Improving the 2014 Dodgers: Second Base

mark_ellis_baltimore_2013-04-20Before we get into season reviews, which probably start later this week or early next, let’s spend some time looking at the four biggest areas of need for the 2014 Dodgers — second base, third base, another starting pitcher, and another reliever. Today, second base.

The Incumbent: Mark Ellis, 36, had what’s become a typical season for him. Combining solid defense, declining offense (just a .300 wOBA) and his annual leg injury (this one a quad that cost him three weeks), Ellis still contributed nearly two wins above replacement. That’s actually not too bad for the $5.25m he made this year, though his increasing inability to hit righty pitching (.265/.319/.325) is troublesome. The Dodgers have a $5.75m option for his services in 2014 should they choose to exercise it, a salary figure which isn’t unreasonable for the value he provides, but you know what you’re getting — there’s no upside left here.

Frankly, I think I’d like him a lot more if he were just hitting seventh or eighth rather than second (which he did 47 times this year), because he’s a below-average hitter and someone who Don Mattingly just loves to bunt ahead of the #3 hitter with. If he comes back, he needs to be the starter; Since he can’t play other positions and doesn’t have much power or speed, he’s not a great bench choice.

Organizational Options: Not even close. Seriously. Elian Herrera & Alfredo Amezaga played the bulk of the time at the keystone for Albuquerque this year, and if you suggest with any level of seriousness that Dee Gordon is the solution here, I will IP block you from the site forever.

Trade Options: There’s a few, with varying degrees of intrigue. We keep hearing the Mets are willing to trade Daniel Murphy, who the Dodgers reportedly had interest in two years ago. He’s got more bat than Ellis (.320 wOBA and 13 homers), but isn’t as good on defense; FanGraphs has him worth 3 WAR this season, which isn’t bad. Howie Kendrick is another second baseman we heard the Dodgers were in on, and he had a good season (.337 wOBA) at age-29. He’s not quite the defender Ellis is, but he’s turned himself into an asset there. Kendrick makes $18.8m over the next two seasons, which is fair, but the Angels won’t give him up cheaply, and would probably insist upon Zach Lee.

Brandon Phillips is also expected to be on the block, but he’s a huge no for me. In addition to the $50m over four years remaining on his contract, there’s the fact that all the bleating over his RBI masked that he had a career-worst offensive year (.307 wOBA, barely better than Ellis), and is regarded as a troublesome personality. Shockingly, it turns out that hitting behind Joey Votto & Shin-Soo Choo gives you about a billion opportunities to drive runners in. Put Zack Greinke there and he could get to 100 RBI too, which is why I find RBI completely irrelevant.

Ian Kinsler‘s name will always come up in Texas until they find a home for Jurickson Profar, and even in a “down year”, he was still far better (.334 wOBA) than Ellis, while performing as a more-or-less average defender. He has 4/$57m (plus a $5m buyout of a fifth year at $12m in his age-36 season) remaining, and I imagine we’ll hear people suggesting trading Andre Ethier for him until the end of time. Rickie Weeks Dan Uggla are also both easily available, but I’d rather just play with eight men on the field.

Free Agent Options: The Phillies took Chase Utley off the table with an extension, which is disappointing, and the Rays are certain to exercise Ben Zobrist‘s option. Robinson Cano is obviously the big fish, but even if you don’t believe the team’s repeated denials about having interest in him, I think most of us agree that it’s smart to avoid giving him a monster contract. Omar Infante spent most of the first eight years of his career as a utility man, but 401 of his 403 games for Miami & Detroit over the last three years have come at second. He’s headed into his age-32 season having just put up a .346 wOBA, which is very good, but it should be noted that it was just. 306 in 2011 and .310 in 2012. He’ll still probably get something like three years and $33 million. And, of course, we’ve talked about Cuban Alexander Guerrero ad nauseum at this point.

The Verdict? I think most of us would like to see Guerrero, and while that’s probably both because of pure excitement of the unknown and the fact that it feels like he’s been destined to be a Dodger for months, I tend to agree. He’s the youngest of this group, and if reports are accurate, may have comparable power to anyone here other than Cano. He also won’t cost anything in talent, which is a big drag on interest in Kendrick. I’m still hopeful the Dodgers get him for three or four years in the $30ish million range. Failing that, I would investigate Kendrick (but wouldn’t even consider discussing Corey Seager or Joc Pederson, obviously) or see just how overpaid Infante is going to be. If that all fails, bringing back Ellis for the $5.75m isn’t the worst backup plan in the world, but there’s not a lot to get excited about there, either.

218 comments
KingmanofLodi
KingmanofLodi

What....Michael Young not an option @ second base.....lol

InsideThePark (Ethier, Kemp, Puig)
InsideThePark (Ethier, Kemp, Puig)

I predict Marl Ellis will pull a Jeff Kent and show up to ST in.... Wait for it....

THE BEST SHAPE OF HIS LIFE.

when, by what date, do the Dodgers have until to decide on Ellis with respect to buy-out?

nsxtasy
nsxtasy

>> bringing back Ellis for the $5.75m isn’t the worst backup plan in the world

Because the Dodgers would otherwise need to pay $1 million to buy him out, the cost of bringing MEllis back is actually $4.75 million.

DodgerBytes
DodgerBytes

Have we signed Tanaka yet? Please wrap this up by Nov. 1st.

Dang88
Dang88

I hope Guerrero doesn't respect the game

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

"Gravity still has not come back to Earth in the box office..."

BAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

GUYSSSS DRANK'S QUESTION ABOUT CANO IS GOING TO BE ON DUSTIN'S PODCAST!!!!

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

Mornin gang! Welp we are already at work while the rest are watching! From their warm winter beds.  That is the Dodger way!!!

ABSmileBunch
ABSmileBunch

I like the idea (I'm pretty excited about the signing), but if AG is now the presumed starter at 2B, then shouldn't we have a back-up plan just in case he's not as good as we hope, needs some MiLB exposure prior to being on the MLB roster? Is he a sure fire thing? I too think Logan White's track record suggests we needn't worry, but there are plenty of unknowns here right? Would excercising MEllis' option be worthwhile even with the AG signing? Who out there would be an adequate improvement over MEllis in case AG isn't quite ready?

Dang88
Dang88

So we actually paid more with the bonus but es ok 

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

 and if you suggest with any level of seriousness that Dee Gordon is the solution here, I will IP block you from the site forever. Now get me the new piece up please so I am current

DavidGriffBecerra
DavidGriffBecerra

Dodgers aren't messin around. I'm not even over Fridays game yet. Yay for good news!

efb
efb

IM SO GRATEFUL A SIGNING HAPPENED TODAY SO DAMN GRATEFUL!

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

ONE STEP CLOSER TO FULFILLING DRANK'S BROADCASTING DREAM

Barney G
Barney G

@ABSmileBunch Colletti will probably sign or trade for a decent back up. I don't think they'll pick up Ellis's option because he probably won't want to settle for a back up job.

SummerSaint
SummerSaint

@ABSmileBunch He'll be 27 when the season starts. If he isn't ready by then, he likely never will be.