Position-by-position trade deadline preview: Second base

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This is the third in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Dan Uggla (Marlins) – The current suspicion is that Uggla isn’t available, even though he’s due to make around $10 million next season and the Marlins don’t look like contenders at this point. The teams that wanted him last winter appeared to prefer him as a third baseman, but he wasn’t interested in switching positions and he’d definitely remain a second baseman if traded now. His bat would provide a significant boost to the lineups of any number of contenders. The Rockies, in particular, have often been mentioned in connection with him, though it doesn’t appear as though anything is going on at the moment. He’s probably staying.
Rickie Weeks (Brewers) – Completely healthy for once, Weeks has turned in an exceptional season, hitting .277/.376/.482 with 19 homers in 394 at-bats. It puts the Brewers in a tough spot. It doesn’t look like they’ll play any part in the NL Central race, and Weeks is going to be a lot more expensive to retain going forward if this keeps up. Plus, there are still questions about whether their top prospect, Brett Lawrie, will be able to make it as a second baseman or if he’ll need to be moved elsewhere. If the Brewers could get a couple of quality young arms back, it’d make sense for them to move Weeks now. He’ll be a free agent after next year, and he’d be a big risk on a long-term deal. Still, indications are that he isn’t currently available.
Kelly Johnson (Diamondbacks) – Johnson is back tearing it up of late, though it’s worth noting that the vast majority of his production has come at Chase Field. He’s hitting .310/.430/.598 at home and .238/.317/.375 on the road. Still, he has to be fairly attractive in trade talks. He’s making just $2.35 million this year, he’s under control as an arbitration-eligible player for another season and he probably wouldn’t cost as much in terms of prospects as Uggla. He’d have been a great get for the Mets a month ago, and he’d still make a lot of sense for them now. AL teams figure to shy away. Not only has Johnson never played in the league, but he’s really struggled during the interleague schedule the last couple of years.
Mark Ellis (Athletics) – Ellis remains an awfully solid player when he’s in the lineup, but he’s 33 and injury prone. He’s played in 130 games just twice in his career, and that’s not going to change this season, since he’s already missed 37 games, primarily due to a hamstring strain. The Athletics’ first choice is to bring him back for 2011, but probably not at the $6 million he’s due to earn under the terms of the option on his current deal. If they don’t think he’ll be amenable to a cheaper deal, they could send him elsewhere. The White Sox and Tigers are among the teams that could use him as a stopgap.
Adam Kennedy (Nationals) – The Nationals signed Kennedy because he was cheap and they thought he might come in handy. However, he struggled as the team’s primary second baseman initially and he hasn’t fared a whole lot better as a bench player. He’s currently hitting .250/.329/.328 with 17 RBI in 192 at-bats. His play on defense has been disappointing as well. The Nats are plenty open to moving him, but even though several contenders have dealt with injury problems at second base, no one has made a play for him yet.
Mike Fontenot (Cubs) – Fontentot has been a non-factor for the Cubs the last two months, but before Starlin Castro was called up, he hit .324/.373/.481 in 108 at-bats through the end of May. Paired with someone capable of hitting lefties, he’d make for a very solid platoon second baseman, and he’s helped his stock by gaining experience at shortstop and third base this season. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Cubs were getting more inquiries about him than they are regarding Ryan Theriot (he’ll be listed with the shortstops).
Jeff Keppinger (Astros) – Keppinger has found a little pop this month, hitting three homers in July after coming up with jus one over the first three months. His game is hitting for average, though, and he’s typically been a liability against right-handers over the course of his career. The Astros would want more than he’s worth in order to part with him.
Akinori Iwamura (Pirates) – Iwamura was one of the worst players in the majors during April and May, but since getting dropped by the Pirates and assigned to Triple-A, he’s hit .300/.456/.457 in 70 at-bats. The Pirates have little reason to give him another opportunity, and they’d probably pick up most of the rest of his $4.25 million salary in order to get a prospect in return for him. Iwamura has experience at third as well as second, so if he’s truly regained his swing, he’d make a lot of sense for the Tigers, Twins, White Sox and others.
Craig Counsell (Brewers) – Counsell’s offensive revival hasn’t carried over. After turning in one of his best seasons in 2009 and starting off 2010 by hitting .333/.385/.583 in April, he’s come in at .208/.286/.217 in 106 at-bats since the beginning of May. On the plus side, even at age 39, Counsell can still handle shortstop on a part-time basis and he’s a plus defender at both second and third. He’d be an upgrade off the bench for the Reds and Phillies, and he might be a starter in San Diego.
Willie Bloomquist (Royals) – Bloomquist is on pace to finish with a sub-700 OPS for the eighth straight season, but he has pummeled lefties to the tune of a .304/.360/.522 line in 46 at-bats. That and his ability to play anywhere give him value as a 25th man. He’s been mentioned in connection with the Red Sox several times, and he could also be a fit on the Yankees.
Catcher
First base

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.