Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis (14) runs after hitting a double in the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves in game four of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays miss out on all the second baseman; Ellis agrees with Cardinals

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.

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  • david s

    Good article.

    Not doing anything at second base was also an option as well. I do not want to belittle the situation, but Gibbons looks on Goins highly. They are both Texans after all.

    Defensively, Goins almost doubled the amount double plays made at the position when he arrived. His range and this goes back to the minors hovers around 4.5, very high indeed, comparing him to top second bagers in both leagues.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think there are far superior hitters at second base to Goins. That is a drawback straight and simple. The question is about cost. AA is a thorough guy. He most likely studied about Infante and Ellis and of course Cano. He kicked the tires, studied all the stats and then asked how much. It appears the price would have meant Stroman, Sanchez, or another player that would have just made another whole to fill.

    AA may have someone off the charts or map we are not thinking about, still, the Jays may be content with a Goins as the nineth hitter after Navarro. Certainly, with Navarro, the only weak hitter would be Goins who hits at about .250. He strikes far too much and his OBP is not very high. Like I said, however, there are eight solid hitters with Goins. Arencibia is gone, so one weak hitter may be something AA and Gibbons can tolerate especially since he showed that the Blue Jays can win consistently when he plays the field.

    Yes, it is fast appearing that Goins is the option which will not please those who want solid offence from one to nine in the batting order. Time will tell, but Goins most likely is here to stay for awhile.

    • http://jaysjournal.com/ Michael Wray

      Yeah I’d have to agree he’s tolerable in the 9-hole without Arencibia and with Goins’ plus defense its not the worst of situations.

  • Jefftown37

    Defense is one of the things that most hurt the Jays in 2013. Just look at FanGraphs’ team stats.

    With his plus defense in mind I’m tempted to go with Goins as a platoon partner to start the season. He seems to be a hard worker, too, and I’d like to see how he can improve at the dish working with Kevin Seitzer in Dunedin in February and March.

    I like the idea of signing Jamey Carroll for the other half of the platoon. Even though he’ll be 40 and had a terrible 2013, the previous season he slashed .338/.405/.434 in 154 PAs vs. LHPs. He’ll cost very little; he brings an additional veteran presence to the club; and since he came up with the Expos he has experience playing in Canada.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Sigh… what about Philips? The turf might be hard on his body and that may be a deal breaker. I think the Reds would have interest in Rasmus, but if it were me, I’d only be interested if Bailey and Philips were coming over, with some money on Philips contract.

    • Paul Miller

      Problem with Philips is not only that he’s owed a lot of money, but when there was reports of the Yankees attempting to acquire him, he wanted to open up to a contract extension, which sounds ridiculous but I’m sure it scared off other suitors.

  • brad

    Good. There are too many problems in the rotation to spend money at second base. The only way i see someone not named Goins starting at 2b next year is if they are acquired as a complimentary piece in a SP deal.

  • RyanMueller

    I have zero problem running out a rookie at this point. This guy was a favorite of mine while he was in the minors, so I think I might be a little bias. This guy has been able to hold his own at every level he has played. He will learn to hit major league pitching. At what level, not sure, but he will hit. I would be happy with Manny Lee type slash line and defense.

  • Pingston

    I’m good with Goins. Solid defense, will hit well enough.

    After we emptied the decks in trades last year, I’d like AA to buy free agent pitchers even if we have to pay a premium to bring them across the border. One may be enough if the rest pull together at least as well as they did in Aug-Sept. Don’t wait for Spring, do it now.