Thanks to last night’s arbitration tender deadline, there are 43 new free agents hitting the marketplace. Those would be 21 pitchers, 10 infielders, 9 outfielders, and 3 catchers. With the Cardinals keeping a close eye on a right handed second baseman to pair up with Wong and perhaps play around the infield, lets take a look at those who may fit the Cardinals’ needs.
There were 10 infielders that I’ve qualified based on positions played and handedness. We’re looking for right handed hitting or switch hitting infielders who can play second base and I won’t begrudge them if they can play shortstop either.
That left me six new additions to the market that could be worth the consideration of Cardinals’ brass as they look to make an addition to the bench over the next few weeks. Starting in no particular order:
2013 Batting Line: .193/.252/.286, 2 HR, 48 OPS+, 152 plate appearances
David Adams, 26, was a 3rd round pick of the 2008 draft and was non-tendered by the New York Yankees. Even with his horrible line, he didn’t show any semblance of a platoon advantage. He did manage to play plus defense at second and third base. He is a career .296 hitter in the minors, so there is the potential that he was simply rushed. However, at 26 he needs to be ready and since he isn’t, he isn’t a good option to fill that bench spot.
2013 Batting Line: .171/.222/.422, 0 HR, 22 OPS+, 45 plate appearances
Paul Janish, 31, is a utility infielder known for his defense much more than his offensive prowess. He just wrapped up two seasons in Atlanta before he was non-tendered last night. Janish is a plus defender on the infield and he does have a 30 point split on his platoon batting averages on his career, but at this point, after hitting .202 over his last three seasons, his value isn’t there.
2013 Batting Line: .209/.255/.283, 2 HR, 47 OPS+, 275 plate appearances
Elliot Johnson, 29, is a utility infielder that I watched play in Triple-A Durham for the Rays over the years. He always struck me as the scrappy-type player, and maybe that fits the Cardinal mold. He too finished up the season in Atlanta after a dismal start in Kansas City as he was involved in the James Shields-Wil Myers trade from last winter. Johnson finished up the year strong in Atlanta, hitting .261/.317/.359 over 102 plate appearances and that was more consistent with his 2012 season.
Johnson has major league experience at every position on the diamond except catcher, though his strongest are shortstop and second base, where he is a plus defender. Also, he’s a switch hitter, which could be intriguing off the bench, but he’s not been a great pinch hitter. He’s not really a great hitter period. But seems to be a solid bench piece.
2013 Batting Line: .227/.273/.327, 3 HR, 64 OPS+, 227 plate appearances
Chris Nelson, 28, is a former first round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies, but spent time with three major league clubs last season. His final one, the Angels, was where he saw his most success and most playing time. He did hit .301 with 9 HR over 337 plate appearances in 2012 in a season that came in above average, so there is potential there. He also has a good platoon split, as he hits left handed pitching fairly well. Defensively, Nelson plays second and third, but is not a good defender.
2013 Batting Line: .236/.308/.311, 3 HR, 71 OPS+, 303 plate appearances
Jayson Nix, 31, has been a journeyman player most of his career, spending time with five different organizations in six years. He got over 300 plate appearances last season for the Yankees who were desperate for infield help and plays second, short, third base, and the outfield corners. He is a plus defender at second base as well. He also hit left handed pitching really well last year, .280/.357/.331. Though the platoon split pans out over his career, last year was definitely above average for him.
2013 Batting Line: .280/.319/.385, 2 HR, 100 OPS+, 214 plate appearances
Justin Turner, 29, might be the best overall player on this list as he has posted an OPS+ in the 90s over the last there seasons. He has played all four infield positions, granted none very well, but he did post a solid UZR at shortstop in a little over 100 innings there last season. Unfortunately for us, he has the dreaded reverse platoon split where he hits right handed pitchers better than lefties.
SO WHO IS WORTHWHILE?
There’s not really anyone in the non-tender pile that screams at me to go get them. Which makes sense, considering that these are players that other teams decided they didn’t want, even though they still had control of them. No Roberto Clemente. No David Eckstein.
I’d consider Elliot Johnson and Jayson Nix for a spot on the bench in St. Louis. Johnson is a switch hitter, Nix hits lefties well, and both play plus defense where we need them. Johnson can even fill in at shortstop as the backup there and play respectably.
I think David Adams would be worth a look on a minor league deal with invite sort of thing. He is probably the most intriguing player on the list, but he could go either way.