Welcome to the second installment of INSC’s MLB Free Agency Positional Breakdown! To start things off we will be taking a closer look at this year’s crop of free agent third basemen. We will be taking a look at the list of names, what they bring to the table, where they could end up and which teams could be looking for third base help.
So in order for us to get into any sort of analysis, we are going to need a list of upcoming free agents. It just so happens that mlbtraderumors.com formulates such a list every season. If you would like to access their full list of upcoming free agents, you can take a look right here. From that full list, here are the third basemen who are poised to be free agents at the conclusion of this season’s world series!
Yunel Escobar (34) — $7MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Aaron Hill (35)
Ruben Tejada (27)
Justin Turner (32)
Luis Valbuena (31)
If you thought the second base market was thin, take a gander at the available third basemen. Not very inspiring if you are in need of a third basemen this winter. Justin Turner was a bench guy only a few years back, and now he is the top available third baseman on the open market. Yunel Escobar may or not become available, and if he does, he is probably a below average starter. Luis Valbuena and Aaron Hill are fill in types. And Ruben Tejada is terrible.
So let’s start this with the only real worthwhile name on this list. The soon to be 32 had a solid season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016. He clocked 27 home runs, 90 runs batted in and batted .275. Those are numbers any team would gladly take. But the question is, can he do it again? And how many years do you want to give a guy who has only been a full timer for one year? Given he has no competition, and his numbers over the last three years with LA have been solid, even as a bench guy, he likely can land a three year deal. The Dodgers will likely look to retain his services. Then teams like the Angels, Mets, Cardinals and Giants could get involved for his services.
After him, Yunel becomes the next best option. Yunel battled some injuries in 2016, but managed to play 132 games. He hit for a nice .304 average, but was seriously lacking in the power department, with only five home runs. A guy who slugs less than .400 is not exactly the ideal third baseman. The Angels could look to save six million dollars by declining his option, or decide to retain him given the uncertainty in their lineup. If he becomes available, he will more likely catch on as a utility man as opposed to a straight up third baseman. I could see him donning a Mets uniform in 2017.
Valbuena and Hill fit that same utility man gig. Valbuena underwent hamstring surgery in late August after hitting .260 with 13 homers in 90 games for the Houston Astros. He should be good to go for Spring Training, but given his recovery and low profile status, expect him to be on the market into the new year. Hill is a former top second baseman who has fizzled out the last several years. His .262 average and 10 home runs will catch on with someone in a bench type of role.
And Ruben Tejada. I’ll keep this nice and simple. Tejada can swing a bat just as well as Charles Barkley can swing a golf club. The results are never pretty, and you would much rather see him on your opponents team than your own.
As far as teams who will be in need of a third baseman, the Dodgers come up first, given their starter is the only real name available. The Angels could certainly be looking to upgrade the position if at all possible. The Cardinals have infielders, but the way they use them could open up the position. The Giants have not cemented down anyone on the hot corner since Pablo Sandoval left for a handful of Fenway Franks. The White Sox and Rays may join the market if they decide to move Todd Frazier and Evan Longoria respectively.
Any team looking for a true upgrade at third will likely turn to that trade market. Turner will have his suitors, but he can only sign with one team. He will probably get more than he can live up to, but hey, good for him. His numbers have been perfectly fine and he can certainly help a club out. The rest of the free agent market at the position, not so much.
Be sure to check back tomorrow when we go over the shortstop market! If you have not already, check out the Positional Breakdown Series Preview page to see what date we will look at each position, with links available upon the release of those articles. You can check that page out right here.