Ranking the Top 10 Corner Infielders Available at the MLB Trade Deadline
Trade deadline banter is in full swing as just a week remains before the July 31 non-waiver window closes.
Here we will rank the top 10 corner infielders—that's first base and third base for all you baseball blockheads out there—who are either on the trade block or involved in swirling rumors.
The New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals are in search of an upgrade at the hot corner, while National League counterparts, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Colorado Rockies, could use an improved bat in their lineups who can man first base.
The ranking is based on an objective outlook, weighing offensive production more heavily than defensive ability. Also, while WAR plays a part in the ranking process, it was not the end all in earning a higher position on the list.
All statistics are courtesy of Fangraphs.
Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
.234/.335/.361, 26 XHB (7 HR), 32 RBI, 6 SB, 2.3 fWAR
His numbers may be down significantly in 2013, but he's still the same player that hit .286 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI last season. That's why the Yankees seriously inquired about Headley only to be told he's not available. And that is why he isn't officially in the ranking.
Jeff Keppinger, 3B, Chicago White Sox
.245/.272/.291, 9 XBH (2 HR), 28 RBI, 0 SB, -1.4 fWAR
Sure, the White Sox will be sellers at the deadline as they've yet to break 40 games in the win column, but there may not be a whole lot of interest in their overpaid third baseman. If a team is searching for increased depth at third, Keppinger could potentially be dealt.
10. Matt Dominguez, 3B, Houston Astros
.230/.262/.381, 26 XBH (11 HR), 48 RBI, 0 SB, -0.4 fWAR
Dominguez had been a career minor leaguer—other than a scattered 48 games in the majors in 2011 and 2012 combined—before getting the call to be the Houston Astros' full-time third baseman in 2013.
He has played in 92 of Houston's 98 games and has put up decent numbers as a 24-year-old rookie.
There's much left to be desired in his fielding ability (10 errors on the season) and in the speed department (zero stolen bases), but Dominguez has been a decent bat with some pop in the seven or eight hole for the Astros all season.
9. Trevor Plouffe, 3B, Minnesota Twins
.259/.318/.430, 22 XBH (10 HR), 36 RBI, 1 SB, 0.4 fWAR
Plouffe stands at an interesting crossroad with the Minnesota Twins for a couple of reasons.
First, the third baseman is in line to gain Super Two status, meaning he is eligible for salary arbitration despite having fewer than three years of MLB service time. This is possible because Plouffe will finish in the top 17 percent of players with two-plus years of service time.
Second, the Twins have top-10 prospect Miguel Sano, who clobbered high-A pitching before his promotion to double-A ball this season, readying in the minors. Sano could be up with the big league club as soon as midseason next year.
Plouffe's batting average is up this year and his power numbers are right where they were in 2012. His strikeout rate is also up while his walk rate has dramatically dropped.
8. Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox
.246/.311/.363, 16 XBH (7 HR), 30 RBI, 0 SB, -1.2 fWAR
There are some big names on the block courtesy of the Chicago White Sox including outfielder Alex Rios, shortstop Alexei Ramirez and starting pitchers Jake Peavy and John Danks. The team has already dealt reliever Matt Thornton to the Red Sox.
In late June, it was made public that left-hander Chris Sale and veteran Paul Konerko were not available, but a lot can change in a month.
Konerko returned to the White Sox lineup Monday night after being placed on the 15-day DL on July 3 due to a lower back strain.
His power numbers aren't where they used to be, but Konerko is still a feared power hitter in the majors and would fit in well for a team with a need at first base or as a designated hitter.
7. Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners, 1B
.266/.366/.427, 22 XBH (9 HR), 23 RBI, 0 SB, 0.9 fWAR
The Seattle Mariners are dealing with some congestion at their first base/designated hitter spot. While winning seven games in a row has moved them closer to first place (still 11 games out), the likelihood of the team keeping that pace and making a playoff run is slim.
Starting first baseman Michael Morse could return from an injury soon, benching Smoak and making him a valuable trade chip.
Smoak has had a limited stint in the major leagues but has proven his worth while slugging 19 home runs in 2012 and logging 65 games at first base in 2013. His batting average is up in 2013 and the power numbers are on point with last season's pace.
6. Carlos Pena, 1B, Houston Astros
.209/.324/.350, 22 XHB (8 HR), 25 RBI, 1 SB, -0.4 fWAR
One of just a few veterans on the Astros squad, Pena was designated for assignment on Sunday, which will free up some room for younger players such as Brett Wallace and Chris Carter to make a splash at first base or DH.
Pena has struggled through 325 plate appearances in 2013. While his power numbers are on par to repeat from his mediocre 2012 campaign, they are nowhere near the 30-plus home run seasons he was capable of just a few years ago.
Pena's OBP is his lowest since 2002 and his slugging percentage the lowest of his career. Regardless, he will generate some interest from teams hoping to find whatever pop is left in his 35-year-old swing.
5. Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins
.270/.329/.400, 31 XBH (7 HR), 52 RBI, 0 SB, 0.6 fWAR
Justin Morneau may not put up MVP-caliber numbers anymore, but as the Minnesota Twins look to ship their first baseman off somewhere, he still provides adequate offensive power from the corner infield spot.
Morneau suffered a concussion in 2010 that many consider to have caused his downfall from being one of the best hitting first basemen in the game to the struggling veteran he has become. Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune speaks of Morneau nostalgically, reminiscing on the span from 2006 to 2009 when he averaged 30 home runs and 118 RBI.
Morneau is having a better season in 2013, statistically speaking, than he did in 2012 and ranks third among major league first basemen with 24 doubles.
There is definitely value out there for the lifelong Twin.
4. Michael Morse, 1B, Seattle Mariners
.251/.313/.454, 20 XBH (11 HR), 23 RBI, 0 SB, -0.2 fWAR
Morse has dealt with a lingering right quad strain that has kept him out of baseball action since June 22. Then in his first at-bat during his rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma, Morse lined a home run over the right field wall.
The 31-year-old got off to a scorching start in 2013, hitting eight home runs through April despite fracturing his pinkie finger that month.
It's difficult to say who will stay and who will go from the Mariners logjam at first base, which includes Morse, Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales. The team currently rides a seven-game win streak, though, and however long it continues will determine the fate of both the team and its players.
3. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers
.271/.359/.414, 16 XBH (5 HR), 26 RBI, 0 SB, 0.3 fWAR
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported on Saturday that Ramirez, who was eyeing a late-July return, will remain off the field for another 10-14 days due to a left knee injury.
This all but squashes the potential of a trade involving Ramirez before the July 31 deadline, but if he can return healthy and prove that he's the same player who hit .303 with 53 home runs and 198 RBI over the past two seasons, someone will make a move to acquire him.
Ramirez hasn't been able to find any sort of consistency in 2013, playing in just four games during March and April and only six in July, sandwiched between a healthy May and June.
2. Kendrys Morales, 1B, Seattle Mariners
.279/.339/.463, 37 XBH (15 HR), 56 RBI, 0 SB, 1.4 fWAR
There's a lot to offer from Morales.
He's a durable, switch-hitting first baseman and designated hitter. A team won't receive an overwhelming amount of power from him, but 15 home runs and 56 RBI through 94 games has put him on pace for his best statistical year to date. Plus, he hits for a decent average.
Morales has benefited from a red-hot May in which he hit .343 with five home runs and 23 RBI.
Of the three first basemen the Mariners have to offer, they will likely receive the most in return for the 30-year-old Morales.
1. Michael Young, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
.286/.347/.417, 28 XBH (7 HR), 31 RBI, 1 SB, 0.5 fWAR
There's no hiding the fact that Michael Young is one of the most sought after players of this season's trade deadline countdown.
The Philadelphia Phillies had no intention of dealing Young, but the plentiful interest in the starting third baseman has GM Ruben Amaro Jr. reeling. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported that the Cincinnati Reds are the latest team to inquire about Young, since they are receiving below-average production from third baseman Todd Frazier.
Over the past two months, Young is batting .315 with 17 extra-base hits and 19 runs scored. He's the most talented corner infielder on the market, and if he isn't traded by the deadline, a waiver deal could be reached in August if the Phillies fall out of contention.
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