Crashburn Roundtable: More IF Candidates

Paul Boye, Michael Baumann, and Ryan Sommers put together some thoughts on some more potentially-available infielders around the league. The Phillies are reportedly very interested in acquiring an infielder from outside the organization, and the list of names seems endless. Here are a few that weren’t covered by me in last week’s post.

Mark Reynolds

Paul: You know what you’re getting with Mark Reynolds: a whole lot of power and not a whole lot of contact. To be sure, Reynolds seems a likely candidate to park a ball or two out on Ashburn Alley at some point, but with fairly significant detractions at the same time. His defense is below average at its peak and borderline unwatchable at its nadir, so he only really plays third base in theory. He does have good plate discipline in spite of his shaky contact skills, so each plate appearance is not necessarily boom or bust, but something tells me the frustration of his fielding and nearly 68 percent of his PAs resulting in outs will outweigh the appetizing power.

Ryan: Reynolds is the most appealing of all of our options here. He’s 27 years old, he’s not terribly expensive this year and can be cheaply bought out next season, and hey, it’s Dan Duquette. A trade couldn’t be that hard to swing. There’s no need to worry about drastic BABIP swings with him either, since contact has never been a part of his game. For his career, 50.12% of Reynolds’ plate appearances have ended in either a walk, strikeout, or homerun. In the post-integration era, minimum 1000 plate appearances, that’s fourth among all hitters. Sure, strikeouts comprise an unfortunate portion of that trio, but his walk rate has been well above average too, and his HR/FB% would play mighty well at the Bank. Let’s be honest: if you’re reading this, you probably share my fetish for dingers and walks, and they’re sorely lacking in the Phillies infield as it’s currently projected, Jim Thome notwithstanding. Reynolds is the tonic.

Michael: I’ve always liked Mark Reynolds. I always found something endearing about the uncompromising nature of his game–swing as hard as you can and let the chips fall where they may. But here’s the thing about Mark Reynolds–you can be quite a valuable third baseman even if you strike out 200+ times in a season and play awful defense, so long as you make up for it in other areas. In 2009, Reynolds struck out 223 times and was more than 10 runs below average in the field. But thanks to 44 home runs, 30 doubles, 24 stolen bases, and a .260 batting average, FanGraphs credited him with 3.5 WAR.

But if those totals drop significantly, Reynolds goes from posting a .260/.349/.543 (his 2009) to a .210/.322/.459 (his combined 2010 and 2011). The power numbers and patience are still quite good, but that’s about all Reynolds can do anymore. But given his ability to play either corner infield position (not particularly well, I’ll concede, but still), odds are he’d be a useful player under the right circumstances. In fact, given the rapidly-eroding skills of Placido Polanco, the argument could be made that Reynolds (who is eight years younger than Polanco) would be a superior third base option.
So if Reynolds can be had without giving up anything the Phillies can’t replace (Joe Blanton straight-up, for instance), and if Polanco can still play second, and if he can keep his batting average, walk rate, and power numbers up, and if his strikeout rate is only stratospheric and no worse, then I’d absolutely support a Reynolds trade. But a lot of conditions have to be satisfied first.

Ryan Theriot

Paul: Now that we’re all intimately familiar with the pest that is Theriot following his 6-for-10 NLDS last year, how would he fit as an addition to this club? His defense at short could leave something to be desired, but he’s a capable glove and bat at second base. By “capable,” of course, I mean more along the lines of “palatable” and “acceptable,” which is the world we now live in with a post-prime Chase Utley likely incapable of reliving his best days. If a contact bat is what you want, you could do worse than Theriot. Just don’t expect more than three or four homers, even in CBP. Take the slap singles and be placated.

Ryan:

Michael: The good news: Theriot has experience at second, short, and third, and hardly ever strikes out. The bad news: Theriot is a dreadful defender, and about as bad a baserunner as you’d ever want to see. In fact, there’s been a baseball term, TOOTBLAN, created specifically for him. TOOTBLAN is an acronym for “Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop.” That’s not the worst thing in the world, in a vacuum. Hunter Pence, for instance, runs into outs on the bases all the time. The difference between him and Theriot, however, is that Thunderpants is good at other aspects of the game. Like hitting. And defense. Theriot blows.

Kelly Johnson

Paul: Wrist tendinitis nearly derailed a promising start to Johnson’s career. His 2007 and ’08 seasons with Atlanta were quite good, but he’s been up-and-down since. Part of that could be pinned to the injury, while some other part could be partially explained with a wildly fluctuating BABIP. At his best, Johnson is a more-than-viable asset with the bat who can also hold his own at second. He’s scheduled to make nearly $6.5M with the Blue Jays this year, so salary could be a sticking point. Among these candidates, however, he’s my top choice.

Ryan: In 481 PA last season, Johnson looked positively awful with the stick in an exceedingly hitter-friendly park. Toronto looked fondly enough on his prior accomplishments (2010 and 2007 in particular) to avoid arbitration for 2012 with a $6.375 million deal, so Anthopoulos seems committed to him starting every day for the Blue Jays. In fact, it appears they’re making somewhat of a project of it, directing him to focus on an on-base oriented approach in the hopes that he’ll return to form. That seems like a great idea, but, for one thing, it makes it unlikely that the Jays will want to deal him, and, for another, can anyone honestly imagine the Phillies trying that approach?

Michael: Can’t play short or third, struck out 163 times last season, walks some, but enough to be a particularly productive offensive player with a .222 batting average, which he had last season. The one thing Johnson adds is more power than anyone on this list except for Reynolds–a .212 ISO in 2010 and a .191 ISO in 2011. The real questions with Johnson are 1) Is he the guy who put up 5.9 fWAR in 2010 and had a 110 OPS+ with Toronto last season or the guy who had a .287 OBP with Arizona before his August trade and 2) How much would it take to get Johnson? Toronto just re-upped with the guy this offseason and traded two major-league infielders (bad ones, I’ll grant you) to get him last August, so odds are he’ll cost more than Ryan Theriot. But he did design the U-2 and the stealth fighter, so he’s versatile.

Casey Blake

Paul: Blake probably deserves a better epilogue to his Major League career than the one he’ll probably be saddled with: the guy the Dodgers traded Carlos Santana for (he was also drafted by the Phillies in 1992, but didn’t sign with the club). He gave the Dodgers some good-value play, but he’s 38 now (39 in August) and has seen his power numbers drop steeply in the last handful of years. Counting on Coors Field to revitalize his bat’s pop may not go as well as hoped, either. The Phillies already have an aging, low-power third baseman on their roster; a second would be redundant.

Ryan: A very old, just-barely-league-average third-baseman with good contact skills but no power to speak of; Blake is basically a new name for the very problem the Phillies need to solve. Simply put, there is a reason that, two days ago, the Rockies decided they’d be better off leaning on the likes of Chris Nelson and Jordan Pacheco at the hot corner. If history is instructive here, the neck injury that hampered him in camp will likely not be his last this season. The Phillies need to add productivity to the lineup, not groundouts and DL-bait.

Michael: Blake can still draw a walk, but the Phillies already have one mid-30s third baseman with limited power. Pass.

 

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