Yuni To Second?
Lost in the rest of the news yesterday was a short note from Larry LaRue that the team is considering shifting Yuniesky Betancourt to second base when he returns from the disabled list. Lopez would move to third in Beltre’s absence, and Cedeno would presumably continue as the starting shortstop.
This move would do a couple of things. Most notably, it’s probably the best defensive infield the team can run out there without Beltre. Yuni is probably a -5 to -15 defender at SS now, while Lopez is 0 to -10 at second, and Woodward is -5 to +5 at third. That would suggest that the M’s would expect to lose 15 runs on defense from those three positions compared to league average over a full season.
By shifting Betancourt and Lopez to positions where their range isn’t as critical, they would get a good chunk of those runs back. Cedeno’s something like a -5 to +5 shortstop, while Betancourt would probably be a -0 to -10 second baseman, and Lopez would be -5 to +5 at third base, where his defensive skillset profiles a bit better. All of the sudden, -15 from that group becomes a -5.
It also gives them a new series of moves to consider. We’d talked about the rather lackluster options for acquiring a third baseman from outside the organization, but the re-alignment would put the M’s in the position to be able to buy a shortstop instead. There are some decent ones available, from Jack Wilson to Nick Punto to Reid Brignac (okay, he’s less available than the other two, but one can dream). Acquiring either Wilson or Punto would put the M’s in a position to get above average defense from their 2B/3B/SS collection, which is hard to imagine given the talent on the roster right now.
Given the available options, this is probably the best the M’s can do. It’s not great, and they should still look to upgrade on Cedeno at short if they can get a decent player for a reasonable price, but it’s better than having Chris Woodward in the line-up on a regular basis.
It also comes with the bonus that if Beltre is able to return in September, there’s a pretty good chance that Betancourt is the one who loses the game of musical chairs. Lopez would almost certainly go back to second base, and Yuni would have had to impress enough with his work to unseat Cedeno or the new shortstop and get his old position back. Yea, I don’t think that’s very likely either.