Addressing the Third Base Situation

As you have read here ad nauseam, third base is a very shallow position across Major League Baseball. Having lived through the waning of Placido Polanco‘s career, the Phillies will likely be moving on despite his relatively cheap $5.5 million option. Polanco played in just 90 games in 2012, missing time due to injuries to his back, knee, ankle, and wrist. In moving on, however, the Phillies can pick from an uninspiring list that includes Geoff BlumMiguel CairoEric ChavezMark DeRosaMaicer IzturisKevin KouzmanoffJose Lopez, and Scott Rolen. They can also choose another go-around with Ty Wigginton. Players whose options may not be picked up by their current teams include Brandon IngeMark Reynolds, and Kevin Youkilis.

Here’s a look at how each player fared in 2012 by wOBA. “Ptn %” refers to the percentage of PA in which the player had the platoon advantage (e.g. RH hitter vs. LH pitcher or LH hitter vs. RH pitcher). Kouzmanoff was excluded because he did not play in the Majors at all in 2012.

Player wOBA PA PA Ptn% Age
Eric Chavez .356 305 88% 34
Mark Reynolds .339 520 27% 28
Kevin Youkilis .331 497 28% 33
Scott Rolen .311 316 27% 37
Ty Wigginton .301 350 41% 34
Maicer Izturis .296 304 100% 31
Brandon Inge .283 331 38% 35
Jose Lopez .269 241 39% 28
Mark DeRosa .258 93 45% 37
Miguel Cairo .213 151 29% 38
Geoff Blum .158 31 100% 39

The average third baseman posted a .320 wOBA. Of the 12 players listed, only three posted above-average offensive numbers during the regular season. The bottom of the list you can immediately cross off due to the combination of age, poor performance, and lack of playing time. Each player has a significant deficiency, and you can put them into separate groups. For instance, Chavez and Izturis are platoon-exclusive players; Youkilis and Rolen are injury-prone; Reynolds and Wigginton can’t play defense; and Izturis, Inge, and Lopez can’t hit.

Among players under contract, the obvious name is Chase Headley, but as the past trade deadline indicated, the San Diego Padres’ asking price is very, very high and the Phillies no longer have a Minor League system overflowing with attractive prospects. The Padres have prospect Jedd Gyorko, a 23-year-old who posted a .968 OPS at Triple-A Tucson, ready to take over in the event Headley is moved. Other third basemen are young, cheap, and under team control for a while, including Kyle SeagerMike MoustakasPedro Alvarez, and Chris Johnson — more or less unavailable via trade unless Ruben Amaro is willing to grossly overpay. The rest constitute a combination of old and expensive players such as Aramis RamirezAdrian Beltre, and Alex Rodriguez and their teams wouldn’t make them available save for the most lucrative of returns.

This barren third base market is the reason why Amaro considered moving Utley to third base. That idea is problematic, however, because Utley demonstrated over his entire career that his arm, weak and inaccurate, is his worst defensive attribute. Moreover, his offense (.356 wOBA) is significantly more valuable at second base (avg. wOBA .309) than at third base. The more realistic in-house solution would be to utilize Kevin Frandsen and/or Freddy Galvis at third base. Galvis (.266 wOBA) would need the world’s supply of steroids to adequately hit well enough at the hot corner, but would make up at least some of the lacking offense with great defense — he does have the arm to make cross-diamond throws. Otherwise, the Phillies will be hoping Frandsen can stave off the looming specter of regression.

Fixing third base will require some shrewd, outside-the-box thinking. Since taking over for Pat Gillick after the 2008 season, Amaro has shown the propensity to opt for the obvious home run move, such as signing Cliff Lee and trading for Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. Though to his credit, he did pick Frandsen and Juan Pierre out of the garbage bin as well. 2013’s third base solution appears to require more striking of lightning in a bottle.

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60 comments

  1. Joecatz

    October 12, 2012 02:39 PM

    Two words

    Ben Zobrist

    Tampa is gonna be facing a serious salary crunch over the next two years, and our prospects (Ruf, Valle/Joseph, a ML ready OF, and biddle/may/Worley) match up really well with them.

    It’s outside the box as hell, but he could play 3B or 2b or Of.

  2. Jim

    October 12, 2012 02:47 PM

    The name overlooked is Cody Asche. He’s 22 and constantly improving. Instead of a retread like those mentioned, go with youth! You’re getting to old, Asche & Darin Ruf are 2 players who should receive considerable attention in spring training. My bet would be BOTH could be starter – if not for Charlie’s dislike of young players.

  3. Joecatz

    October 12, 2012 02:56 PM

    The only attention Ruf should get in spring training beneficial to the phillies is interest from scouts in other organizations. Unless you trade Howard Ruf has no place to play. He’s not a LF, he’s a 1B/DH.

    His value is as his as it will ever be to this organization and the league. He’s the one guy who absolutely should be traded this winter.

  4. Jimmy Douglas

    October 12, 2012 05:48 PM

    In March I proposed a trade of outfielder Domonic Brown for Seattle’s like-aged infielder Kyle Seager. I doubt the Mariners would now consider trading their leading homerun hitter who posted a WAR of 3.6 this season.

  5. G Mueller

    October 12, 2012 06:36 PM

    How about Stephen Drew at 3B?

  6. hk

    October 12, 2012 07:13 PM

    Joecatz,

    Zobrist is only due to make $5.5M in 2013. While that may be a lot for Tampa, I would think they’ll find a way to keep him as his value far exceeds his cost.

  7. Windchimp

    October 13, 2012 12:56 AM

    Look to the Angels’ AAA 3B man Luis Jimenez in a package with CF Pete Bourjos. Angels need bullpen help. Phils should be able to oblige.

  8. vin

    October 13, 2012 12:07 PM

    windchimp…the phils need bullpen help too

  9. Best Guess

    October 13, 2012 12:21 PM

    What are the possibilities of Chone Figgins at 3B for the Phillies if Seattle releases him … 3 horrible seasons in Seattle but between 2004-09 finishing 4 times in the top 25 voting as MVP with the Angels. Has he completely lost talent or can some of the decline be traced to the park and team structure in Seattle ?

  10. joecatz

    October 16, 2012 12:36 PM

    hk, I get you for sure, but that goes up to 7.5 in 2014 and 15. when you look deep at what Longo will make, what Price is gonna cost in ARB, and factor Davis, Shields, etc… something is gonna give there. Granted, Pitching is their strength and more likely where they’d move from, but from both an age and salary position, Zobrist is the guy they can get the most value from. It’s outside the box, but I’d be shocked if his name didn’t surface this off season.

    best guess,

    As long as it was an outright release and he was willing to come to camp on a non guaranteed deal, theres no harm in giving Figgins a look. But he’s not the answer, IMO.

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