2012 MLB Free Agency: Ranking the 10 Best Second Basemen Available
There is very little to get excited about when discussing the 2012 second base free agent crop.
The top potentially available names are very unlikely to reach free agency, because their teams will most likely exercise their options and delay their free agency by another season (or two).
Aaron Hill showed a bounce-back following his trade and change of scenery. Kelly Johnson also showed a bit of boost to his batting average following his own trade.
The two could bounce back in 2012 and be great pickups for contending teams, but there is really no way of knowing if they will return to their prior form or further regress.
Mark Ellis was solid defensively, as always, and showed an offensive bounce-back from his early-season struggles. He'll also be 35 years old, though, and may not be able to produce enough offensively to justify staying in a starting role for many more seasons.
Beyond Hill, Johnson and Ellis, there is a group of aging players perhaps better suited to utility or bench roles and late-inning defensive replacements, if they keep playing at all.
10) Orlando Cabrera
Orlando Cabrera played 85 games at second base for the Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants in 2011.
He managed a .238/.267/.307 batting line with 16 doubles, five homers and 51 RBI.
Fangraphs.com had him ranked as a below average defender with a -5.1 UZR.
At 37 years old to begin next season, Cabrera may be best suited in a bench role moving forward, if he decides to continue his playing career.
9) Craig Counsell
Craig Counsell's value to a team is all in his defense.
In 2011 Counsell batted just .178 with a single home run in 107 games played. His on-base percentage was a very underwhelming .280.
Defensively though, Counsell proved versatile, playing second base, shortstop and third base for the Brewers.
He posted a 3.5 UZR at second base, 2.6 UZR at third base and 2.5 UZR at shortstop.
At 41 years old, Counsell is likely at the end of a 16-year career.
If he continues playing, it will be as a late-inning defensive replacement.
8) Jose Lopez
Although Jose Lopez was primarily a third baseman in 2011, he did play 20 games at second base, and has been primarily a second baseman throughout his career.
The 27-year old Lopez batted .216/.245/.372 with 12 doubles, eight homers and 21 RBI.
His fielding percentage at second base was a perfect 1.000 through 63 chances. His UZR rating was 2.8.
7) Aaron Miles
Aaron Miles posted a .275/.314/.346 batting line with three homers and 45 RBI in 136 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011.
He played 72 games at second base and posted a .992 fielding percentage and 0.1 UZR.
Miles will be 35 years old to begin next season, but should still find work as a utility infielder this winter.
6) Adam Kennedy
Adam Kennedy's best days are definitely behind him, but the 36-year-old (to begin next season) second baseman should still be able to find work this offseason.
In 114 games for the Seattle Mariners, Kennedy batted .234/.277/.355 with 23 doubles, seven homers and 38 RBI.
He posted a .993 fielding percentage in 34 games started at second base and a 0.4 UZR.
5) Drew Sutton
Drew Sutton has all the tools to be one of the best available second basemen this offseason, but he just hasn't managed to put it all together on the big league level.
His 2011 season was limited to just 31 games for the Boston Red Sox, but he did manage a .315 batting average and .362 on-base percentage.
He batted .295 with a .382 on-base percentage at Triple-A Pawtucket.
He'll need to find a minor league deal this offseason with an invite to spring training, but the 29-year-old should be a valuable pickup this winter.
4) Jamey Carroll
Jamey Carroll split time between second base and shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011.
He put together a very respectable .290/.359/.347 batting line with 14 doubles and six triples.
Defensively, Fangraphs.com ranked his defense as a -3.2 UZR at second base and -1.9 UZR at shortstop.
Despite being below average defensively, he still brings an on-base presence to a ball club and makes all the routine plays.
At 38 years old to begin next season, Carroll won't command a long-term or high-priced offer. It should cost less than the $2.3 million he earned in 2011 to sign him for 2012.
3) Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Jerry Hairston, Jr.'s season was split between the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers in 2011.
He combined to bat .270/.344/.383 with five homers and 31 RBI.
He posted a 0.9 UZR according to FanGraphs.com at second base this season.
Hairston will turn 36 years old early into next season and should not command a high-value or long-term deal this winter.
2) Mark Ellis
Following his trade to the Colorado Rockies, Mark Ellis re-established himself as a reliable offensive player.
He batted .248/.288/.346 for the entire season, but had a .274/.317/.394 batting line in his 70 games with the Rockies. He also added six homers and 25 RBI for his new team.
Ellis' real value has always been in his defense though. In 2011 he posted a 5.6 UZR and had just three errors for the entire season, the lowest amount by a second baseman with qualifying stats.
At 34 years old, Ellis still has another three or four years of productive baseball ahead of him.
A two-to three-year deal in the $3 million per year range seems reasonable for Ellis' services.
1) Kelly Johnson
Kelly Johnson is one of the top available second basemen this winter.
His batting average in a split season between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays was not very impressive, at .222, but he posted an improved .270 average after being dealt to the Blue Jays.
He finished with 21 homers and 58 RBI for the 2011 season.
His defense was adequate, with a .984 fielding percentage and a 2.5 UZR.
Johnson will be just 30 years old to begin next season, and should be one of the top second base targets this offseason.
Potentially Available: Bill Hall
Bill Hall technically is not a free agent, yet.
His $4 million option is very likely to be declined by the San Francisco Giants. If Freddy Sanchez's rehabilitation is on schedule, the Giants will instead choose the $250k buyout and let Hall enter free agency.
He batted .211/.261/.314 in a split season between the Astros and Giants this year.
He had a .970 fielding percentage at second base this year and a -11.0 UZR.
Hall will be just 32 years old and should latch on with a team hoping he can return to his 2010 form (.247, 18 homers and 46 RBI).
Potentially Available: Aaron Hill
After bouncing back following his trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Aaron Hill could become the top free agent second baseman available this offseason if his $8 million team option is declined.
He finished the season with a .246/.299/.356 batting line with eight homers and 61 RBI. His stats with the Diamondbacks were a more impressive .315/.386/.492 though.
His power numbers were down from 2009, when he hit 36 homers and 2010, when he connected for 26 homers.
At 30 years old to begin next season, he will have plenty of teams to choose from this winter.
Potentially Available: Brandon Phillips
There's no guarantee that the Cincinnati Reds will exercise their $12 million team option on Brandon Phillips' contract for 2012.
The two-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman would instantly become one of the top names available on the free agent market if he were allowed to reach free agency.
Phillips batted .300 this past season, and connected for 18 homers and 82 RBI.
He posted a .992 fielding percentage in pursuit of his third Gold Glove and an 11.4 UZR rating.
It's hard to imagine the Reds letting him get away. If they don't lock him up to a multi-year extension this winter, Phillips will get a multi-year deal from another team without a doubt.
Potentially Available: Robinson Cano
I suppose technically there is no guarantee that the Yankees will exercise their $14 million option on Robinson Cano's contract. I'd say there are better odds of me picking up a winning lotto ticket off the street than the Yankees letting their star second baseman test free agency though.
Cano followed up his 2010 season, in which he finished third in MVP voting, with an equally impressive 2011 campaign.
He batted .302/.349/.533 with 28 homers. He eclipsed his 109 RBI 2010 total by driving in 118 runs in 2011 as well.
His defense was not nearly as crisp as his Gold Glove-winning effort in 2010, but he still managed a .987 fielding percentage.
I'd expect the Yankees to exercise both his 2012 and 2013 contract options before they let him test free agency.