Let’s Talk Middling Infielders

After the run on middling middle infielders that preceded the winter meetings, Jose Reyes, by far the best second baseman or shortstop available, signed a $106 million contract with the Miami Taxpayers on the eve of baseball’s annual conference in Dallas. The investment represents a fair deal for both the team and the player, that might look even better for the Taxpayers when you consider the amount of dollars that have already been handed out to Reyes’ inferiors:

  • The Arizona Diamondbacks invested a combined $18 million in the services of Aaron Hill, Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald for the next two seasons, while already being on the hook for a guaranteed $9 million to Stephen Drew next year.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers gave Mark Ellis $8.75 million for the next two years.
  • The Minnesota Twins agreed to terms with Jamey Carroll on a two year deal worth $6.75 million.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates handed Clint Barmes a two year contract worth $10.5 million.

Despite all the early signings, the free agent middle infield market remains a stocked cupboard. Unfortunately, it’s a pantry full of expired best before dates.

At the end of last week, San Francisco Giants fans were bemoaning rumours of their team’s apparent interest in antiquated shortstop Alex Gonzalez. While it’s entirely likely that the free agent wouldn’t provide any more value than in house option Brandon Crawford, I thought the move might be beneficial, if only to keep the team out of the market for Jimmy Rollins.

Many will tell you that with Reyes already taken, the former National League MVP is the best middle infield option available. Unfortunately, two facts conspire to make him my least favourite free agent option at any position: 1) Rollins is 33 years old; and 2) Rollins is rumoured to be seeking a five year contract. What could a team possibly expect from 33-38 year old Jimmy Rollins, given that 30-32 year old Jimmy Rollins provided his team with horribly declining defense to go along with the most pedestrian of rate stats over the last three seasons: .255 AVG/.316 OBP/.403 SLG/.720 OPS/.321 wOBA.

When we think of Jimmy Rollins, we think of the player who mashed 30 home runs for his team during an MVP season. The reality of the more recent Rollins is a player who is best described as Alexei Ramirez with far more injuries and far less glove. However, reason seems to be escaping the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, who, along with the Philadelphia Phillies, have been the teams most rumoured to be associated with Rollins.

It may not be excusable, but it’s somewhat understandable for the Phillies to make Rollins a priority. There are the legacy issues that are attached to any really good player who has spent his entire career in one uniform, and as a perennial contender that’s never in a rush to bring up prospects, Rollins makes a degree of sense. However, the type of sense he makes for the Phillies is in the range of years that Derek Jeter signed his legacy contract with the New York Yankees for, not the deal that Reyes landed in Miami.

Unfortunately, sense isn’t a common phenomenon during baseball’s off season. That’s why I’m predicting that Rollins will end up being the worst free agent signing this off season, in terms of dollars to value.