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.
First base

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.


MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.