Third base is deep in major league baseball at the moment, with most teams rostering players ranging from OK to great at the hot corner. Even the disasters have met happy endings to a degree this year with Pablo Sandoval going down for the season and Travis Shaw exceeding expectations in Boston after outperforming Sandoval in the spring. For the Yankees, Chase Headley started off looking like the worst hitter in the game, but has recovered for a pace which should exceed last year’s campaign.
Still, there are contenders who may be inclined to upgrade that part of the diamond and there are a few players who will be available for them at the MLB Trade Deadline. Here’s a look at three players at third and the three teams who may pursue them.
Danny Valencia: Cardinals
With Jhonny Peralta‘s health in question and Jedd Gyorko putting up OK numbers, the Cardinals don’t necessarily need a third baseman, but with an uphill battle in the NL Central and wildcard race, they may prefer to improve on the cheap over the next week.
Peralta has been hurt all season and is unlikely to make an impact again this season and while his replacement has exceeded all expectations, it wouldn’t hurt to have Valencia in the mix as well.
Gyorko is currently hitting 262/.322./806 while Valencia is at: .300/.352/.827. Seeing as the A’s would likely move Valencia for almost nothing and will probably have to non tender the 31-year-old in the winter, this should be an easy acquisition for the Cardinals.
Todd Frazier: Pirates
David Freese has been big for Pittsburgh, taking at bats away from Jung Ho Kang while John Jaso remains cemented at first base. Between the three of them, the Pirates can fill out the lineup card everyday.
Freese is currently hitting: .284/.362/.819 and is on a one year deal. Kang, who started off the year injured but was red hot out of the gates in May, has cooled off considerably and also faces off the field legal concerns.
The Korean import is down to: .236/.312/.785 and has been non-existent for over a month with his future completely unknown. Freese, who plays both corners of the infield, is likely to have the lion’s share of at bats at third for now because Jaso is manning first with a: .268/.342/.724 line, which is respectable, but pretty meager for a corner infielder.
Jaso is likely better suited for a bench or utility role and has one year left on his deal while Kang is halfway through a four year pact.
It wouldn’t be the worst move short and long-term for the Pirates to look into a future third baseman and that’s where Frazier comes in. Frazier has not been his usual All-Star self this year, hitting just .212/.300/.776 but it’s pretty clear most of the talent in Chicago (Chris Sale and Jose Abreu included) could probably use a change of scenery.
Frazier would not be a rental as he has one more year of cost-controlled arbitration left on his deal and unlike Freese or Jaso, the Pirates could collect a pick for Frazier leaving after 2017 if they didn’t try to resign the 30-year-old.
Frazier would provide another middle of the order bat, solid defense, wouldn’t cost too much, would add stability to the hot corner (and an upgrade at first if Freese transferred over) and currently has 28 home runs, second in the American League. He will cost some prospects, but with a slightly down year and one year left on his deal, shouldn’t go for a farm altering package either.
Evan Longoria: Mets
David Wright is likely done for the year and possibly forever, unable to stay healthy from multliple chronic conditions. The Mets have the farm system and the need for a third baseman now and in the future. Last season, they elected to go with the bandaid approach, signing Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe along with Yoenis Cespedes. But this season the team knows it is World Series caliber after going on a run after the deadline in 2015. It also knows Wright is probably finished and Cespedes could leave at the end of the year with an opt out, which he most likely will.
So suffice it to say the Mets need offense now and should have the money and need to secure a middle of the order bat in the future. Enter: Evan Longoria.
Longoria is wasting away in Tampa where the Rays are probably in need of another rebuild and headed towards another firesale of sorts with: Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore, Longoria and even Chris Archer all on the trading block. Longoria is at .287/.335/.874 and his 22 home runs would be sorely needed in a lineup struggling to score runs to compensate its elite rotation.
Longoria would cost a lot with a team friendly contract and team control through 2023 with a club option in the final year.
He signed a 6 year, $100 million extension from 2017-2022 which could give the Mets a six year contract for an all star caliber player who just turned 30 and likely has 3-4 solid years left. For a team who doesn’t generally splurge on free agents, Longoria is going to make below market value and New York may find that worthy of surrendering 3-4 top prospects to obtain him, especially if it means winning a title while its rotation remains intact.