & Tim Beckham (Rays), Gregorio Petit (Angels), Pete Kozma (Yankees), Chase d’Arnaud & Reid Brignac (Braves), Ivan De Jesus (Reds), Daniel Descalso & Cristhian Adames (Rockies)
- Blanco is in the midst of an unlikely blossoming in his early thirties, putting up a .282/.341/.477 batting line in his last 461 plate appearances. He might be the likeliest from this group to be dealt. Otherwise, clubs looking at budget-friendly utility pieces are likely to choose among some of the other grizzled middle infielders listed here, Amarista and Descalso perhaps the most obvious candidates.