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.
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First base

Settling the Scores: Memorial Day edition

ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 21:  American flags are shown after being placed by members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 21, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. "Flags-In" has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died in military service. At some point in the past couple of decades, however, it has become an all-purpose flag-waving, patriotism-declaring, civilians-in-camouflage holiday. It’s understandable why this is the case. We, as a country, haven’t always done mourning well. I think it’s part of our national cultural DNA that we don’t and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make days like this difficult.

I feel like the flag-waving and troop-supporting stuff is some sort of subconscious reaction to death. It’s our way of instantly trying to justify those deaths or to explain how they were not in vain, much the same way we might tell someone upon the death of a loved one that they’re in a better place or that they had a full life. Feeling the pain of loss is hard. We want to soften it in any way we can and make our pain serve a larger, better purpose. And so we get today, when Major League Baseball puts its players in camouflage caps and in jerseys with camouflage logos. They’ll sell them too, with proceeds going to good and noble veterans charities. The intent is noble and the ultimate effect of it all is beneficial. But it’s also a little beside the point. Maybe not beside the point as much as mattress sales or big celebratory barbecues which have come to characterize Memorial Day for so many, but still not exactly the purpose of the holiday.

I don’t condemn it. As I wrote last year, the men and women who actually fought and died in wars were hoping that they were, ultimately, making a better and happier world for those they left behind. And they no doubt hoped, among everything else they hoped, that others didn’t have to face what they were facing. They wanted our lives to be happy and our country to be safe and part of a happy and safe country involves 300 million people doing whatever it is they damn please, even if it’s just having barbecues and wearing camo at the ballpark.

I won’t say have a happy Memorial Day because that seems odd. Have any kind of Memorial Day you want, really, even if it includes barbecuing, drinking beer and wearing a cam ballcap. But as you do, please make sure you take some time to think about those who died in military service. And remember that they didn’t get to have as many days like the one you’re having as they were meant to have. And make at least some effort to offset your happy, patriotic or silly pursuits with some mourning and reflectiveness. It’s OK for that to stand on its own.

The scores:

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Orioles 6, Indians 4
Yankees 2, Rays 1
Nationals 10, Cardinals 2
Brewers 5, Reds 4
Royals 5, White Sox 4
Cubs 7, Phillies 2
Rangers 6, Pirates 2
Astros 8, Angels 6
Athletics 4, Tigers 2
Twins 5, Mariners 4
Giants 8, Rockies 3
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 3
Marlins 7, Braves 3
Dodgers 4, Mets 2

 

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely:

Report: Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there”

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 24: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits to hit during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In Saturday’s column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo notes that, according to a scout, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there.” Braun has been bothered by neck and back issues this year, missing on Sunday his eighth start out of the Brewers’ last 14 games, but he has still put up a quality .351/.424/.583 triple-slash line in 170 plate appearances this year.

More importantly for an acquiring team, Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract. He’s earning $19 million this season and in the ensuing two seasons, and then his salary decreases slightly to $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million if both sides pick up his mutual option (else a $4 million buyout would be exercised).

Per Cafardo, the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox are potential landing spots for Braun.