Connect with us

MLB

MLB Free Agents: Second Basemen

Full breakdown of the best free agent second basemen available for the 2014 season.

Robinson Cano
Robinson Cano

Sep 6, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (24) smiles in the dugout in the 5th inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

There is no doubt who the biggest free agent is coming into this Major League Baseball offseason. As we’ve mentioned before in our MLB Offseason PrimerRobinson Cano will be the biggest catch in the free agent market. As colleague Tony Consiglio had mentioned, Cano is asking for a mega-deal; a ten-year, $300 million contract to be exact. Cano will be 31 years old in 2014 and a contract that long will have him play until he’s 41.

In terms of other free agents at second base, one will notice the lack of top-level talent available for teams. Then again, judging by the landscape of MLB teams, a majority of clubs are set at that position as teams like the Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres have homegrown talent manning that position for 2014 (Anthony Rendon and Jedd Gyorko respectively). Many of the free agents at this position are more than likely signing on as utility players.

As far as teams trying to sign the best player available, it would appear that the New York Yankees are frontrunners to re-sign Cano. The Los Angeles Dodgers currently lack a second baseman and have the funds and competitive fire to match the Yankees. Or perhaps the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim might decide to go all in and overspend on yet another free agent this offseason. Maybe the St. Louis Cardinals might feel the need to shore up their lineup as they attempt to reload and win another title. But then again, the Cards may be comfortable just trotting out the young and inexperienced Kolten Wong. What about the New York Mets? Would they not love to take away the spotlight from their cross-town rivals? And wouldn’t Cano look good in a lineup that also features Miguel Cabrera? And are the San Francisco Giants not due for another World Series title? They certainly like to throw money around as well.

The following table will explain why so many teams will be looking hard at Cano in the upcoming weeks and months:

Robinson Cano: Production

Year

Age

BB%

K%

OBP

SLG

ISO

UBR

wSB

wOBA

2011

28

5.6%

14.1%

0.349

0.533

0.231

2.5

0.3

0.374

2012

29

8.8%

13.8%

0.379

0.550

0.238

-0.7

-1.0

0.394

2013

30

9.5%

12.5%

0.383

0.516

0.202

-2.4

0.4

0.384

One thing that pops out of the preceding table is the ridiculous improvement in his Walk:Strikeout (BB:K) ratio. For most of his early 20s, Cano was notorious for showing an incapability to draw a walk. To his credit, Cano does not strike out a lot either. So the increase in Walk Rate and On-Base Percentage (OBP) is always a good sign of a legit hitter. Then again, Albert Pujols, despite a down year with the Cardinals in 2011, also displayed a similar batting eye before becoming the bust that he has become with the Angels. But that’s where the similarities end as one will see from Cano’s Batted Balls Percentages:

Robinson Cano: Batted Ball Rates

Year

Age

LD%

GB%

FB%

IFFB%

HR/FB%

2011

28

22.3%

46.7%

31.0%

9.1%

17.0%

2012

29

25.6%

48.7%

25.8%

9.5%

24.1%

2013

30

26.0%

44.3%

29.8%

4.5%

17.3%

Where Pujols is a fly ball hitter, Cano has really developed more into a line-drive hitter. His swing and approach are perfect for Yankees Stadium, but regardless of where he goes, a high Line Drive Rate (LD%) will more often than not create chances to get on base and drive in runs. Not shown, however, is the fact that Cano finally went over 20 percent in LD% in 2011. Before then, and even as recently as 2012, Cano is prone to hit ground balls in high volume. That would explain Cano’s career Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) of .322 (as opposed to a BABIP of .291 for Pujols’ last three years in St. Louis). That would indicate that some of Cano’s success can be attributed to luck and fluky situations.

That is not to say that Cano has been a fraud in the last three seasons. If he can continue to hit with a high Line Drive Rate, perhaps the high Ground Ball Percentage might not matter. Coupled with a good approach at the plate, Cano might prove to be worth the riches that are coming to him:

Robinson Cano: Plate Discipline

Year

Age

Swing%

Contact%

SwStr%

2011

28

55.8%

86.5%

7.1%

2012

29

50.3%

82.8%

8.3%

2013

30

49.8%

86.7%

6.4%

As mentioned before, Cano does a good job at controlling the strikeouts. Considering that last season was the first time he posted a Swing Percentage below 50 percent, it’s no wonder he has never struck out more than 100 times in any season of his career. It’s also astonishing to see how he is able to maintain a high contact rate while also displaying power.

Defense might be a concern as a hitter like Cano will eventually see accelerated decrease in defensive prowess. There was a dip in some of his advanced defensive metrics in 2013, but Cano still rated as a good defender.

No player is worth $200 or $300 million, but Cano definitely deserves to be the highest-paid second baseman in all of baseball. In an ideal world, Cano would be forced to accept a five-year deal. Ten years is a long contract to give to a player that will enter a new deal at age 31. It would appear that seven years would be an acceptable compromise.

Another second baseman that is probably expected to garner a lot of attention is Omar Infante. We’ve mentioned before how Infante finished in the top five among second basemen in OPS this past season. But will Infante prove to be a good backup plan for teams that miss out on Cano?

Omar Infante: Production

Year

Age

BB%

K%

OBP

SLG

ISO

UBR

wSB

wOBA

2011

29

5.3%

10.5%

0.315

0.382

0.105

0.8

-0.6

0.306

2012

30

3.6%

11.1%

0.300

0.419

0.144

1.6

1.6

0.310

2013

31

4.2%

9.2%

0.345

0.450

0.132

0.2

-0.2

0.346

As one can see, Infante will warrant plenty of suspicion, as he posted three-year highs in OBP, Slugging, and wOBA. Not shown is the three-year high Line Drive Percentage of 23.6 percent. Another red flag is his Swinging Strike Percentage going up while his Contact Rate went down in 2013. Plus his defensive numbers dipped in 2013, which is not a good sign for the aging middle infielder.

Other second basemen that will be available in free agency:

  • Skip Schumaker: The soon-to-be 34-year-old does a good job limiting his strikeouts and showing some decent plate discipline and on-base skills. But at this point of his career, his ticket to a roster spot will be through his versatility on defense as he has shown the ability to play all three outfield positions. However, his defensive metrics in 2013 were not very impressive either.
  • Brian Roberts: The former face of the Baltimore Orioles will more than likely return to the birds in 2014. Roberts has not played a majority of the season since 2009. A backup role would seem to make the most sense as his decent plate discipline might come in handy in small spurts. He might prove to be a liability on defense.
  • Ramon Santiago: Sort of a poor man’s Omar Infante, Santiago offers a decent approach at the plate and pretty high contact rate. But his most appealing attribute is his versatility in playing all over the infield.
  • Nick Punto: Not a very imposing hitter, but can be a tough out. He can prove to be a valuable defensive asset, especially as a late-game substitution.
  • Kelly Johnson: What he lacks in plate discipline, Johnson makes up for it in pop. He is an aggressive hitter with a low contact rate. Just like the other names mentioned, Johnson can be counted on to play multiple defensive positions. Though he is a decent infielder, his range in the outfield is a bit suspect, but he has proven to have an arm good enough to keep runners honest.

If that list of free agent second basemen prove to be underwhelming, the following players that are rumored to be on the trading block will prove to be a bit more interesting:

It’s going to be a wild and unpredictable offseason in Major League Baseball.

All stats courtesy of fangraphs.com

2 Comments

More in MLB