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2018-19 Free Agency Preview: Corner Infielders

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Beginning this Saturday, baseball’s free agents will be eligible to sign with any team they want.

Over the next couple of days we’ll break down the best available free agents by position, with some special attention paid to the top guys at each spot. We’ve already done starting pitchers. Now let’s do corner infielders.

Most of these guys are either set first basemen, listed first, or established third basemen, listed second, but it would not be shocking to see some fluidity here so we’ll do ’em all together. Some guys currently playing shortstop or second may slide to a corner too, but we’ll deal with them at their current positions. Like, for now, let’s consider Manny Machado a middle infielder, because that’s what he wants to be and what he did in 2018, even if he’s probably a better third baseman. Also, for now, let’s include Jose Reyes in here and pretend that he’s still a viable major leaguer despite all evidence to the contrary.

OK? OK!

Who’s Available?

First basemen

Steve Pearce
Joe Mauer
Matt Adams
Mark Reynolds
Lucas Duda
Adam Rosales
Hanley Ramirez
Logan Morrison

 

Third basemen

Josh Donaldson
Mike Moustakas
Adrian Beltre
Chase Headley
Ryan Flaherty
Danny Valencia
Jose Reyes
Luis Valbuena

 

Yikes, this is not an encouraging list. Joe Mauer is on here because he has not yet officially retired, but dudes, he’s retired. Hanley Ramirez missed most of the year but is said to be working out for a comeback. Adrian Beltre is probably going to retire. There’s a lot of flotsam and jetsam here.

As for the rest, Josh Donaldson is certainly going to get the most interest. He lost almost his whole season to injury, but the Indians took a chance on him in a trade, he hit well in a small late-season sample and started in the postseason. He, quite obviously, was one of the best players in baseball over the previous six seasons and this time a year ago he was thought to be in line for a monster deal. He won’t get that, but there will certainly be interest in him.

Mike Moustakas is back on the market after having to settle for a one-year deal last offseason. He’s still not going to be in line for the kind of big multi-year deal he wanted last year, but his 2018 was good enough to where he showed some teams that, yeah, maybe they should’ve taken a harder look before.

Steve Pearce had a fantastic World Series and, really, a pretty darn spiffy 2018 season, but he’s a platoon option at best now, right? Maybe he’ll get a bit overpaid now that he’s temporarily a big star, but not by much, especially at age 35.

 

Who’s Shopping?

Specifically for first or third basemen? Hardly anyone. A lot of teams that need a big bat will consider Donaldson and, as a fallback, Moustakas, but the most likely suitor for most of these guys are rebuilding teams who need placeholders until prospects mature. Indeed, that’s what fellas like Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison may as well put in the first line of their cover letter.

But let’s be honest here: if I were to tell you that the St. Louis Cardinals were going to sign Josh Donaldson to a team-friendly deal and that he’d turn around and put up a .300/.365/.535 season and lead them back to the playoffs, would anyone be shocked? Maybe that’s more like 2009 Cardinals juju than 2019 Cardinals juju, but it just seems right.

The Giants might be someone else to watch. They should probably rebuild, but it’s not clear that they know the meaning of the word in San Francisco, and adding veteran pop, such as it is, would be in line with their whole thing from the past several years.

Report: Yankees acquire Edwin Encarnación from Mariners

Edwin Encarnacion
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The Mariners are in the midst of reconstructing their roster, a process which most recently resulted in the trade of first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnación to the Yankees, per a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan. While the teams have yet to publicly confirm the deal, the Mariners are expected to receive pitching prospect Juan Then and will likely eat a significant portion of Encarnación’s salary as well.

Encarnación is a sizable get for the Yankees, who could benefit from the veteran’s power and consistency in their ongoing drive toward the postseason. The 36-year-old infielder missed some time with a bout of lower back tightness, dental issues, and soreness in his left hand, but has still maintained a decent .241/.356/.531 batting line with an AL-best 21 home runs, an .888 OPS, and 1.7 fWAR through his first 289 plate appearances of the year. Per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, Encarnación has another $11-12 million left on his contract in 2019, with a $20 million option for the 2020 season and a $5 million buyout.

Then, 19, was acquired by the Yankees in a three-person trade with the Mariners during the 2017 offseason. The right-hander currently ranks no. 27 in the Yankees’ system and made his last pro ball appearance for New York’s rookie-level affiliate in 2018, pitching to a 2.70 ERA, 2.0 BB/9, and 7.6 SO/9 across 50 innings. It’s not clear if any other players are involved in the trade, though USA Today’s Bob Nightengale notes that no other prospects are thought to be included in the package for Encarnación.