Last year, bad defensive outfielders got a rude awakening in free agency, as Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, and Bobby Abreu learned first hand that teams were beginning to value defense at positions besides catcher and shortstop. There were too many lumbering sluggers available, and the excess supply drove prices down for all of them.
This year, the hurt is landing on second baseman. Between teams who want to trade their incumbent away (Dan Uggla, Luis Castillo, Jose Lopez) and some talented free agents looking to get paid (Orlando Hudson, Felipe Lopez, Placido Polanco), the market was flooded with available second baseman. It didn’t help when Kelly Johnson was non-tendered by the Braves. Polanco is the only one of the seven who has found a new home, and he had to switch positions to land his deal with Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, the Marlins are still struggling to find a good deal for Uggla, who they assumed would be a hot commodity. The Mets would like to sign Hudson, but have to trade Castillo first, and there’s no market for his services. The Mariners have made no secret of the fact that Jose Lopez is available, but other teams are apparently not fond of him for the same reasons Seattle would like to move him. And there has been nary a rumor about Felipe Lopez, despite the fact that he’s coming off a +4.6 win season.
The news just got worse for these guys yesterday. The Dodgers, one of the few teams actively looking for a second baseman, signed Jamey Carroll to a two year, $4 million contract, and will let him and Blake DeWitt split time at the position. Like the Tigers, they preferred to go young and cheap as opposed to paying for a name player at the position.
Now, you have to wonder where any of these guys are going to land. The Giants would probably take one of these guys if they came at a bargain, but might require them to shift to third base if they aren’t as good defensively as Freddy Sanchez. Perhaps the Cubs may get involved, but they seem unlikely to hand out more than a one year deal to anyone, given their stated plan of shifting Ryan Theriot across the bag once young Starlin Castro proves ready for the big leagues.
Who else is really looking for a second baseman? The Twins, perhaps, but certainly not on a significant contract, and they may prefer a third baseman instead. Just looking at the demand for the position and the supply of players currently available, I’m guessing that Uggla, Johnson, and Felipe Lopez may have to end up switching positions in order to find a new home. For the Mariners and Mets, they’re probably stuck with the guys they already have. This is just not the year to be trading a second baseman.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.