Jean Segura came off the board last week on a two-year deal with the Marlins. That removed the top remaining free agent middle infielder, leaving clubs with very few possibilities for help either at shortstop or second base.
Of course, Carlos Correa lingers over the entire market. Until he officially puts pen to paper somewhere, there’s at least a chance for another twist in that saga. Various reports have suggested Correa’s focused on hammering out his deal with the Mets in spite of their concerns about his physical, and that was essentially confirmed yesterday by Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. We’ll set Correa aside and look at the best options remaining for teams outside of Queens.
Here are the still-unsigned free agent middle infielders who tallied at least 150 plate appearances in 2022:
- Elvis Andrus (34): Andrus is arguably the top unsigned free agent infielder. The 14-year veteran still brings a high-contact bat and quality baserunning to the table. Public defensive metrics have been divided on his work recently, with Statcast’s Outs Above Average generally rating him as an above-average shortstop despite less enthusiastic reviews from Defensive Runs Saved. Andrus looked like a glove-only player after hitting .255/.302/.360 from 2018-21, but he bounced back with a solid 2022 campaign. He hit .249/.303/.404 with 17 home runs (the second-highest total of his career) last season. That included a very strong finish, as Andrus hit .271/.309/.464 in 43 games with the White Sox after the A’s released him in mid-August in a move seemingly motivated by a desire to keep him from vesting a $15MM option in his contract for the 2023 season.
- Josh Harrison (35): The final couple months of the season saw Andrus and Harrison overlap on Chicago’s South Side. The latter played the entire season there after signing a one-year free agent deal during Spring Training. Harrison appeared in 119 games, mostly split between second and third base. He hit .256/.317/.370 with seven home runs across 425 trips to the plate, overcoming a slow start to finish the year with roughly average offensive numbers. The veteran had posted similar numbers in each of the previous two seasons. He doesn’t draw many walks or hit for significant power, but he’s a respected clubhouse presence who consistently puts the ball in play. Harrison still earns solid grades from defensive metrics for his second and third base work; he’s not an option at shortstop, however.
- José Iglesias (33): Iglesias spent the 2022 season as the primary shortstop in Colorado. He hit .292/.328/.380 through 467 plate appearances, right in line with the production he’s managed over the past four seasons. Igleias is very difficult to strike out and hits for consistently high batting averages, albeit without much else to drive the offensive profile. He rarely walks or hits home runs, though he’s a threat for 25-plus doubles annually. That offense sufficed when paired with the excellent defense that defined his early MLB tenure. He’s drawn less favorable reviews from public metrics the past two seasons though. Statcast has pegged him as a league average shortstop in each of the last two campaigns, but Defensive Runs Saved has rated him a staggering 26 runs below average since the start of 2021. How teams feel about Iglesias’ glove at this stage of his career figures to determine whether he’ll get semi-regular playing time again or have to assume more of a utility role in 2023.
- César Hernández (32): Hernández suited up 147 times and tallied 617 plate appearances with the Nationals last season. He was a durable presence in the lineup for manager Dave Martinez but had a rough season. Just a year after popping a career-high 21 home runs, the switch-hitter mustered only one longball in the nation’s capital. Hernández is limited to second base and has posted subpar defensive metrics in each of the last two years. He might be limited to minor league offers.
- Rougned Odor (29): Odor spent the 2022 campaign in Baltimore, his third team in as many seasons. The production was similar as it has been at each of the previous two stops. Odor has enough left-handed power to connect on 10-15 home runs with fairly regular playing time. Yet he also makes plenty of outs thanks both to consistently low walk rates and a propensity for infield pop-ups. Odor is almost strictly a second baseman — he has intermittent experience at third base as well — and posted below-average defensive numbers last year.
Utility Types/Bounceback Fliers
- Hanser Alberto (30): Alberto brings a high-contact righty bat to a bench. He never walks and has only once topped three home runs in a season but has plus bat-to-ball skills and is well-regarded as a clubhouse presence. Alberto hit .244/.258/.365 in 159 plate appearances with the Dodgers in 2022.
- Johan Camargo (29): Camargo spent the 2022 season with the Phillies, hitting .237/.297/.316 through 166 plate appearances. The switch-hitter had a pair of productive years with the Braves to open his MLB career but has since had four straight well below-average seasons. Camargo’s most natural fit is at third base, though he played more shortstop with Philadelphia.
- Harold Castro (29): A left-handed hitter, Castro makes a decent amount of contact. He’s a career .284 hitter but rarely walks or hits for power. He’s played extensively throughout the infield and even logged a fair bit of center field work but rated poorly defensively at every stop. The Tigers non-tendered him at the end of the season.
- Yu Chang (27): Chang bounced around the league via waivers in 2022, suiting up for four teams. He hit .208/.289/.315 in 190 combined plate appearances. Chang had been a prospect of some regard during his time in the Cleveland farm system. He hasn’t hit in limited MLB looks in any of the past four seasons but can play all four infield spots.
- Didi Gregorius (33): Gregorius was an above-average shortstop as recently as 2020. Unfortunately, a two-year free agent deal to return to the Phillies over the 2020-21 offseason didn’t pan out. Gregorius struggled offensively in both seasons, including a .210/.263/.304 line in 232 trips to the plate last year. The Phils cut him in early August and he didn’t sign elsewhere before year’s end.
- Josh VanMeter (28): VanMeter is primarily a second baseman who has some experience at the corner spots. He hit .187/.266/.292 with a trio of home runs through 192 plate appearances with the Pirates last season.
- Jonathan Villar (31): Villar has excellent speed and has stolen more than 35 bases on three separate occasions. He’s intermittently been a productive hitter, posting above-average offensive numbers as recently as 2021. Last season was a disappointment, however. Villar hit .208/.260/.302 in 220 plate appearances between the Cubs and Angels. He spent the final couple months of the year in Triple-A.