Monday, March 17, 2008

2B Upgrade Needed

posted by Jon

All offseason we heard GM Bill Bavasi talk about the need for more production out of the second base position. We heard rumors of several different free agents possibly signing, and even a few trade rumors for some veteran guys. Incumbent second baseman Jose Lopez isn't getting it done this spring, hitting an even .200 through Monday. Newly acquired utility men Miguel Cairo and Tug Hulett don't have the skills to be MLB starters, and prospect Yung-Chi Chen has already been cut from the team.

Jason A. Churchill of Prospect Insider recently had this to say about Lopez:

Lopez is a complete mess at the plate. Several scouts described him as “lost” or "without any confidence he can hit the ball hard at all” after seeing him this spring.

He’s still chasing pitches out of the zone early in the count and is unable to punish the fastball. Presently, Lopez is not showing that he deserves regular at-bats in Triple-A, let alone a solid big-league baseball club.

He pulls off breaking balls about half the time, and the other half he’s reaching out for them with a weak waive. Until he can offer more effective plate coverage — going to right field with a line drive regularly — he’s probably going to be limited to being a .260 hitter with moderate power at best.

If pitchers stay away from Lopez and make him reach, he’s an easy out waiting to happen. He must develop better discipline, and if he wants to keep his job as the starting second baseman, he’ll need to show something early in the year.

So what's going to happen? Lopez could still very well be Seattle's Opening Day second baseman, especially since manager John McLaren is somehow impressed, but unless he regains his early 2006 form he won't be sticking around very long. What is plan-B?

I'd be calling about former Cleveland Indians All-Star second baseman Ronnie Belliard if I were the man in charge. Now with the Nationals, Belliard's name has been brought up in various trade rumors in recent weeks due to Washington's logjam at second. The 31-year-old is in competition with Felipe Lopez, Bret Boone and Willie Harris for the second base job, leading the way with a .471 batting average so far this spring. About a week ago Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote that Belliard would be the easiest of the four to move.

Belliard will be entering his tenth full season in the major leagues this year, and is still getting it done with the stick. If a Mariner, he would strike out slightly less and walk slightly more than Jose Lopez, getting more rallies to the top of the order while likely hitting .285 or better. He's got about the same or better power than Lopez, smacking 11 homers and driving 35 doubles last year while playing his home games in the pitcher's haven known as RFK Stadium. His salary is less than $2M per year through 2009. If Seattle wishes to tap a 2009 free agent market that features names like Mark Ellis and Orlando Hudson, Belliard could become a useful utility man or trade bait entering the final year of his contract.

How would you guys like to see Belliard in a Mariner uniform? Anyone else you'd rather see Seattle bring in? Ryan Freel is also supposedly available.


Brandon said...

Belliard sounds good, but what would we be giving up for him?
Also, how solid is Morse's glove? I know he used to play SS and am wondering if perhaps, he could play a little bit of 2B. Lopez has mad potential, he just needs to find his confidence...which he lost last year when he was in a MAJOR funk. If he has a rough start to the year...mac is gonna have a tough decision as far as what to do with him.

Jon Shields said...

I'm still working on what the Nationals are asking for him or at least what the organization could use, but I don't have a good answer yet. Pitching is pretty default. From what I've heard he could be had for a AA or AAA prospect that would be ready for the 2009 season. Not sure about that one, but it sounds right.

As much as I would love to let Mike Morse become our second baseman, and he has the bat to do it, he never will be. The guy has grown to 6'6 and he is far too big for the position. 2nd baseman need to have the best footwork of all the infielders, and Morse already struggled with that as a shortstop, if I recall correctly. Morse is hardly considered an option as SS after his latest growth spurt, and is considered a CIF/COF above all. I'd love to have that bat of his hitting 7th or 8th, but he doesn't play 2B.

Cam and Kristy said...

I think Belliard would be an upgrade to Lopez. He has a better stick but maybe not quite as good in the field. I would give up a little defense for a better bat in the lineup. The Freel suggestion is interesting as well. The guy has speed to burn and may provide a lot of hits with his legs alone, ala Ichiro. Either way, I think they would both be an upgrade to Lopez. My feeling is that he will still be around for awhile though.

jp17 said...

Lopez is frustrating and the offense could use a boost, but with our mostly groundball staff I can live with Lopez out there. Lopez made some stupid mistakes in the field, but overall was a great defender. I value that more than his bat with this staff.

An offense shouldn't really be counting on their middle infielders to produce runs. If we want more offense we need to look at DH/1B/RF. Plus as Churchill has recently pointed out, there just isn't much in the way of 2B talent in the MLB right now.

Lopez is still young and locked for a few years fairly cheap.

We'd also have to account for the talent given up to get Belliard, and we can't afford to be sending out any more pitching.

Leave Lopez at the bottom of the order and look to upgrade with the best available bat regardless of position if we really want to make a move.

Also, I'll second that Morse is not a viable candidate for 2B. Way to stiff and lacking the footwork.

Rob T. said...

Churchill said Morrow is highly unlikely to start the year on the roster due to his injury. He says he will either begin the year on the DL or stay for extended spring training to rest his arm and get extra work.

Ronnie Belliard would be a nice pickup. Nothing great but if Lopez continues to struggle it is an upgrade. Belliard's numbers are very similar to Lopez's 2006 numbers.

Brandon said...

Fair enough. I had to play second base a little bit in high school and found it tough...and i'm only 6'2"
I second all of what jp17 said above this comment....remembering that Lopez does have the potential to be an ALL-STAR second baseman.

drivindave said...

Hey we could try Turbo at second! ok bad idea he's our D.H. (sigh) I wonder how ol Bret Boone is doing in his come back tour?

I was under the impression that Ciaro was brought in to help elevate Lopez's game, apperently it doesnt matter (sigh again). I guess time will tell and hopefully he comes back into form.Excuse me while I finish drinking my "half" full beer....go M's!

Rob T. said...

Ken Rosenthal said the M's want to keep 11 pitchers and have Morse and Jimerson make the team.

Churchill said the M's are considering doing a Baek for Ray Durham and cash swap. If that is true it seems they are not as high on Lopez as Mclaren made it seem. Durham is a better player then his stats show last year. Besides last year his OPS+ is always over 100 which is a lot better then Lopez. Durham's OPS+ in 2006 was 127 which is really good.