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LH 2B Options All Come With Their Pros & Cons

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MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers
“Did I hit my way out of this stupid paper bag?”
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret the A’s holiday wish list includes a left-handed hitting second baseman. With Oakland needing to trim payroll just to offset arbitration raises — and perhaps a free agent signing — Jurickson Profar appears headed out the same door pointing Blake Treinen and Josh Phegley towards the land of the traded or non-tendered.

In house options Sheldon Neuse, Franklin Barreto, and Jorge Mateo offer little certainty and much right-handedness on a team that tilts heavily to that side. So it stands to reason the A’s are in the market for a new 2Bman and would be pleased to land one who shops at Ned Flanders’ store (and ideally not at GNC).

There are many options out there, both on the free agent market and potentially available in trade. It’s more a question of which warts you are willing to accept, what kind of price — in some cases money, in other cases prospect talent, in other cases skill sets — you are willing to pay.

Here’s a rundown (perfectly executed) of some of the possibilities Oakland might be considering, listed in alphabetical order for your organizing convenience:

Adam Frazier

Under contract for 3 more seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Frazier has established himself as a league average hitter and fielder at a position usually manned by worse hitters. A career .279/.342/.420 hitter, part of Frazier’s appeal is that he offers a high batting average and very low K-rate (13.4% career), which would complement Oakland’s slugging lineup nicely.

Frazier is a guy you can hit-and-run with, who can slap a single with a RISP and generally help you be less reliant on the HR to score, and being under contract through 2022 he is not a short-term solution.

All this is quite appealing until you consider the cost: thanks to all his virtues, Frazier does not figure to come cheaply in trade. BTV assesses his surplus value at 12.6, which is roughly equivalent to a haul of Franklin Barreto, Lazaro Armenteros, and Daniel Mengden. But if you would make that trade (or one like it), then Frazier is a getable get.

Brock Holt

Holt is a free agent, and if he can replicate his 2019 season he’s a treasure if only because he got on base at a sensational .394 clip against RHP (with a 119 wRC+ overall). Like Frazier, Holt has been roughly league average defensively at 2B and like Frazier he handles the bat well with just a 19% career K-rate.

MLBTR estimates Holt will command about a 2 year/$8M deal, which would fit nicely into the A’s budget. He also comes with the perk of being able to play multiple positions, with big league experience at 1B, SS, 3B, LF, and RF (plus a cup of coffee in CF).

The downside of Holt is twofold. One is that he doesn’t slug much at all (career .374), but the other is that his 2019 splits are not at all in line with his career norms. In fact, for his career Holt has batted just .272/.338/.382 against RHP, for an uninspiring 94 wRC+. His career OBP is actually higher against LHP (.345) — though he also slugs .345, which is known as “halfway between Cindi and my Aunt Bertha”.

Still, hitting that is about league average for the position with defense that is average for the position, with significant versatility and strong contact/”small ball” skills, for $4M/year, could have some legitimate appeal for the A’s.

Yolmer Sanchez

Why does Sanchez make this list? No he can’t hit his way out of a paper bag, so ok let’s lead with the warts: Sanchez is a career .244/.299/.357 hitter (78 wRC+) and that’s bad at any position.

Here’s the thing: teams have won World Series behind Dick Green and other Mark Belanger types who hit like a vacuum cleaner but also fielded like one. And Sanchez may be the best defensive 2Bman available this off-season.

A free agent unlikely to command much of a commitment Sanchez has, in 646 games, amassed 27 DRS with a career 6.4 UZR/150. He has also committed only 24 errors in his career. (For contrast, Jurickson Profar was charged with 13 just last season.)

With Sanchez joining Matts Chapman and Olson, along with Marcus Semien, the A’s would have one of the best defensive infields since Evers turned the pivot. Perhaps if the A’s get unusual hitting production from the catcher’s spot (eh, Murph?) they can absorb a bit of a black hole at 2B in order to kill it on defense and preserve payroll for elsewhere on the roster.

Eric Sogard

If you believe a light hitter can have a true breakout season at age 33 then Eric Sogard is the bargain for you. Somehow, the former A’s infielder batted .290/.353/.457 with 13 HR on the two teams he suited up for (Blue Jays, Rays). And Sogard has always been an excellent defensive 2Bman — at least until 2019 when his DRS and UZR/150 numbers dipped negative for the first time.

The problem? Steamer is a non-believer, looking at Sogard’s 2019 numbers, scoffing a bit, and then spewing out a projected 2020 batting line of .256/.334/.381 that suggests his wRC+ will plummet from 115 to 89. And that makes him a lot like, well, Brock Holt. Only older and perhaps beginning to decline on defense right at the age you might expect that to happen.

Or........

Other fun names to add to the pile before we sign off? If you like great names, you should be predisposed to Shed Long, he of the Seattle Mariners. Long is just 24, batted .263/.333/.454 in 42 games last season, and has 6 years of contract control ahead, but he also profiled as a poor 2Bman. And then of course there’s Jed Lowrie, if you believe the knee injury which sidelined him pretty much all of 2019 is not a career-ender for a player who will turn 36 in April.

Finally, my “dark horse” candidate — defined as the guy we will look back and realize no one ever mentioned but whom the A’s actually acquired: Cesar Hernandez (Phillies). Hernandez is entering the final year of his contract (he earned $7.75M in 2019), and is a switch hitter with a career .352 OBP.

Against RHP, Hernandez is a career .272/.351/.386 hitter (99 wRC+), and against LHP he checks in at .290/.354/.372 (97 wRC+). His career K-rate is 18.9%. He’s a bit hard to judge defensively, because he rated really poorly in 2018 (-12 DRS) but very well in 2019 (+6 DRS). His career UZR/150 is fine (0.6) but overall his career DRS is a poor -11. Call it “average, maybe a tick below” on paper?

Daniel Mengden is made for the National League, where his 3 most dominant starts have been — one of those against the Phillies. According to BTV, a Hernandez-Mengden swap would be equitable if the Phillies picked up a portion of Hernandez’ 2020 salary. I feel like there’s a win-win deal in there somewhere, in which Oakland sends Mengden and another prospect, e.g., Sheldon Neuse, while the Phillies send Hernandez and a chunk of his salary (BTV suggests it would be around $6.6M with Mengden-Neuse coming back).

Thoughts? And by the way, stop eating those Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m telling you, this is an addiction you can beat: sometimes you just have to quit cold turkey.

Poll

Which acquisition would you be most in favor of for the A’s?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Adam Frazier
    (155 votes)
  • 20%
    Cesar Hernandez
    (155 votes)
  • 16%
    Brock Holt
    (125 votes)
  • 1%
    Shed Long
    (15 votes)
  • 12%
    Jed Lowrie
    (98 votes)
  • 14%
    Yolmer Sanchez
    (113 votes)
  • 13%
    Eric Sogard
    (102 votes)
763 votes total Vote Now