Analyzing the Market: Who’s On Second? Who’s On Third?


Everyone reading this probably knows that the Tigers could use some help at second and third base. It’s also pretty widely known that the Tigers had some trouble in the top third of their batting order this year; they struggled to get runners on base for Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez to drive in, and when they did men get on base, those runners were largely unable to move themselves into scoring position. With those things in mind, the ideal acquisition for Detroit would be a second or third baseman who gets on base and has a bit of speed. In a perfect world, that player would have the lead-off skills necessary to push Austin Jackson down in the order. Are there any players available who fit that bill?

According to FanGraphs, 52 second basemen had at least 200 plate appearances this year, and the same site lists 58 200+ PA players as third basemen. Take out nine duplicates and we have 101 second and third basemen who logged enough time in the majors this year to generate a decent sample size. It should be noted that this isn’t an inclusive sample; when limiting a FanGraphs leaderboard by position, you get only players whose primary position is the one you’ve selected. For example, Michael Cuddyer can play both second and third base, but is not included in this sample because neither of those was his primary position this year. In other words, it’s not perfect, but it gives us a pretty good place to start.

Going down the list, I picked out 40 players out of 101 who are generally thought of as good candidates to be on the move during this off-season; 17 free agents (including one Type A; Kelly Johnson, and four Type Bs; Aramis Ramirez, Wilson Betemit, Aaron Hill, and Mark Ellis), 18 players who were mentioned by MLB Trade Rumors as non-tender or trade candidates, and, for good measure, five more players (Howie Kendrick, Neil Walker, Maicer Izturis, Kyle Seager, and Sean Rodriguez) who have been discussed by this site and/or others as possible trade targets for the Tigers.

49 players of those on the original list of 101 had an on-base percentage of .321 (the major-league average) or better in 2011. Only 16 of those 49, however, made my list of potentially available players. It’s hard to imagine the Tigers signing anyone under that OBP mark and asking them to fill a starting role, as a player who gets on base at such a low rate is probably not too much better offensively than second base incumbent (kind of) Ramon Santiago.

So we’re down to 16 players who either have been the subject of significant trade speculation or are free agents and have the ability to get on base at least an average rate. Do any of those players have any speed? Kind of. Eight of them stole at least eight bases during this past season, but none swiped more than 14 bags. In order to include the fastest players on my final list of candidates, I re-added five players (Hill, Johnson,  Ellis, Chris Getz, and Mike Aviles) who were previously eliminated based on low OBP but stole at least 14 bases this year.

Finally, I have a non-inclusive list of 21 second and third basemen who may or may not be attainable but might fit at the top of the Tigers’ order. It favors two simple stats (OBP and SB) that could, but don’t necessarily, indicate lead-off skills. It’s not a scientific evaluation, but it provides a sort of road map of players the Tigers might want to target:

The most attractive option appears to be Chase Headley, who led the pack in OBP and stole 13 bases this year. He’s young and his current club, given their position, should be willing to shop him. Jordan Gorosh recently wrote that he would be a perfect fit for Detroit. If they fail to get Headley, I’m partial to Jamey Carroll, who’s old but would definitely come cheap. I wrote about him a few weeks back. Gorosh also has a piece up about Izturis. John Verburg wrote a while back that Kendrick wasn’t a good fit for the Tigers, but was more partial to a trade for Walker.

It’s easy for us to speculate, but much harder to actually pull off a trade or signing like these. Good luck Mr. Dombrowski.