Speculation is already starting to simmer regarding what the Tigers should do about filling their second and third base positions in the off-season. The free agent market seems fairly weak at both spots, but there are actually some viable options out there.
Of course, the Tigers should be looking specifically for a guy who can get on base in front of Miguel Cabrera–something the top of Detroit’s lineup struggled to do all year. There are a few players set to hit the market who fit that bill, but one of the most realistic options I see is Jamey Carroll.
The 37-year-old Carroll would come without a lot of fanfare, and has generally been disregarded by those discussing the top tier of this year’s crop of second basemen in lieu of Kelly Johnson and Aaron Hill. He has been very consistent in his career, and is coming off yet another solid season. Previously a utility man, he’s seen much more significant playing time in his past two seasons with the Dodgers.
Carroll, a journeyman who has spent time with five major-league teams so far in his career, is especially intriguing to me because of his high on-base percentage. His OBP of .359 was second only to the .387 posted by Dustin Pedroia among qualified MLB second basemen in 2011. He also saw more pitches per plate appearance, 4.28, than any other second baseman. He handles the bat extremely well, as evidenced by his contact percentage of 92.6%, which was good for second among all qualified major-leaguers to Juan Pierre. He was also able to lay down eight successful sacrifice bunts this year. He’ll even provide a decent amount of speed for a guy nearing the end of his career; he stole ten bases in 2011 and wasn’t caught stealing even once. He would be a perfect guy to have in the two-hole of your batting order, and, despite his age, could theoretically even be a lead-off hitter.
In the field, he makes all the routine plays. He’s generally regarded as a slightly above average defender with a fairly strong arm. Though I’ve seen little of him myself, reading about him makes me think of Jhonny Peralta. Carroll, though, has played a good amount of time not only at second base, but at third and shortstop in his career, and his flexibility makes him even more valuable.
On top of all that, all reports indicate that he is a great guy to have in the clubhouse.
He has absolutely no power. In fact, he hasn’t hit a home run in his last 1,058 plate appearances dating back to August 9th, 2009. He was also historically bad this year with runners in scoring position, though that was likely an anomaly.
Thankfully for Carroll, the Tigers don’t really need a guy to hit long bombs or drive in runs. The biggest issue with him, then, is his age. He’ll be 38 by the time the 2012 season rolls around, and though he’s never lost significant time due to injury, you never know how much a guy that old will have left in the tank.
Obviously the Dodgers have seen better days. The club really has a difficult task ahead in rebuilding, especially considering their uncertain financial situation.
The last word from General Manager Ned Colletti on the Dodgers’ second base situation came in an interview with Jim Bowden. He remarked that Carroll and Aaron Miles were both free agents, then asserted, “Right now we have the two young players in [Justin] Sellers and Ivan DeJesus that we might let compete for that job next year.” Sarah D. Morris of MLB.com wrote in her article yesterday that she thinks Justin Sellers can play second base.
It looks as if Carroll could very well be looking at joining the sixth different team of his career this off-season.
I do believe that despite his age, Carroll still has some good baseball left in him. If that’s true, he seems like a low-risk, high-reward option at a spot the Tigers desperately need to fill. He also provides essential qualities on offense that Detroit lacked all year. He would probably cost just upwards of three million dollars (he made $2,285,677 in 2011 and will be negotiating in a sellers market) and would not have to be a long-term commitment. Options like Johnson and Hill will surely be extremely overpriced and honestly, I believe Carroll may possess a more desirable skill-set.
If I’m Dave Dombrowski, I’m taking a good, long look at this guy.
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