23 November 2013

Scouring the League for Second Base Surplus

The Orioles offseason needs have been discussed at great length on the Depot during the offseason.  One of those needs is at second base.  Earlier in the offseason, Joe took a thorough look at Baltimore’s in-house options to man the position in 2014, as well as potential free agents and some trade options (namely Howie Kendrick and Darwin Barney).  Additionally, Matt wondered if the Orioles should pursue Mark Ellis.  Today, I’ll be taking a broader look at trade targets by examining teams that currently have a surplus of second baseman.  Additionally, we’ll look at what those teams may be looking for in a return (based on reports/rumors/common sense) and see if they match up well in a potential trade with Baltimore.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The emergence of Chris Owings as a top shortstop prospect is creating the log-jam in the Diamondbacks’ middle infield.  Owings was ranked by Baseball Prospectus as Arizona’s 3rd best prospect heading into the 2013 season, and he played well when he was called up to the big leagues in September, hitting .291/.361/.382 in 61 PA’s.  Both Owings and Gregorius are considered above average to plus defenders at shortstop (both can play 2B as well), with Owings projected to be the better hitter of the two.  That being the case, Owings’ bat may end up being below average at the keystone, due to some questions about his approach.

Aaron Hill (photo via Keith Allison)
Since both Gregorius and Owings have less than a year of service time (making them cheap from a financial point of view, but expensive in terms of a trade), the likely target out of these 3 should probably be Hill (Prado’s availability is likely limited due to his versatility and contract).  After a tough 2-year stretch in 2010 and 2011, Hill bounced back in 2012, hitting .302/.360/.502.  His 2013 was similar in terms of his rate stats, but he missed half the year due to a fractured left hand when he was hit by a pitch in April.  Hill is only an average runner, but will provide above average hitting and defense.  He is beginning a 3 year, $35 million contract in 2014, and because of this, he should cost less in talent than Gregorius and Owings.

Team Needs: By all indications, Arizona is looking for outfield power (which the Orioles don’t have) and major league starting pitching.  Unless Arizona believes that Brian Matusz can still start and/or Zach Britton can throw strikes, it may be difficult to complete a deal for Hill.

Los Angeles Angels

Potential Targets: Howie Kendrick, Grant Green

Joe already provided a good synopsis of a potential deal for Kendrick (linked above), so I won’t go into that, and trading for Green wouldn’t improve the Orioles at second base in 2014.  Compared to Hill, Kendrick will give you a little less production (through less walks, more strikeouts, and slightly less power), but he will give you a better batting average if you’re into that sort of thing.
Howie Kendrick (photo via Keith Allison)

Team Needs: P & P (which is something I made up and stands for Pitching and Prospects).  I think a deal for Kendrick would look similar to a proposed deal with Arizona, but more likely to happen due to the Angels increased willingness to accept prospects as part of the deal.

Milwaukee Brewers

Potential Targets: Rickie Weeks, Scooter Gennett

A team that's in the position the Brewers find themselves (they’re not very good) will not be trading Gennett, who had a great 2013 (in 230 PA’s), even if he likely outperformed his true talent.  As for Weeks, I bet you could basically get him for free, not that you’d necessarily want to.  He’s not a good defender and the last 2 years, he hasn’t been a good hitter either, posting a below average wRC+ in both years (with an ugly wRC+ of 86 last year).  On top of that, Weeks will be paid $11 million in 2014 and has a vesting option for $11.5 million in 2015 (the option vests if Weeks accumulates 600 PA’s in 2014 or 1,200 PA’s in 2013 and 2014 combined).  Despite missing some time with injuries, Weeks was very productive from 2009 to 2011 (a minimum 124 wRC+ in each year), but that seems like a long time ago.

Still, if the Orioles can convince Milwaukee to cover much of the cost in addition to not having to give up much talent, this may be an intriguing option for Baltimore.  If Weeks struggles, the 2015 option won’t vest anyway.*

Team Needs: Prospects.  It doesn’t look like they will be contending in 2014, and their farm system is pretty weak.  There is a possible match here if Baltimore wants to take a chance on Weeks.

*Weeks ended the 2013 season on the DL and had surgery on his left hamstring.  His timetable is 4-6 months, so depending on how his rehab is going, Weeks may not be a viable trade candidate.

Oakland Athletics

There are a lot of options to target from the A’s, except there aren’t.  Jed Lowrie will be difficult to acquire, especially if the A’s can’t find a shortstop to move him to second base (a better position for him defensively).  Sogard is an above average fielder but can’t hit, Callaspo is an average hitter, but can’t field (at second base anyway), and Weeks is pretty much an unknown.

Callaspo and Weeks are probably the best candidates to target, but each should make Orioles GM Dan Duquette a little uneasy based on what they would likely cost.  With Callaspo, any value he provides on offense (again average to slightly below average), would be given back on defense, as he has a career UZR/150 of -8.4 in over 2000 innings at second base.  He is a versatile defender though (in the sense that he can play many positions without completely embarrassing himself), and is actually an above average defender at the hot corner.  Weeks is a former top prospect that hasn’t really produced anything at the major league level.  Besides what seems like a “luck driven” debut in 2011, Weeks hasn’t hit and has played below average defense as well.  Still, if the price is low for the former top prospect, the Orioles may want to look into acquiring him, just not with the idea that he’d be their starting second baseman in 2014.

Team Needs: Oakland appears to be primarily looking at upgrading their starting pitching and shortstop positions.  I don’t think there is a fit here that would help both teams, as I probably wouldn’t give up a significant player/prospect for either Callaspo or Weeks, which is something Oakland will probably ask for.

Seattle Mariners

Potential Targets: Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller

Franklin and Miller won’t be going anywhere, as the Mariners are in the process of quasi-rebuilding and they’re both under team control for the next 6 seasons.  Ackley may not be going anywhere either, as the team is now trying him out in centerfield (one of the positions he played in college), although he may become expendable if Seattle signs Jacoby Ellsbury as it has been rumored.  Seattle sent Ackley to the minors in 2013 and may be giving up on Ackley after 2 straight years of lackluster hitting, which is the ONE thing that basically every scout was sure he would be able to do.  What’s worse is that no one seems to know exactly why Ackley isn’t hitting, and some have even suggested that the issue is mental.  What we do know is that Ackley has turned himself into an above average defender at second base (7.3 UZR/150 in over 2,400 innings) to go along with his above average baserunning skills.  If Ackley is available at a discounted or even a reasonable cost, I’d be extremely tempted to take a chance on him.

Team Needs: Seattle is looking for power this offseason, and although they prefer it to come from the outfield, they’ll take it anywhere.  They’re also looking for a frontline starter (who isn’t).  There doesn’t appear to be too much of a fit here either, but acquiring Ackley may not require much of a return.

St. Louis Cardinals

Not anymore.  With the trade of David Freese to the Angels, the Cardinals will likely move Matt Carpenter to third base and have Kolten Wong man the keystone.

Texas Rangers

Not anymore.  Although, at the time this trade went through, I found myself wondering how the deal would have looked if the Rangers would have traded Kinsler to the Orioles for Chris Davis (ie, who else would have been coming to the Orioles besides Kinsler).

Washington Nationals

Potential Targets: Danny Espinosa, Anthony Rendon

Forget about trading for Rendon, he wouldn’t be worth what the Nationals would ask for him.  They should be willing to discuss Espinosa though, and he probably wouldn’t be expensive.  He is very risky, since he’s coming off a terrible year where he needed surgery for a fractured wrist.  For a player whose best attribute at the plate is his power (actually it’s really his only offensive attribute), that’s not good news.  Espinosa is a plus defender (he can also provide good defense at shortstop) and isn’t eligible for arbitration yet, so it’s not all bad news.

Team Needs: Not much.  They are looking for left handed bullpen help, so with the excess left handers currently on the Orioles 40 man roster, the two teams could easily get something done.  However, Espinosa is so risky right now that there’s a decent chance he provides less production than Baltimore’s in-house options.


So after all that, realistic options include (in approximate order of lowest risk/highest cost to highest risk/lowest cost) Aaron Hill, Howie Kendrick, Dustin Ackley, Rickie Weeks, Danny Espinosa.  As you can see, the list drops off dramatically after Kendrick.  Whether the Orioles should make a trade for any of these players obviously depends on what they would need to give up in talent, in addition to the added salary commitments of the player acquired.  However, in what seems to be an increasingly expensive free agent market, any money owed to Hill and Kendrick as a result of a trade may end up looking like a steal.

No comments: