Previewing The 2022-23 Free Agent Class: Second Basemen

With the offseason drawing nearer, MLBTR will be breaking down the free-agent class on a position-by-position basis. MLBTR’s Anthony Franco already profiled this winter’s crop of catchers and first basemen. You can check out the full list of this offseason’s free agents here, but today we’ll take a deeper look at the options for teams in need of help at second base next. It’s worth noting that there are star shortstops (e.g.  Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner) who could technically be pursued as a second base option for a team that already has an entrenched shortstop, but we’ll save that group for the shortstop preview.

Top of the Class

The Phillies hold a $17MM club option on Segura, so he could technically go in the “2023 Options” section later in this preview. However, even though Segura is a good player who’s had a solid season, it’s likelier that the Phils pay the option’s $1MM buyout than pick up that hefty salary. Segura has ample experience at shortstop and has played some third base as well, but he’s been a strict second baseman in Philly recently and other teams likely view him similarly. The open market hasn’t been kind to non-star, second-base-only players like Segura in recent years, even when they’re coming off respectable seasons.

That’s absolutely the case here, as Segura has slashed .273/.335/.393 — good for a 106 wRC+ (suggesting he’s been six percent better than the league-average hitter). Segura is a tough strikeout but doesn’t walk much and has slowly seen his power dwindle to below-average levels. He generally has solid but unspectacular grades for his glovework at second base. He’ll be 33 next spring.

At his best, Segura does a little bit of everything — hitting for power, hitting for average, swiping some bases, playing solid defense — but doesn’t necessarily excel in any one area. It’d be a surprise if he got more than two years in free agency, and there are free-agent second basemen with higher ceilings but far less recent track record. If you want the safest bet to be a solid regular at the position, Segura is the guy.

As is often the case, we’re looking at a pretty thin crop of established second basemen on the market this year’s market. That’s good news for Drury, who parlayed a minor league deal with the Reds into a standout free-agent platform. Drury hit .274/.335/.520 and clubbed 21 home runs with the Reds before a deadline trade shipped him to San Diego. He hasn’t been nearly as good with the Friars (.227/.270/.454) but is still hitting for power. On the whole, Drury has a .261/.317/.501 slash this season — about 23% better than the average hitter by measure of wRC+.

Defensively, Drury embodies the “jack of all trades, master of none” trope, but second base has historically been his best position. He’s drawn average marks there throughout his career and again in 2022. The 30-year-old righty has feasted on left-handed pitching but mostly just held his own against right-handers. Drury hit well in a tiny sample of 88 plate appearances with the 2021 Mets but was a non-factor with the Yankees and Blue Jays from 2018-20, batting a combined .205/.254/.346 in the rough equivalent of a full season of playing time (167 games, 582 plate appearances).

Drury will get a big league deal this winter. The questions are whether his Cincinnati contributions are overshadowed by his San Diego struggles, whether he’ll get a look as a utility option or as a player at one primary position, and whether there’s enough interest to generate a multi-year offer.

Veterans Coming Off Down Years

Cano sat out the entire 2021 season serving a 162-game suspension for his second failed PED test and was released by three different teams in 2022 — the final season of the 10-year, $240MM contract he originally signed with Seattle. Cano hit just .150/.183/.190 in 104 Major League plate appearances this season and might not get another MLB chance at this point.

One of the Padres’ marquee acquisitions at the 2021 trade deadline, Frazier fell into a deep slump the moment he was traded from Pittsburgh to San Diego. He was flipped to the Mariners in a cost-saving move last offseason and hasn’t rediscovered his Pittsburgh form with what’s now his third team. Frazier’s season in Seattle has been the worst full season of his big league career. He’s still been a solid defender between second base and the outfield corners, but he’s hitting just .235/.299/.308 in 579 plate appearances. Since leaving the Pirates, Frazier has a .243/.307/.315 slash in 790 plate appearances; he batted .283/.346/.420 in parts of six seasons with Pittsburgh.

Long a steady regular at second base, Hernandez has played out his free-agent years on a series of one-year deals and might have reached the end of his time as an everyday player in Washington. After swatting a career-high 21 homers last year, the switch-hitter has just one long ball in 2022.  He’s still collected 27 doubles and four triples, but the swift disappearance of his power has left him with a .245/.308/.315 batting line — about 23% worse than league average by measure of wRC+. Hernandez’s defensive marks at second base have taken a nosedive in recent seasons, too, and Washington has begun playing him at other positions (third base, left field) to make room for the younger Luis Garcia.

Simmons is, of course, primarily a shortstop. He saw more time at second base (106 innings) than at short (104) in a brief and disastrous tenure as a  Cub, though. Simmons had two lengthy IL stints in 2022 due to shoulder problems, hit just .173/.244/.187 in 85 plate appearances, and was released last month. Since a pair of above-average seasons at the plate in 2017-18, he’s combined for 1087 plate appearances with three teams (Angels, Twins, Cubs) and posted a combined .244/.298/.311 slash — just a 68 wRC+.

Another veteran infielder who signed a one-year deal with the Cubs and was released this summer, the switch-hitting Villar mustered only a .208/.260/.302 output in 220 plate appearances between Chicago and Anaheim this season. He posted solid numbers with the 2021 Mets and, from 2018-21, batted .259/.327/.408 (99 wRC+) with 58 homers and a hefty 105 steals in just shy of 2000 big league plate appearances. Villar can play any second, third and shortstop but doesn’t grade out well at any of the three.

Utility Players

Diaz has played at least 45 innings at five different positions this season: all four infield spots and left field. He was primarily a shortstop early in his career and still has more total innings there than at any position. He never graded well there, and as he enters his mid-30s, he’ll be viewed as more of a utility player. Diaz’s .255/.302/.427 line in 2022 is quite similar to the .259/.318/.433 slash he’s posted over four total seasons with the ’Stros. He’s a right-handed bat who’s shown a pretty noticeable platoon split over the past couple seasons, though early in his career he hit fellow righties better than lefties.

Peterson has played mostly third base in Milwaukee this season and posted sensational defensive marks there, including 10 Defensive Runs Saved and 5 Outs Above Average in just 583 innings. He’s spent more time at second base than any other position in his career on the whole, however. The lefty-swinging Peterson has revived his career with a solid three-year run in Milwaukee, hitting .241/.339/.379 (100 wRC+) with a hefty 12.4% walk rate, 16 homers and 22 steals in 677 plate appearances. He’s even handled lefties well in a small sample over the past two seasons, although a career .217/.289/.282 output against them still suggests he’s best deployed against righties only.

A hamstring strain cost Solano more than two months, but since being activated, he’s batted .292/.343/.397 with four homers and 15 doubles in 280 trips to the plate. Solano has been quite good at home, in Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, and below-average on the road, but this is the fourth consecutive season he’s headed for at least league-average offense. Dating back to his 2019 resurgence with the Giants, “Donnie Barrels” is hitting .303/.351/425 in 1055 plate appearances. He’ll turn 35 in December, though, and his defensive grades at second, third and shortstop in recent years are all lacking. He’s posted excellent numbers in 166 innings as a first baseman this year, however (5 DRS, 2 OAA).

Depth Pieces

  • Ehire Adrianza (33): A switch-hitter with experience all over the infield and in the outfield corners, Adrianza has hit just .215/.302/.320 in 415 plate appearances dating back to 2020.
  • Charlie Culberson (34): Since hitting a career-high 12 homers with the 2018 Braves, Culberson carries a .248/.291/.384 slash in 542 plate appearances. He still hits lefties well but has never had much success against righties.
  • Matt Duffy (32): Duffy opened the season as the Angels’ second baseman but spent significant time on the injured list this season, primarily due to back trouble. He’s hit .255/.311/.317 in 225 plate appearances. Duffy can play any of second, third or shortstop, but injuries have limited him to 716 plate appearances over the past four seasons.
  • Alcides Escobar (36): Escobar had a brief resurgence with the 2021 Nats, but that was the only time since 2014 his bat has been close to average. He hit .218/.262/.282 in 131 plate appearances with Washington this year.
  • Phil Gosselin (34): The journeyman utility player has experience at every infield spot and in the outfield corners. He hit .149/.182/.176 in 77 plate appearances this year but did record a respectable .259/.316/.371 slash in 475 plate appearances from 2020-21.
  • Rougned Odor (29): The O’s have somewhat bizarrely given Odor 457 plate appearances despite poor defensive ratings (-9 DRS, -3 OAA) and a .211/.278/.366 slash that generally mirrors the .200/.270/.378 line he’s posted in 966 plate appearances since 2020.
  • Chris Owings (31): The big numbers Owings posted in a tiny sample with the 2021 Rockies look even flukier after he hit .107/.254/.143 in 68 plate appearances with Baltimore in 2022. He’s hit .190/.266/.300 over his past 667 MLB plate appearances.

2023 Options

  • Hanser Alberto (30): Alberto’s one-year deal with the Dodgers contained a $2MM club option and a $250K buyout. Los Angeles will all likely opt for the buyout after Alberto has batted .225/.235/.344 in 153 trips to the plate. Alberto has solid defensive ratings around the infield and hits lefties well — career .320/.337/.445 hitter in 577 plate appearances — giving him some bench appeal. His recent poor showings will be hard to overlook, though.
  • Josh Harrison (35): Harrison’s next plate appearance will be his 400th, boosting his 2023 club option value from $5.5MM to $5.625MM. There’s a $1.5MM buyout, making it a net $4.125MM option for the ChiSox. Based strictly on his production — nearly league-average offense and quality defense at multiple positions — Harrison’s been worth that amount. The Sox already have a crowded payroll and will be looking for more production from multiple spots in their lineup, however. They might also feel they can find comparable production/value either in-house or at a lower net price elsewhere on the market.
  • Jonathan Schoop (31): Schoop can technically become a free agent this winter, but he’d have to turn down a $7.5MM player option after hitting just .203/.236/.327 in 484 plate appearances for that to happen. That’s obviously quite unlikely, but it’s worth pointing out that defensive metrics agree that Schoop has resurfaced as one of the sport’s premier defenders. He’s tallied 11 Defensive Runs Saved and posted a comically high 27 Outs Above Average at second base, per Statcast.
  • Kolten Wong (32): Wong’s $10MM club option is a bit tougher to predict, if only because the Brewers tend to tread cautiously with club options and often opt for the buyout even of reasonable deals. For Wong, that’d be a $2MM buyout, rendering this an $8MM net decision. Milwaukee’s payroll next year is already loaded, and they may feel they can replace Wong’s value in-house. With an $8MM net value on the option, it’s possible he’d have some trade value to a team who’ll be looking for some upgrades at second base. Wong is hitting .252/.338/.435 and has tied a career-best with 15 homers. His defensive marks have fallen below average, however, as he’s missed time due to a calf injury for a second straight season.

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