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Handicapping the Field: Free Agent Second Basemen

Time to consolidate all the middle infielder acquisition talk into one place. I'm going to rank the top second baseman and shortstops, and I'm tailoring the rankings to what the Indians need.

Here's what I'm looking for:

  1. Better defender than Joe Inglett/Hector Luna
  2. Provides more overall value than Inglett/Luna
In other words, if the player is a poor hitter, his defense better make up for it. If he's a poor fielder...well, the Indians don't need another one.

First of all, let's eliminate players who don't meet the above requirements. All players listed will be free agents at the end of the season; those with options are omitted. I'll visit trade possibilities later on in the winter.

I'm using EQA for offense, STATS Inc.'s version of Zone Rating for defense, and Win Shares for overall contributions.

The players italicized are either part-timers, or in Craig Biggio's instance, not going anywhere. That leaves us with six real candidates: Belliard, Durham, Graffanino, Kennedy, Loretta, and Valentin. So who's the best fit for the Indians out of this group? Let's start the countdown:

6) Tony Graffanino. He was a reach to begin with, given his sporadic play at second base, but his bat made me at least consider him. He'd be a nice bench player, but no more than that.

5) Mark Loretta. Slugging .361 at Fenway isn't good, and Loretta's glove is slipping to boot. I'd stay far, far away.

4) Jose Valentin. Valentin's resurgence allowed the Mets to dump Kaz Matsui earlier this year, and has played excellent defense to go with his usual power. But he's become a part-time player, and this year's offensive numbers are well above his recent efforts. If other options fail, I wouldn't be adverse to giving him a one-year deal.

3) Ronnie Belliard. His defensive collapse was a major reason the team struggled early in the season. But he's the second-youngest player on this list, so he could rebound somewhat. I'd term him a "settle" option, similar to what Bob Wickman was last winter.

2) Ray Durham. Intriguing on many levels. He's the best offensive player by far of the bunch, would make a fine #2 hitter, and mashes left-handers (check his splits). But he's getting older, and his defense is below-average.

1) Adam Kennedy. Best defensive rep of the bunch, and the youngest. That will also make him the #1 target of the Red Sox, the Mets, and the Cardinals, but the Indians should at least give him a try.

Well, that's my list; feel free to disagree below.