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Hot Stove Preview: Top Free Agent Second Basemen Available

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We continue our trek through the best available free agents on a position-by-position basis. The next up: Second Basemen. If you think some of the other positions are thin, boy howdy, get a load of second base.

Neil Walker

The Mets gave him a $17.2 million qualifying offer. Given that he’s coming off of back surgery, one suspects that he’ll strongly consider taking it. Not that he’d have no market in the normal course. It’s just that teams may be loathe to give up a draft pick for a guy coming off of an injury who, as it is, plays mediocre second base. Walker is certainly solid — he’s been an above-average hitter, often well above average, for basically his entire career– but there are questions about him entering the offseason and there will be a high price to pay for a guy whose best years in terms of both health and production may very well be behind him. Any long term deal Walker does sign is likely to pay him far less per annum than the qualifying offer, so it will an interesting decision for him to be sure. Of course, the Mets and Walker could just agree to tear up the qualifying offer and put a two or three-year deal on the table that could serve both sides’ interests.

Sean Rodriguez

More of a super utility guy, but we have to put him someplace. He’ll be in demand after a year in which he hit .270/.349/.510 with 18 homers in 300 at-bats while starting games at six different positions. That was a bit of a fluke, batting wise, but even if he cuts the gains he realized over his career numbers in half, he’s a quite valuable commodity. It’s just an open question as to whether anyone envisions him as playing at a set position as opposed to being a rover like he was in 2016.

Jose Miguel Fernandez

Fernandez left Cuba in late 2015 and he spent more than two years not playing baseball at all, really. He’s now playing in the Dominican Winter League, hitting for good contact but possessing no power. There’s also a risk that he’s more of a third baseman than a second basemen — he’s been playing third in the Dominican Republic — but he’s an intriguing gamble.

Chase Utley

The old man keeps on keeping on. He works hard, is in shape and was so great in his prime that even his decline plays well, but it likely won’t play well for too much longer. He’s a platoon guy now, who should only play against righties. Obviously a great clubhouse guy, and someone will probably value that. That he’s one of the top 3-4 available second baseman is pretty telling as to how thin this position is.

Steve Pearce

I included him in our first base rundown because, to be honest, he probably belongs there more than anyplace else. Still, he has played a decent amount of second base and could appear there for someone in 2017. He hit well in Tampa Bay — .309/.388/.520 in 204 at-bats — but declined sharply once he returned to Baltimore. Who knows what to expect from him next year? At the worst he’s a good platoon guy to face lefties and a utility option.

Stephen Drew

A shortstop for almost all of his career before the Yankees made him a second baseman for a season and then the Nationals moved him around a lot as a backup/utility guy. He had his best offensive season, rate stat wise, in his career (125 OPS+) but he only had 165 plate appearances. Like so many here, he may be best utilized as a utilityman.

Kelly Johnson

He was miserable with the Braves but .268/.328/.459 in 183 AB after being traded back to New York. The way his career has gone he’ll sign with Atlanta and then be traded back to New York again. He played 52 games at second base last year but can handle corners too.

Others available: Gordon Beckham, Andres Blanco, Emmanuel Burriss, Chris Coghlan, Daniel Descalso, Johnny Giavotella, Grant Green, Tyler Ladendorf, Jimmy Paredes, Eric Sogard, Ruben Tejada, Jemile Weeks

Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, West title with win over A’s

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to still savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth straight division title Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They are third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998-2006).

“To fast forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said. “Truth be told a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

The clubhouse celebration was also muted. Champagne was still involved, but it was players toasting each other with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs, “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May (2-1) went five innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old red-headed righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in his first 13 career starts, which include 10 this season.

Robbie Grossman homered for Oakland, which clinched its first AL West crown in seven years on Monday during a day off. The Athletics, in the postseason for the third straight year, currently are the AL’s No. 3 seed.

Mark Canha had two of Oakland’s five hits.

Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas (3-5).

Grossman quickly gave Oakland a 1-0 lead when he homered off the left-field pole in the first inning. Sean Murphy briefly gave the Athletics a 2-1 advantage when he led off the third with a walk and scored on a wild pitch by May with two outs.

Montas, who allowed only four home runs in his first seven starts, has given up six in his past three. The right-hander went four innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

“They’re a pretty good team that when you make mistakes, they make you pay,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re pretty good laying off and making you throw it over the plate. They made Montas pay, unfortunately.”

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

ATHLETICS ADVANCE

The A’s have a team text thread they used to celebrate clinching their first AL West title since 2013 during their off day Monday, when the Mariners beat Houston.

“We didn’t really celebrate too much yet. It’s exciting,” Chad Pinder said. “We wanted to do it on our own terms. We still won the division and that was our goal. It’s nice to know we’ll be playing home for the series.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: INF/OF Pinder (strained right hamstring) planned to run at Dodger Stadium and test his leg with hopes of still playing before the conclusion of the regular season. …. RHP Daniel Mengden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28.

Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch due to left hamstring discomfort He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28. … Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will remain with the team during the entire postseason.

UP NEXT

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50) is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts dating to Aug. 20.

Dodgers: LHP Julio Urias (3-0, 3.49) will make his team-leading 11th start.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports