The MLB Trade Market Part III: Middle Infielders

Josh BAnalyst INovember 30, 2008

Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Dan Uggla are the biggest names on the list of players possibly available.

Excluding the catcher, the second baseman and shortstop may be the most important part of the defense.

From watching the Rays make a championship run, you'll notice how important Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura were up the middle, as they let very little groundballs get by them.

Here are the ones who could be available for trade this offseason.


The Brewers are deep at these positions.

In the majors, they have JJ Hardy and Rickie Weeks up the middle. In the higher levels of their farm system, the Brewers have top prospects Alcides Escobar and Calix Crabbe.

Escobar plays shortstop and spent last year in AA. He's fast and his SLG has progressed every season of his professional career, although he may not hit for a lot of power in the pros. His K/BB ratio is pretty high at over three. He shouldn't be MLB ready until around the trade deadline of next year, so expect him to stay.

Crabbe can play second base and the corner outfield positions. He's a small guy at 5-7, but he walks more than he strikes out. A Dustin Pedroia comparison seems appropriate (although Pedroia wasn't expected to be better than average). He's 26 next year and has played two years in AAA. He may only be a utility player in the majors.

Hardy is the most likely to be traded if the Brewers want to cut salary. He has the looks of a future star. He's only 26 next year, but he should make a decent amount in his arbitration years. The Brewers are most likely listening to offers, but aren't eager to trade him.

Weeks is as talented as anyone (a second overall pick), but has been a streaky hitter in the majors. Sometimes he looks like he's living up to the hype. Other times he can't make contact. He probably has low value in a trade right now and he won't cost a lot to retain if he doesn't live up to expectations. The Brewers may have to live with him.


Rebuilding teams could make their players available.

Dan Uggla? The first year of arbitration is usually pretty cheap, but the Marlins may not want to pay. They just traded for Emilio Bonificio. The Marlins seem to value speed over power in who they trade for and Bonificio has stolen 233 bases in the minors.

Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez of the Pirates are taking up a lot of payroll for a teams that's selling off their veterans. Both are making more than they deserve, but they are only one year commitments. And the Pirates have offered to pay part of Wilson's salary.

Brian Roberts of the Orioles could be available if they can't give him an extension. He's a free agent after 2009, but the Orioles want to retain him. If he doesn't seem interested in their extension offers, the Orioles should make him available because they most likely won't be competitive next year.

This is a long shot, but Miguel Tejada may be up for trade because the Astros have spoken about possibly cutting payroll. Tejada is still a quality hitter, but his range is declining as he ages. And if the Astros keep Tejada, he could be made available at the trade deadline if they're not contending. This is his last year under contract.

Khalil Greene isn't exactly a big name. Even outside Petco Park, his numbers are: .212/.225/.317. But if the Padres trade Peavy, teams may take a chance on Greene. He hit 27 home runs in 2007, but he may be a lost cause.

Bobby Crosby of the A's is also a below average hitter, but the A's have inquired on free agent Rafael Furcal, which would make Crosby either a utility player or available for trade. Like Greene, I can't imagine he'd be at high demand.


Veterans may force out prospects.

Reid Brignac is a highly regarded shortstop prospect in the Rays system. But he may not have a place with them because of Bartlett and Iwamura. He's in AAA. He has great plate discipline, range, and power at 23 years old. However, he struggles to make contact and had an OBP of .299 last year and struggled with injuries.

Brent Lillibridge is a 25-year-old shortstop prospect in the Braves system, blocked by Yunel Escobar. He has become more of a free swinger as he's progressed through the minors and is losing value by the season. But he has range and the power is developing. He is capable of playing second base and perhaps Kelly Johnson could be traded to make room for him.


Teams are trying to swap bad contracts for bad contracts.

Julio Lugo of the Red Sox and Luis Castillo of the Mets are up for trade.

Lugo has $18 million over two years remaining on his contract. His SLG hasn't been above .350 since 2006 and his glove has regressed. Mainly because of Lugo's streaky hitting, Jed Lowrie is making it hard for him to remain Boston's starting shortstop.

Castillo is in a similar situation with $18 million over three years remaining on his contract. His SLG was .305 last year. His glove is decent, but he is almost useless offensively.


How likely are these guys to get traded?

Based off my instinct, here's a chart on the probability that each player mentioned is traded.

80% or higher: Nobody.

50/50: Jack Wilson, Brian Roberts, Reid Brignac, Brent Lillibridge, Julio Lugo.

Less than likely: The Brewers, Dan Uggla, Freddy Sanchez, Bobby Crosby, Khalil Greene, Luis Castillo.

No chance: Miguel Tejada.