My top 10 third basemen, by OPS:
.943 – Evan Longoria (Rays) – 566 AB – .850 in 2011
.901 – Alex Rodriguez (Yankees) – 523 AB – .823 in 2011
.885 – Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) – 571 AB – .798 in 2011
.871 – David Wright (Mets) – 597 AB – .771 in 2011
.868 – Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox) – 488 AB – .833 in 2011
.868 – Pablo Sandoval (Giants) – 565 AB – .909 in 2011
.854 – Aramis Ramirez (Brewers) – 511 AB – .871 in 2011
.841 – Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays) – 532 AB – .787 in 2011
.836 – Adrian Beltre (Rangers) – 573 AB – .892 in 2011
.826 – Brett Lawrie (Blue Jays) – 559 AB – .953 in 2011
– The big-name third basemen were largely disappointments last season, with injuries taking a toll in numerous cases. I’m expecting a lot more from most of them this year. Longoria and Zimmerman, at least, should both still be on the upswings of their careers. I’m not sure Wright is, but the changes at Citi Field should help him in the power department.
– Mark Reynolds (.823) and David Freese (.808) were the other third basemen to come in over .800. I know a lot of people will be quite high on Freese after his big postseason, but he has an extensive injury history and Busch Stadium is as tough of a park on right-handed power hitters as any in the NL.
– The Royals’ Mike Moustakas was further back. I expect him to hit for more power as a sophomore, but my guess is that it’ll be another year or two before he starts hitting for average. I have him at .268/.316/.426 with 17 homers in 556 at-bats.
– At the bottom of the list are Chone Figgins (.652 in 343 at-bats) and Juan Uribe (.680 in 389 at-bats).
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.