Second Base Candidates
As we talked about in the last post, this is probably not a position where the Mariners will invest heavily, even though they’re going to need to bring in someone who can begin the season as an everyday player. Dustin Ackley is knocking on the door, and they’re not going to want to expend resources to bring in a guy who would block his path to the majors. While you’ll probably see the team linked to guys like Kelly Johnson and Dan Uggla, both of whom would represent an offensive upgrade on a team that needs one, I doubt you’ll see the Mariners make a play for either one.
Instead, they’ll be shopping for a guy who can handle the position for at least the first few months of the season, then be able to slide into a utility role if Ackley’s performance demands that he be promoted from Tacoma in the early summer. That means they’ll want a guy who is okay with reduced playing time and can handle shortstop in a pinch. Ideally, he’d probably be a right-handed hitter that could complement Ackley, who still has a ways to go before he’s productive against LHPs.
Let’s take a look at a few different options that may be available without having to give up anything in trade – we’ll deal with those options in a separate post.
Ryan Theriot, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers picked him up in a deal with the Cubs this summer, hoping he would stabilize their second base problem. He didn’t, hitting just .242/.323/.283 in 228 plate appearances, a performance worse than the line that got him shipped out of Chicago in the first place. After serving as the Cubs starting shortstop the last few years, the Dodgers used him exclusively at second base, but he can handle either spot defensively. What he can’t do is hit for any power, so he’d be a hard sell to the fan base as any kind of offensive upgrade. He’s honestly pretty similar to Jack Wilson, just with less defensive value and fewer injuries. Exciting, right?
The Dodgers probably won’t want to give him the $3 to $4 million he’d earn in arbitration, so I’d expect Theriot to hit the free agent market at the beginning of December. Coming off a down year, and headed into his age 31 season, he probably won’t be able to get more than a one year deal for $2 to $3 million. He fits the description of the kind of player the M’s are probably going to be in the market for, and he’s in the right ballpark in terms of price. The question is whether the M’s want yet another slap-hitter who provides no difference in skills than what they already have, or if they’d rather find a guy who might provide a different kind of skillset. Still, expect Theriot to be a consideration.
Juan Uribe, Free Agent
Speaking of guys with different skillsets, expect to see a lot of people pushing for Uribe this winter. He’s been a productive player for the Giants over the last two years, combining good defense at three infield spots with surprising power from a middle infielder. In just over 900 plate appearances in 2009 and 2010, he’s launched 40 home runs, so he’d definitely provide some power that fans covet. There are a few problems, however – he’s a right-handed extreme pull power guy with a poor approach at the plate, and he’s going to be in demand as a free agent this winter.
Not only is Safeco about the worst possible park for his skills, he’ll have no shortage of suitors, most of whom won’t offer a home park that will turn his homers into long outs. The Mariners would have to outbid everyone else for his services with enough to spare to make him overlook Safeco, and given that he’s going to be 32 and is essentially Jose Lopez with a better glove, that doesn’t seem like a wise use of the team’s limited resources. If the market for him dried up, for whatever reason, the M’s would probably be interested, but I think he’ll probably end up pricing himself out of their range.
Jerry Hairston Jr, Free Agent
The Mariners were interested in Hairston as a utility player two years ago, when Jack Zduriencik first took over as the GM, but he ended up signing with the Reds. It is pretty likely that this front office still likes what Hairston brings to the table, and he fits the mold of what they’re looking for in a lot of ways – right-handed, a little bit of power, can play anywhere on the field, and experienced at serving as a super-sub. However, like Uribe, there won’t be much in the way of motivation for him to come play in Seattle. If he stays in San Diego, he may be able to keep playing with his brother, and the Padres want him back. The M’s could offer a little bit more money, but Hairston will be 35 next year and is reaching the end of his career – odds are good that winning is going to be the main factor, and so Seattle probably won’t be high on his list.
Jhonny Peralta, Free Agent
The poor man’s version of Juan Uribe. He has a similar build and approach, but gets a little less power out it at the plate while simultaneously managing to be worse defensively. He’s only going to be 29 next year, but he’s not aging very well and his days at shortstop are probably coming to an end. He doesn’t have any experience at second base, however, which might make him less attractive than other options, as the team already went through growing pains with Figgins at 2B this year. The Tigers have expressed interest in bringing him back, and it’s unlikely that he’d come to Seattle to play a new position, so he’s probably not going to be very high up on the list.
Felipe Lopez, Free Agent
Lopez had a pretty spectacular fall from grace after a really good 2009 season. He couldn’t find a job last winter, fired Scott Boras as his agent, eventually took $1 million from the Cardinals to serve as a part-time player, didn’t produce, and got released in the final week of the season for showing up late. He’s never had a good reputation for work ethic, but he’s got some offensive abilities and can handle second base defensively. He’s also a switch hitter and has experience around the infield, though he doesn’t have enough range to play short in anything other than an emergency.
At 31, he should have some decent baseball left in him, but his inconsistency and lack of motivation aren’t exactly the kind of thing the team will want around a bunch of young players. He’ll be cheap and would provide some upside, but I’d expect the M’s to pass due to his personality.
Clint Barmes, Colorado Rockies
The homeless man’s version of Juan Uribe. If the M’s really want that kind of player, Barmes provides the same idea in a worse package. He can play second or short without embarrassing himself, and has some power, but it’s all to left field. He doesn’t have a very good approach at the plate and had trouble keeping his OBP over .300 while playing half of his games in Coors Field. He’s an automatic non-tender for the Rockies, who won’t want to give him a raise from the $3.3 million he made this year, but he’s probably not worth more than a few million dollars, and Safeco would kill him. He’s an option, but not a great one.
Cristian Guzman, Free Agent
Felipe Lopez, but a slightly better work ethic. In retrospect, I wish I had written up Guzman instead of Lopez, and then just referred to Lopez as the the lazy version of this same skillset, but you get the idea.
There will be some other names available as well, but they’re all going to be some version of this kind of player (or they’re going to be out of the M’s price range). For $2 to $3 million on a one year deal, this is probably the group that the M’s will be looking at. I think my preference would be for Theriot, mostly due to his ability to slide over to shortstop when Jack Wilson inevitably gets hurt, but I’m not sure there’s a huge difference between most of these guys.