As the winter comes along, the Dodgers have a big question mark at second base. It’s not like they don’t have any options, but nobody held the position down in 2018.
It looked like Kiké Hernandez might have locked it down in September but his post-season might have changed more than a few minds. This article will analyze some of the in house, free agent and possible trade candidates for 2019.
Below is the list of second base candidates that will be considered sorted by Fangraphs WAR.
Note: ft/sec is sprint speed of feet per second.
Whit Merrifield – Royals
Merrifield has only has 2 years of service, despite starting 2019 at the age of 30. He is a late bloomer who is the fastest of all the candidates. He’s slightly above average defensively. From a financial perspective, he’s still pre-arbitration-eligible, so his salary in 2019 would be close to the minimum. He does hit lefties well and seems to be close to the perfect candidate for the Dodgers. The Royals will want a lot, but the Dodgers should at least give them a phone call.
Scooter Gennett – Reds
After two standout seasons it is safe to say that the guy named “Scooter” is for real. He hits lefties and righties well, both home and on the road. At Dodger Stadium in 2018 he slashed .714/.714/1.214 (!) as he helped lead the Reds to a 4 game sweep over the Dodgers. He plays a little above average defense, and is entering the 2019 season at the age of 28. He is eligible for arbitration this off-season and free agency after the 2019 season. MLB Trade Rumors projects Gennett to earn $10.7 million in arbitration.
Jean Segura – Mariners
Segura played shortstop for the Mariners the last two seasons. He did play 2B for the Diamondbacks in 2016 and that’s when he caught my eye. Segura is a leadoff hitter with some pop who hits both lefties and righties well. One big reason Segura is a good candidate is that he is insurance at SS in case Corey Seager isn’t ready early in 2019. He’s a good fielder, and would be an excellent candidate to bat leadoff. He enters his age 29 season with 4 years left on his contract that counts as $14 million per year for luxury tax purposes.
Joey Wendle – Rays
Another late bloomer, Wendle isn’t available for arbitration until after the 2020 season. He can also play third base and the outfield and plays good defense at second. This is the type of guy I can see Andrew Friedman wanting on the team with his versatility. Wendle was acquired for practically nothing from the A’s before the 2018 season and was a surprise. He hits lefties and righties equally well and could be an excellent fit with the Dodgers. The Rays would be selling high on him and they should consider making a move with Wendle.
Max Muncy – Dodgers
One of the best stories of 2018, Muncy is not a natural second baseman. In fact, he might be best as a DH but probably plays first base. During the season, and even in the playoffs, Muncy did play some 2B. He would definitely need some work to play more there in 2019, but still could severely weaken the overall infield defense. If the Dodgers don’t import another candidate, then Muncy could see some time there. If his defense was “good enough” then the offense gets a big boost by using 2B as a power position.
Kiké Hernandez – Dodgers
Kiké enters his 5th full major league season and plays all over the field very well. He had 2B locked up going into the playoffs, then had a horrid post-season. I’m assuming that he’ll be back as a guy who plays all over again. The Dodgers could decide to give him the first shot at the job. He does hit much better at home than on the road, but goes into prolonged slumps. He is still a valuable player whether he plays 2B full time or fulfills his full-time utility role.
Chris Taylor – Dodgers
Taylor is another versatile Dodger who played a lot of shortstop after Corey Seager was hurt, and before Manny Machado was acquired. The 2018 season saw CT3 end up with reverse splits, while developing a huge strikeout problem. I hope the new hitting coach works closely with him in spring training. Taylor has excellent speed and would be a strong defensive 2B, if he played there full time, but he may be an outfield candidate. He’s another versatile player who will be valuable whether as a full-time second baseman, or as a full-time utility player.
Free Agent Risks
Jed Lowrie – A’s (free agent)
At the age of 35 for the 2019 season, Lowrie is the oldest candidate listed. He is also coming off of his best season, statistically. However, he generally hits righties better than lefties, as his slugging percentage differential was around 90 percentage points. He’s a good defender, and has experience at 2B, 3B, and SS. This may be his final chance to get a good contract, so he might be a risky gamble given his age, injury history and possibly already having his best season.
D.J. LeMahieu – Rockies (free agent)
As reported earlier, the Dodgers seem to have interest in LeMahieu. He is one of the top defensive second baseman in baseball, but his offense has benefited a lot by playing in Colorado. DJL does put the bat on the ball and maybe the new hitting coach could get more out of him. As a free agent, it is unknown what the cost would be, but something like 2 years/$20 million would probably get it done. I’d rather stick with the internal candidates.
Low Cost Options
Jonathan Villar – Orioles
He was acquired from the Brewers at the mid-season trade deadline for Jonathan Schoop. He can steal bases and plays decent defense. It looks like he’d be pretty cheap and might be worth the a little gamble. MLB Trade Rumors has him projected to earn $4.4 million in arbitration. He would not be eligible for free agency until after 2020 and can play shortstop. If not a full-time second baseman he’d be a nice bench piece as he’s also a switch hitter.
Jonathan Schoop – Brewers (free agent)
Schoop was just non-tendered by the Brewers because of his possible arbitration-driven salary. He had a tough time with the Brewers, but has had a lot of success with the Orioles in the past. Another above average defender, he also possess some power. In 2018, his power was better against righties. If he can be signed for $2-3 million, then he’s worth a look. Too much more than that and I’d rather stick with the internal options.
Starlin Castro – Marlins
I only include him in case of a trade for J.T. Realmuto where Castro could be used for balancing salaries. He’s not bad and might do better in a lineup that would surround him with better players. I’d prefer not to have him. He’d count as $8.6 million for luxury tax reasons and could be a free agent after 2019 if his option is not picked up.
Jason Kipnis – Indians
Kipnis is also included for the same reason as Castro. He is clearly on the downside as he has had some injury issues. He still has some pop in his bat and plays a decent 2B. Kipnis hit much better at home than the road. If the Dodgers were to acquire him it would only be to balance out some contracts in a trade for a starting pitcher. Hopefully, it won’t happen.
One thing to keep in mind is that Gavin Lux could be ready by 2020. Right now he plays shortstop but very well could be a second baseman in the future. Omar Estevez is another one that could be ready by 2021 so the future impacts will be factored in as the front office makes these decisions. Other options like Brian Dozier, a free agent, weren’t factored in. Unless the Dodgers think he is a rebound candidate, I don’t see him coming back.
The following table has their AVG/OBP/SLG slash lines for their overall numbers along with how they did verses lefties, righties and home and road splits.
|Player||AVG/OBP/SLG||vs LHP||vs RHP||Home||Road|
I do like the Dodgers internal options of Hernandez, Taylor and even some Muncy. However, getting an elite second baseman like Gennett or Merrifield or even Segura would improve the overall team. Being able to have a strong bat at that position while they might be very weak at catcher for offense, might warrant getting one of the elite players that might be available. One concern I do have is that the spotlight of LA is brighter than most places and we’ve seen some players not perform well.
The players available in trade are more appetizing than the free agents like Lowrie, LeMahieu, or Schoop. I do feel that the price tag on these free agents could be pretty low, so any one of them could be a viable option. All in all, there are some interesting options and it all comes down to counting the player cost and the salary cost.
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