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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.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Diamondbacks 4, Braves 1: 🎶Stop me, oh-oh-oh, stop me . . .stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before . . .🎶

Sorry. Just waylaid by this Braves bullpen. Nothing’s changed. It’s enough to make a shy, bald, Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder. Me watching the game: 🎶 I drank one. It became four. And when I fell on the floor I drank more.🎶

Christian Walker hit a two-run homer in the seventh off of Chad Sobotka, who, didn’t get an out and who has given up five runs in his last two outings. The Diamondbacks have won four straight.

Nationals 4, Giants 2: Patrick Corbin took a one-hitter into the eighth inning and ended having allowed only one run on two hits while punching out nine. Not literally, though. If he punched out nine guys he’d probably be arrested.

Tigers 9, White Sox 7: Detroit ends a five-game skid. Nicholas Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera led the way, with the former going 3-for-4, the latter 2-for-4 and both driving in two runs. Dustin Peterson and Grayson Greiner also each drove in two, but they don’t get to be characterized as “leading the way” because baseball has a pretty strict seniority system and if you get too loosey-goosey with it you got a big hassle with the union and I’ve already had too many fires to put out this week, OK?

Blue Jays 7, Twins 4: Randal Grichuk, who got all “play the game the right way” on Tim Anderson on Wednesday, hit a homer. After which he gently laid his bat down parallel to the base line, assumed an expression which suggested mild pleasure but copious humility and then stoically ran the bases at a speed which reflected his obvious reverence for players past, present and future. I’m assuming at least.

Here’s what he actually said:

“I’ve never been one to flip a bat or do anything like that. I run out of the box always. I’ve hit some pretty far homers and I’ve sprinted out of the box like it was a wall-scraper. It’s just who I am. (Other) guys are different.”

Someone give that guy the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Justin Smoak and Teoscar Hernández hit home runs too. No word on whether Grichuk silently judged them afterwards. The Jays took three of four from the Twinkies.

Royals 6, Yankees 1: Homer Bailey — Homer Bailey? — yes, Homer Bailey held the Bombers to one run over six. Jorge Soler and Ryan O'Hearn hit dingers. New York got four singles in the game. That’s it. I guess with the Red Sox and Cubs being off someone had to step up and satisfy the “big money teams stinkin’ up the joint” quota for the evening.

Dodgers 3, Brewers 1: Before the game Dave Roberts announced that Julio Urías would head to the bullpen after this start since the Dodgers will soon be getting a couple of veteran pitchers back. Then Urías goes out and tosses six one-hit shutout innings while striking out nine. There are teams that would kill to have the sort of depth that would allow this kid to be shuffled off to long relief after a start like this. Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy homered in a winning cause. Christian Yelich homered in a losing cause.

Orioles 6, Rays 5: Joey Rickard drove in the winning run in the 11th inning with an RBI double. To even get him up to bat required Chris Davis to hit a two-out RBI single, and I wonder what the odds of that happening were. RIckard himself was no sure bet to play the hero here after coming into the game on an 0-for-15 skid, but he reached base five times and drove in two on the night. Dude used to be a Ray, too. Or at least in their system. Baltimore swiped him from Tampa Bay in the 2015 Rule 5 Draft. Here’s another killer for the Rays: Tommy Pham, who was 4-for-5 with two driven in, was on second base with one out in the bottom of the ninth and the score tied but . . . got picked off while trying to steal third base. Ouch.

Rockies 6, Phillies 2: Ryan McMahon homered twice and had five RBI. Kyle Freeland pitched six scoreless innings but had to leave with a blister, so that’s worth watching. Colorado was won four in a row.

Mariners 11, Angels 10: The M’s had a 10-2 lead heading into the seventh and totally blew it when the Angels scored seven runs on seven hits in the seventh and got a David Fletcher homer in the eighth to tie things up. Seattle rallied in the ninth, though, with pinch hitter Jay Bruce singing in Mitch Haniger for the winning margin. Before all of that messiness the M’s bottom of the order, in the form of Omar Narváez and Ryon Healy, combined to drive in nine. Healy homered twice. Narváez hit a three-run shot. Speaking of shot, all the pitchers in this one probably should’ve been.

Reds 4, Padres 1: Joey Votto led off in this came, which was odd, and he hit a homer to start the game. Padres starter Chris Paddack said after the game that he “thought I could blow a heater by him.” Bless his heart. Fernando Tatís Jr. led off too, which is also new, and went 2-for-4. Tucker Barnhart and Jesse Winker also homered, helping Cincy snap a four-game losing skid.