According to the Fangraphs Depth Charts, the position where the Orioles received the least amount of production was second base. The Orioles only received 1.1 fWAR from players playing at second base, which was the sixth worst in the majors. Jonathan Schoop had most of the playing time and only put up a .209/.244/.354 line and a 65 wRC+, while Ryan Flaherty put up a .221/.288/.356 line and a 79 wRC+. It doesn’t look to get much better in 2015. Steamer projects Jonathan Schoop to put up a .231/.278/.369 line with an 80 wRC+ and Flaherty to put up a .230/.289/.373 line with an 84 wRC+. Those numbers would be a considerable upgrade for Schoop but would still be considerably below average. Both players are good defenders and will help the club defensively, but finding an offensive upgrade would be helpful.
In order to determine possible upgrades at second base it is necessary to see how other potential targets performed. There were 50 players who played at least 200 innings at second base in 2014. I created a spreadsheet with each of their offensive numbers against left-handed pitchers and right-handed pitchers as well as their fWAR, UZR, and UZR/150. This should let us determine Schoop and Flaherty’s strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a link to the Google Docs file and hopefully this widget will let you look at the data in more depth.
Schoop and Flaherty were both top defensive second basemen. Using UZR/150, Schoop was ranked #12 defensively while Flaherty was ranked #14. Both Schoop and Flaherty have a reputation for being good defensively, so those results aren’t surprising. Likewise, both Schoop (#31) and Flaherty (#23) are roughly average for a second baseman against right-handed pitching. They struggled against left-handed pitching, where Schoop was ranked #41 and Flaherty was ranked #36. This gives the Orioles options because they could either look for an upgrade or they could look for a second baseman who would be a good platoon option.
If the Orioles are looking for an upgrade then there are options available. Rumor has it that the Angels are considering trading Howie Kendrick in return for a starting pitcher. They probably want someone with more service time, but perhaps Wei-Yin Chen would be an acceptable starting point. Asdrubal Cabrera is a free agent and would probably be an upgrade. The Orioles could also see whether the Rays are willing to trade Ben Zobrist or if the Reds are willing to trade Brandon Phillips. All of these are potential options but none are particularly likely.
If the Orioles are looking for a platoon option then Rickie Weeks could fit the bill. He’s no longer as good of a defender as he once was but he has historically done well against left-handed pitching and could potentially be a platoon option.
The option I would recommend is acquiring Darwin Barney. Barney has historically been considered an excellent defender. Eno Sarris notes that from 2012 to 2014 he has been the second best second baseman according to UZR and the best according to UZR/150. Aside from 2010 when he played 54 innings, he has posted excellent defensive numbers. He’s had a positive UZR and DRS each year from 2011 to 2014. He’s only 29 years old and should be able to continue playing at an elite defensive level for at least another two years. This is important because Buck loves defense and a poor defender will probably never see the field.
The data show that Darwin Barney is reasonably good against left-handed pitching. In 2014, he had a wRC+ of 100 and was the 23rd best second baseman and against left-handed pitching. He has a career line of .265/.320/.376 and a wRC+ of 89 against left-handed pitching. Barney is pretty bad against right-handed pitching and therefore is a perfect platoon option.
Barney is in his second year of arbitration and earned $2.3 million last year. He was DFA’d by the Cubs last year and it is very possible that the Dodgers will decide not to tender him a contract given that they already have Dee Gordon at second base. Either way, it should be reasonably cheap to acquire Barney and his contract will not be overly expensive. If the Orioles can acquire him then they’ll control his rights for 2015 and 2016.
The Orioles struggled at second base last year and things don’t look to be much better in 2015. This position will be one of the areas easiest to upgrade for 2015 and is somewhere the Orioles need to improve if they want to increase their chances of making it to the playoffs next year and potentially becoming a champion.