Free Agency Preview: Second base

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orlando hudson.jpgFree Agency Preview – Catcher
Free Agency Preview – First base & DH
This is part three in a series of columns looking at this winter’s free agents, trade candidates and non-tender possibilities. I’ll be making predictions for the key free agents, but try not to take them too awfully seriously. Here are the second basemen.
Orlando Hudson (Dodgers) – Up until early September, expectations were that the Dodgers would make a push to re-sign Hudson this winter. But the All-Star suddenly lost his job to Ronnie Belliard down the stretch and didn’t start any of his team’s nine postseason games. Now he’s sure to exit Los Angeles and his chances of landing the big multiyear deal he craves have diminished.
Besides the Dodgers, the Mets, Cubs and Diamondbacks are the teams most likely to target second basemen in free agency. The Twins, Tigers, Marlins and Mariners could also dip their toes into the market.
Hudson has stated his preference for playing in New York several times in the past, and the Mets would have a spot for him if they could find a taker for Luis Castillo’s contract first. Hudson is overrated defensively at this point of his career and he’s had trouble staying healthy, but he’d still be a decent enough investment on a short-term deal. Prediction: Mets – two years, $14 million
Placido Polanco (Tigers) – Between Hudson and Polanco, both of this year’s Gold Glove second basemen are available in free agency. Polanco is the game’s steadiest defender at second base, having committed just 10 errors over the last three seasons. He still has pretty good range as well, though now that he’s 34, it remains to be seen how much longer than will last. His OPS has dropped from a career-best 846 in 2007 to 768 in 2008 to 727 last season. Like Hudson, he only makes a lot of sense on a two-year deal. Prediction: Dodgers – two years, $12 million
Felipe Lopez (Brewers) – Ben Zobrist, Chase Utley and Luis Castillo were the only second basemen to best Lopez’s .383 OBP last season. The disastrous 2 1/2-year run in Washington may still have some skeptical, but Lopez has been a terrific second baseman since the Nationals let him go. He’s no longer a basestealer, but he still has well above average range and he’s proven quite durable. Also, he’s just 29 years old, giving him a significant advantage over the rest of the free agents here. He’s likely looking at a two-year deal at a nice raise from the $3.5 million he made last season. Prediction: Cubs – two years, $11 million
Adam Kennedy (Athletics) – After back-to-back poor seasons in St. Louis, no one was interested in giving Kennedy a chance to contend for a starting job as a free agent last winter. Fortunately, he caught a break when the A’s needed infielders to cover for their injuries and he saved his career by hitting .289/.348/.410 with 20 steals in 129 games. Kennedy could always re-sign with the A’s now, but he wouldn’t be guaranteed a starting job with Eric Chavez perhaps on the way back. Odds are that someone else will give him a chance to play second. Prediction: Diamondbacks – one year, $2 million
Other free agents: Juan Uribe (Giants), Jamey Carroll (Indians), Ronnie Belliard (Dodgers), Jerry Hairston Jr. (Yankees), Alex Cora (Mets), Mark Loretta (Dodgers), Edgar Gonzalez (Padres), Josh Barfield (Indians), Danny Richar (Reds), Nick Green (Red Sox), Miguel Cairo (Phillies), Alex Cintron (Nationals), Mark Bellhorn (Rockies), Tony Graffanino (Indians), Pete Orr (Nationals)
Uribe probably isn’t a starting shortstop these days, but he hit like a legitimate second baseman last season, coming in at .289/.329/.495 in 398 at-bats for the Giants. San Francisco wants him back as a utilityman. … Carroll finished with identical .355 OBPs in his two seasons in Cleveland. It’s just too bad he’s no longer anything more than an emergency option at shortstop. … Belliard has been underrated practically forever, so it was nice to see him get a chance to shine with the Dodgers at the end of the year. There should be some team out there willing to pencil him for 300 at-bats between second, third and first.
Trade candidates: Brandon Phillips (Reds), Jose Lopez (Mariners), Dan Uggla (Marlins), Alberto Callaspo (Royals), Kelly Johnson (Braves), Mike Fontenot (Cubs), Kevin Frandsen (Giants), Joaquin Arias (Rangers), Aaron Miles (Cubs), Hernan Iribarren (Brewers), Elliot Johnson (Rays), Brian Bixler (Pirates)
The Reds should be able to reduce payroll without moving Phillips, but if they don’t see him in their long-term plans, now is the time to make the move. He’ll be a lot more attractive this winter than he will be in 2011, when his salary jumps from $6.75 million to $11 million. … Lopez collected 25 homers and 96 RBI as a 25-year-old last season, but he doesn’t get on base and his best position is probably third base. If the Mariners see a chance to sell high, they’ll probably go for it. … I just addressed the Uggla situation on Friday.
Callaspo broke through with a .300/.356/.457 season in 2009 and he’s going to make the minimum for another year, so it’s surprising that the Royals seemingly have him up for bids. However, his defense at second base does leave a lot to be desired. … Frandsen and the Giants both seem fed up with one another, and there’s little chance that the 27-year-old will last the winter in the organization. He’ll be a decent fallback option for a team with a question mark at second base.

Non-tender candidates: Kelly Johnson (Braves), Mike Fontenot (Cubs), Esteban German (Rangers), Joe Inglett (Blue Jays), Jarret Hoffpauir (Blue Jays), Tug Hulett (Royals), Mike McCoy (Blue Jays)
Johnson won’t be back with the Braves, and now it’s just a question of whether Atlanta will get something for him or if the club will have to non-tender him because of his likely $3 million-$3.5 million salary. Some of the teams that aren’t sure whether they’ll pursue second basemen — Minnesota and Detroit come to mind — would be smart to get into the mix if he becomes a free agent. … Fontenot’s OPS slipped from a remarkable 909 in 243 at-bats in 2008 to 677 in 377 at-bats last season, and he turned out to be the final player to qualify for super-two arbitration. The Cubs are expected to go in a different direction at second.
2010-11 free agents: Mark Ellis (Athletics)*, Akinori Iwamura (Pirates), Maicer Izturis (Angels), Omar Infante (Braves)*, Kaz Matsui (Astros), David Eckstein (Padres), Aaron Miles (Cubs)
2011 options: Ellis – $6 million ($500,000 buyout), Infante – $2.5 million ($250,000 buyout)
2011-12 free agents: Robinson Cano (Yankees)*, Aaron Hill (Blue Jays)*, Brandon Phillips (Reds)*, Jose Lopez (Mariners), Dan Uggla (Marlins), Rickie Weeks (Brewers), Kelly Johnson (Braves), Freddy Sanchez (Giants), Clint Barmes (Rockies), Luis Castillo (Mets), Esteban German (Rangers)
2012 options: Cano – $14 million ($2 million buyout), Hill – $26 million club option for 2012-14 (if exercised after 2010), Phillips – $12 million ($1 million buyout)

2016 Winter Meetings Preview

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 26: The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is seen along the Potomac River February 26, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The baseball world will descend on Washington D.C. — well, the Maryland suburbs of Washington, at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor — this weekend for the 2016 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Twenty free agents from a class of 191 have signed thus far. Among the notable: Yoenis Cespedes, Edinson Volquez, Neil Walker, Josh Reddick, Bartolo Colon, and R.A. Dickey. That, of course, leaves a ton of notables left, including Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Turner, Joe Bautista, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Trumbo, Mark Melancon, Rich Hill and a host of others. Here is our rundown of this offseason’s top free agents if you’re curious. As you have come to expect from us, we’ll have a writeup of everyone who signs, faster than almost anyone else will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is an historically thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. We’ve seen a couple already, most notably the deals which sent Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks, Jaime Garcia to the Braves and Brian McCann to the Astros. Most experts believe there will be plenty more this winter, and the ball could really get rolling on that in the next week with guys like Andrew McCutchen, Chris Sale, Chris Archer, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Brandon Phillips on the block.

Another major activity of the Winter Meetings is the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee vote. Except, this year, there is no Veterans Committee, at least in name. It’s now the “Today’s Game” committee. Here are links to breakdowns of the candidacies of all ten men on the ballot the new committee will consider:

Harold Baines
Albert Belle
Will Clark
Orel Hershiser
Mark McGwire
George Steinbrenner
Davey Johnson
Lou Piniella
John Shuerholz
Bud Selig

Trade deals, free agent negotiations and Hall of Fame votes take place behind closed doors at the Gaylord Resort. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year’s new faces are Torey Lovullo with the Diamondbacks, Rick Renteria with the White Sox and Bud Black with the Rockies. Brian Snitker, now the permanent manager of the Braves, will get his first go-around at the managerial cattle call. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. And a lot of it. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings, though this year’s brand new Collective Bargaining Agreement should overshadow that. We’ve already discussed the major points of that and, yesterday, I speculated that, as time goes on, the way this agreement was reached could lead to some serious strife going forward, particularly on the union side. Expect to hear some anonymous rumblings about all of that in the next few days, from players, agents and other interested parties who may not be all that pleased with how it goes.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at National Harbor, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event. As they used to say in radio, tune in to us and rip off the dial. Or, at the very least, keep a tab open to us and refresh a lot.

The Padres non-tendered RHP Tyson Ross

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 04:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres walks off the field as he's taken out of the game in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day at PETCO Park on April 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Per a report by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, the Padres non-tendered right-handed starter Tyson Ross on Friday, cutting loose their top ace after three seasons with the club.

Ross, 29, was sidelined for the bulk of the season with inflammation in his right shoulder and underwent thoracic outlet surgery in October. His injuries limited him to only 5 1/3 innings in 2016, during which he gave up seven runs and struck out five in a 15-0 blowout against the Dodgers.

Prior to his lengthy stint on the disabled list, the right-hander earned 9.5 fWAR and pitched to a 3.07 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in three full seasons with the Padres. He avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.625 million deal prior to the 2016 season after leading the league with 33 starts and delivering a 3.26 ERA and career-best 4.4 WARP over 196 innings in 2015.

The Padres appear open to bringing Ross back to San Diego, reported Cassavell, albeit not at such a steep cost. Cassavell quoted Padres’ GM A.J. Preller, who was reportedly in trade talks involving Ross but unable to strike a deal, likely due to the right-hander’s recent health issues. Preller denied that those same health issues factored into the club’s decision to non-tender their ace.

With the move, Ross became one of 35 major leaguers to enter free agency on Friday.