Welcome to TOC's offseason primers! We haven't officially reached the offseason yet, but it's never too early to look at the best players on the free agent market. Today, we take a look at the best free agent second basemen available.
This is a one player class – Robinson Cano is the cream of the second base crop, and he's going to get *paid*. But if a team misses out on Cano and still needs a second baseman, they might have to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
1. Robinson Cano. How much money is Cano going to get? $150 million? $200 million? $250 million? He's going to get at least eight years and nine figures, but the particulars from there on out are a little hazy. After the Dodgers signed Alexander Guerrero earlier this week, they appear to be out of the bidding for Cano – but don't underestimate a potential bidding war between the Yankees and maybe some other large market teams like the Tigers and maybe even the Mets.
2. Omar Infante. Detroit's incumbent second baseman will be hitting the free agent market for the first time in his career. He'll be 32 in December, and you can reasonably assume what you'll get out of him going forward: a decent batting average, middle of the road pop, solid defense, and not a lot of walks or strikeouts. He's also stayed pretty healthy over the past few seasons, with just a pair of DL stints totaling 47 games over the past four seasons. Infante isn't nearly as sexy a name as Cano, but he could wind up being a steal after making just $4 million over each of the last two seasons.
3. Kelly Johnson. Johnson only played 135 innings at second for the Rays in 2013, but excelled in a super utility role. He got time at first, second, third, and in left for Tampa Bay last season, and while he's not a great defender like teammate Ben Zobrist, he can capably hold his own. After a miserable season with the stick in 2012 (in Toronto, no less), Johnson had a decent rebound year in 2013, hitting .235/.305/.410 in 407 plate appearances. He's probably not worth a starting role in 2014, especially with him turning 32 in February, but a team could have a lot of fun slotting Johnson into various roles in their lineup to give their regulars a day off.
4. Mark Ellis. He's not officially a free agent quite yet, but I imagine the Dodgers will decline his $5.75 million club option following the aforementioned of Guerrero. While that sum of money might seem criminal for Ellis, he's not a bad player, hitting .270/.323/.351 in 2013 with six homers this past year. Ellis is an absolute wizard with the glove, and a club looking to emulate the success the Pirates and Rays have had focusing on defense would be wise to give Ellis a look.
5. Nick Punto. Lil Nicky Punto is heading to the free agent market, and will make for a great bench piece for someone. In 2013, Punto got his most playing time since 2009 and performed reasonably well for the Dodgers, hitting .255/.328/.327. He's a more sure handed version of Johnson with a better stick, getting time at second, short, and third last year and playing solid defense at all three positions. Punto has never hit for any power and doesn't hit for a high average, but he takes his walks and can get on base at a nice clip if given the chance. He's probably the best defensive-minded bench infielder on the market this winter.
6. Brian Roberts. Roberts is the ultimate buy-low option, but at this point in his career, the risk probably outweighs the reward. During the 36-year old's just-expired four year, $40 million contract with Baltimore, Roberts logged just 809 plate appearances, with the 296 he recorded last year being the high water mark. But Roberts actually stayed healthy in the second half of 2013 for the Orioles after missing nearly all of the first half thanks to a torn hamstring tendon, and hit .249/.312/.392 this year with eight homers. If he somehow manages to stay healthy for a full season, the relative pittance it'll likely take to sign Roberts could be an absolute bargain.
7. Alexi Casilla. He can't hit at all, despite Baltimore plugging him into their lineup at DH too many times to count this year, but he's pretty good with the glove at second. Casilla is a poor man's Ellis, which should tell you something about the state of second base in this league past the top tier.
8. Skip Schumaker. Schumaker can play all over the diamond, but isn't a good defender anywhere. He's actually a not terrible hitter, but hasn't ben above average sine 2009. But hey, if you want to add some scrappiness to your club…
9. Ramon Santiago. He's a poor man's Punto, with no offensive skills at all but the ability to play second, short, and third. Santiago is also a switch hitter, so he's got that going for him.
10. Jamey Carroll. Carroll's career might be over. He'll be 40 in February, and was traded by the offensively-challenged Twins in August to the similarly offensively-challenged Royals. If Carroll does play next year, he'll likely end up as the 25th man on the roster as a poor man's Santiago. I can't even comprehend that.