A month ago, Aaron Gleeman made the point that first base is no longer the haven for sluggers that it used to be. According to Gleeman, “the position got old” and that just four first basemen made the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 prospects list from 2012-2015. “The answer for where all the good-hitting first basemen went is pretty simple,” he tells us. “They got hurt or they got old or they retired. And the fresh crop of sluggers that was supposed to replace them never materialized.”
As a result, there simply are not a ton of good first basemen available for clubs looking to upgrade. Over on the other side of the diamond, however, is a bounty of perfectly good third basemen, despite there being a pretty soft market for them.
Just like yesterday, when I previewed the ten top catchers who be changing teams between now and the trade deadline on August 1, today, we’re going to look at the corner infielders, ranked roughly in the order of value (with one huge exception).
Danny Valencia, Oakland Athletics
Valencia took forever to establish himself, but there’s no doubt that he’s become an offensive monster after hitting .296/.350/.510 with 30 homers over the last two years (in which he played just 172 games). He’s still a butcher at third, but that hardly matters. Actually, if you were looking for someone to acquire and shift across the diamond (or to DH), Valencia might be your man. He has one more year of arbitration before he goes on the open market, and Billy Beane always trades a guy too early rather than too late.
Other contenders: White Sox, Rangers, Indians, Mets
Yunel Escobar, Los Angeles Angels
Escobar’s ability to play second, third, and even shortstop in a pinch, will make him a valuable commodity if the Angels do throw in the towel. He’s also hit .315/.371/.414 over the last two years, cementing himself as a solid top of the order hitter, if a somewhat questionable defender. Whoever acquires him can either have him for next year at $7 million or pay him a $1 million buyout.
Other contenders: Mets, Orioles, Indians
Eduardo Nunez, Minnesota Twins
Some people wondered why the Twins even tendered Nunez a contract this offseason, but he’s made them eat their words, hitting .321/.347/.489 with 12 homers and 22 stolen bases. Like Escobar, he’s also very versatile, starting games at short, third and second base. And he has one more year of arbitration, which shouldn’t be terribly expensive given his track record. He’s not a good defender anywhere, but would still be an asset if he keeps hitting.
Prediction: It’s far more likely someone’s going to pop him to play shortstop than third base, so we’ll cover this tomorrow.
Chris Carter, Milwaukee Brewers
There used to be this old lawyer in Minnesota when I was growing up named Jack Prescott. Whenever I stayed home from school, his commercials were all over the TV, talking about his practice handling bankruptcy cases. “This is all I do, and I do it well,” he told us over and over again. I think of him whenever I think of Chris Carter, who only does one thing, but he does it well. Luckily for him, that thing is mashing taters. And teams will always covet his kind of game changing power.
Prediction: White Sox
Other contenders: Astros
Yangervis Solarte, San Diego Padres
I don’t expect the Padres to move the late-blooming Solarte, who has excelled this year (.295/.374/.514) at age 28. He’s under control for four more years, and is still making around the minimum. But the Padres are out of contention, looking to trade, and…if I’m being totally honest…I had to make this a top 10 list.
Prediction: Staying put!
Steve Pearce, Tampa Bay Rays
I have a soft spot in my heart for Pearce, who was with the Williamsport Crosscutters while I was a clubhouse manager. He’s a solid bat against lefties especially, and can even play second base in a pinch. He’s a free agent after the season, so the Rays should get something for him while they can.
Other contenders: White Sox, Astros
Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins
The Twins have said that they’re open for business, and are definitely motivated to clear space for Miguel Sano, but it’s hard to see someone being willing to take on Plouffe without some kind of evidence that he’s healthy. He’s been on the disabled list a bunch in 2016 and has played hurt when he hasn’t been. When he’s well, he’s an average hitter and an above average defender at the hot corner, and could be an asset.
Other contenders: Royals
Gordon Beckham, Atlanta Braves
Man, he had so much promise eight years ago. Eight years ago! My God, where does the time go? In very limited action, Beckham is hitting .290/.387/.458, and he can play second or third competently.
Mark Reynolds, Colorado Rockies
I don’t know if anyone will want the old version of Chris Carter or not. He’s hitting .2838/.349/.453, but that’s all Coors inflated.
Special Bonus: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
I don’t really expect the Rays to make Longoria available, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. He’s great, durable, and is having his best year since 2013, hitting .289/.337/.526. He’s also still a very good defender. Still, he struggled in 2014 and 2015, and his 10-and-5 rights will kick in in 2018. If they’re going to move him, now is the time to do it before it’s too late. Of course, doing so will destroy what little fan morale there is in Tampa, and have a ripple effect within the organization with other potential franchise talents, so I really don’t expect there to be any movement.