With the farm bereft of immediate talent at the second base position and the free agent middle infield market especially thin, it feels as though the Angels will look to the trade market to fill this need.
Although the Angels could theoretically part with one or more of their top prospects for an above average second baseman like Brian Dozier, Cesar Hernandez, or Logan Forsythe, those are the very types of trades that crippled the farm system in the first place. Instead, here are a few capable but not flashy second base trade candidates that would provide value without costing a fortune.
Derek Dietrich, Marlins
Dietrich filled in at second for the suspended Dee Gordon quite nicely, finishing the season with a 2.0 fWAR and 2.4 bWAR, .798 OPS, 119 OPS+, and 117 wRC+ in 128 games. He wasn’t great on defense, though he graded out as above average at first and third base (although in a small sample size). At second, though, Dietrich compiled -1 UZR and -3 defensive runs saved (DRS).
Since Gordon has returned from his suspension, Dietrich has been displaced from his natural position and has played all over the diamond. With a complete infield and outfield, the Marlins could look to ship the left-handed second baseman to Angel Stadium where he would have a long-term home.
Greg Garcia, Cardinals
Garcia was drafted by the new Angels scouting director, Matt Swanson, and has turned out to be a productive major leaguer thus far. In 257 plate appearances this season, Garcia put up a 1.9 fWAR and 107 OPS+ with an impressive .393 OBP to boot. His .346 BABIP makes the offense difficult to repeat, but Garcia benefits from using an entire-field approach which inevitably finds holes in the defense.
Like Dietrich, Garcia is also a lefty which will help to balance the lineup. Garcia struggles to hit lefties (.577 OPS) but feasts on righties (.806 OPS). He has no power but with an excellent eye at the plate and improving defensive metrics he would be a welcome addition to the club.
Garcia has no position to call home in the Cardinals’ crowded infield (ironically it is because of his good friend Kolten Wong that playing time is so sparce). He’ll likely cost more than most on this list given his five seasons of team control remaining, but he would function as both a short-term and long-term option.
Brett Lawrie, White Sox
In Lawrie’s six years in the majors, he has never recorded a season below 0.7 fWAR or 1.3 bWAR. Lawrie has seemingly regressed each year since entering the league, a baffling trend given that he will enter his age-27 season next year. He had a .713 OPS in 2016 and somehow struck out nearly 5% more in back-to-back years. Despite being a poor defender at second, he is still a smart baserunner and should be a plus on the basepaths.
If White Sox GM Rick Hahn decide to rebuild and trade Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, there would be no reason to keep Lawrie if an interested team makes a half-decent offer. Despite Lawrie’s woes, he still provides value on a cheap, one-year deal. And since this is his last year of team control, he wouldn’t cost much to acquire. (He can also throw a knuckleball, which is always a plus).
Brandon Phillips, Reds
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Phillips was once one of the premier second basemen in the league, but age and ineffectiveness have since taken hold. Phillips recorded less than one win; despite his consistent contact he is now a poor defender (-2.1 UZR, -7 DRS) and will continue to regress as he enters his age-35 season.
The Reds are looking for someone to eat his $14M in salary, but the Angels would be lucky if he is productive enough to justify half of that. Nearly every other option is better than this one and the Angels should exhaust all of them before acquiring Phillips.
The Bounce-Back Candidates
Jace Peterson, Braves
Between 2015 and 2016, Peterson improved his offense significantly: increasing his walks and decreasing his strikeouts en route to a 94 OPS+ (6% below league average). Peterson has little power but a lot of contact, seeing his plate discipline (24.7% O-Swing%) and contact (84.2%) increase.
Defensive metrics weren’t so high on Peterson as they were in 2015, however. At second base, his primary position, UZR had him at -7.1 and DRS had him at -6. However, at 27 years old, he is still evolving as a player and his fielding can still improve - especially playing next to Simmons.
With Ozzie Albies on the way in, the Braves could look to move Peterson. While he doesn’t have much value after a down year, it’s better than receiving nothing or making him a bench player. For the Angels, it means Peterson can be acquired for very little.
Cory Spangenberg, Padres
Spangenberg enjoyed a nice 2 WAR 2015 season but tore his quad fourteen games into this one. Speed is one of the main elements of his game, and this quadricep injury could impact that long-term. But Spangenberg is talented enough to justify taking a chance on: he was taken by the Padres with the 10th pick in the 2011 draft.
It appears Ryan Schimpf has the inside track to the Padres’ 2B job and Yangervis Solarte has 3B locked down. Spangenberg’s trade value may never be higher (or lower) than it is right now. He has the upside the Angels seek, but I don’t think this deal would get done as the Angels don’t have an expendable shortstop, outfield, or pitching prospect the Padres desire.
Scooter Gennett, Brewers
Gennett has been mediocre the past few seasons, to put it kindly. Despite being an everyday second baseman Gennett’s value has decreased since entering the league thanks to deteriorating defense (-9.1 UZR, -4 DRS). While he improved on the power and OBP front, he gave back much of his value with poor baserunning. His underwhelming .263/.317/.412 leaves a lot to be desired and 92 OPS+ (8% worse than league average) seems to indicate his WAR over the past two seasons has more to do with the sheer volume of games played rather than the quality of his play itself.
That being said, Gennett showed promise in his first two years (2013, 2014) that another team might want to see him regain past form.
With no notable second base prospect on the horizon, the Brewers seem likely to hold onto Gennett. With how surprisingly well Jonathan Villar has played this season, they might be interested in a different player for the change of scenery. In this regard, a Johnny Giavotella + low level prospect for Gennett could be possible.
The choice between 38 year-old Chase Utley and career platoon player/hothead Sean Rodriguez isn’t too appealing, and I don’t blame Eppler and co. one bit for not signing one quite yet. Ultimately, a few on the list will flourish and a few will flop, but most would still be an improvement over the Halos’ current 2B situation. A diamond in the rough at second base would certainly contribute in a big way.
Given what you know now, who do you think will be the Angels second baseman on Opening Day?