The All-Star Game has come and gone, and now we can concentrate on the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31. With two off days with no baseball before the Dodgers play again, there is no better time to analyze potential upgrades for the team. The position that might need the most help is second base.
That may sound weird as Mark Ellis is back and relatively healthy, slight knee injury last weekend aside, and making $5.25 million in the final season of a two-year contract. But Ellis is hitting .255/.307/.333 in 66 games this season, including just .215/.282/.278 in 46 games since returning from the disabled list.
Ellis, 36, has a $5.75 million club option for 2014 though it's looking more and more like he'll get the $1 million buyout instead. But will he be replaced even sooner?
The Dodgers already liberally rest the injury-prone Ellis, sitting him roughly a third of the time in hopes of keeping him fresh. Ellis has started 37 of 53 games since returning from the disabled list.
Skip Schumaker has started 22 games at second base this season and Nick Punto has started 18 at the position but both have been up and down this season. Schumaker is hitting .260/.327/.307 on the season, and has hit .269 with a .333 on-base percentage against right-handed pitchers, which was a strength coming into 2013 at .305 with a .359 OBP in his pre-Dodgers career.
Punto was a pleasant surprise fill-in earlier in the season and was hitting .340/.427/.420 as late as May 25. But since then (and, yes this is unfairly choosing endpoints) Punto is just 15-for-95, hitting .158/.200/.189 in 36 games. On the season, Punto is hitting .251/.323/.308.
The bottom line is that second base can, and probably should be upgraded.
As a whole, Dodgers second baseman rank 23rd in MLB in OPS (.661), 26th in slugging percentage (.338), 11th in OBP (.324), 23rd in OPS+ (87), 20th in wOBA (.286) and 17th in wRC+ (83).
Here's a look at potential trade candidates, many of whom will be explored over the next few weeks:
The former All-Star is hitting .272/.333/.492 with 11 home runs and 16 doubles in 67 games, and the 34-year-old is making $15 million in the final year of his contract. The former UCLA star has been with the Phillies his entire career, and a late run have brought Philadelphia to .500, like the Dodgers, and closer to contention, so it's unclear if Utley will even be available.
It's hard to even imagine the Yankees as sellers but at six games back they are in fourth place in the American League East. Cano will be the prize free agent position player this winter, but a chance to get him earlier could be intriguing as he is one of a select few difference makers available. Cano, 30, is hitting .302/.386/.531 with 21 home runs and 18 doubles in 95 games. He's making $15 million in the final season of his deal.
Kinsler's availability likely depends on what other moves the Rangers make this July. With infielder and top prospect Jurickson Profar in need of a position Kinsler might be available. Kinsler has $62 million guaranteed and four more years left on his contract, so an offseason exchange involving Andre Ethier and his $71.5 million and four years remaining might be a better fit.
The 28-year-old is hitting just .270/.303/.392 for the Mets this season, but since the beginning of 2011 has hit .293/.332/.413, a 107 OPS+. Murphy wouldn't provide a huge upgrade, if any, but has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining. Murphy is making $2.925 million in 2013.
With the Brewers floundering Weeks is likely available, but he's hitting just .226/.327/.380 with nine home runs this season. Weeks, 30, is making $10 million this season and $11 million more in 2014, so he'd be an expensive gamble, hoping he's less like the player hitting .228/.328/.393 in 2012-2013 and more like the one who hit .269/.357/.472 from 2009-2011.