Now that Mark Ellis is reportedly off the table and has agreed to sign a one-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, which is pending a physical and was first reported by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the free agent market for second baseman has all but dried up. It was seemingly a foregone conclusion but barring a trade it looks like there is a very good chance that the Toronto Blue Jays will be trotting out the combination of Maicer Izturis and Ryan Goins again in 2014.
Ellis’ deal comes on the heels of Omar Infante‘s agreement with the Kansas City Royals yesterday, which was first reported by Buster Olney at ESPN. Both are very good players with relatively low floors that would have been significant upgrades for the Blue Jays. But that point becomes moot since there’s not much point glowing about players that are no longer available as however fanciful options at second base.
The remaining free agent pool includes Scott Sizemore, who has missed nearly two straight years of baseball due to a tear and re-tear of his ACL (poor guy), Jamey Carroll, owner of a .518 OPS in 2013 and at 40 may be nearly done, Alexi Casilla, who is basically a four-year older switch-hitting version of Goins (great glove/unreliable bat) and Chris Getz, who was basically non-tendered in favour of Emilio Bonifacio. Not exactly the most awe-inspiring of groups to say the least. There are a few other options (Miguel Tejada anyone?) but the second basement cupboard has been all but cleared out.
You never know what Anthopoulos may have up his sleeve but his focus has remained, rightfully so, upgrading the Blue Jays rotation but something more at second base may in fact be needed if they want to avoid the pitfalls of a season ago.
I’ve advocated going with Goins in the past but realistically his offensive production remains a question mark. He fell of dramatically after entering the league on fire, which does raise concerns about how low his triple-slash could go over the course of a full season. He’s spectacular to watch on defense and will provide value based on the amount of runs he’ll likely save alone but his Steamer projected .241/.284/.335 triple-slash (Oliver .236/.281/.334) holds down his potential value. The two projectors rate his defense differently with Oliver holding it in much higher regard, which makes his predicted 1.1 fWAR much greater than Steamer’s 0.1. Acceptable but not great production if you choose to go with Oliver but a competing team would likely need more from their everyday second baseman.
Izturis was dreadful in 2013 and was a full win below replacement level using Baseball-Reference’s method and an even worse 2.1 wins below replacement using FanGraphs. His UZR and DRS the past two seasons suggest he’s basically inept at second base and was even worse during a brief stint at third. Goins defense has value but it’s possible that the combination of Izturis/Bonifacio the first half of 2013 made us appreciate his defense more than we should. At the end of the day the offensive production for both Izturis (65 OPS+, 63 wRC+) and Goins (66 OPS+, 62 wRC+) was similar in its brutality.
I’m not exactly painting a pretty picture here so I’ll stop here before this post gets too miserable. Both Goins and Izturis may in fact be adequate enough in 2014 and the Blue Jays are hopefully saving all their pennies for a starting pitcher. But we may have an indication about how much risk Anthopoulos is willing to take at certain positions.
It may just be a fact here his hands are tied after giving Izturis a three-year contract last off-season and Goins is still a young player under team control they may just need to roll with for now. And of course he may have something planned via a trade but with limited assets a significant upgrade will be tough to find. To add to their problems, it doesn’t help that the New York Yankees are still looking for a second baseman to replace the departed Robinson Cano, unless they are expecting to run out Kelly Johnson on an every day basis.
Whether or not John Gibbons can work some lineup magic and get the most out of both Goins and Izturis remains to be seen. But it appears he might be going into the season with no other options.