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Who are the best free agent middle infielders?

It's a good offseason not to be in the market for a second baseman or shortstop.

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The only big name at either of middle infield position was Hanley Ramirez, but he's already been signed by Boston, and probably won't be playing shortstop or second base in 2015. There are only half a dozen remaining free agents I expect to start at either of these positions on a regular basis next year:

Jose Fernandez (26)

Fernandez defected from Cuba a couple months ago, and has been described as "polished." He's hit for a very high average in Cuba, and projects to be a plus in that area in MLB too, but he doesn't have much power. His defense seems to be about average for second base. He'd probably be the most sought-after of these players, but he isn't yet a free agent, and with the process of going from Cuba to free agency usually taking 5 or 6 months, he's not likely to be available until March or April.

Jung-Ho Kang (27)

Kang hit .354 with 39 home runs in Korea this year. Those are attention-grabbing numbers no matter the league. Previously though, Kang was more of  .300/20 HR hitter, and the jump from Korea to MLB is a big one, so he should probably be viewed as a solid starter, not a potential star. He has not yet been posted, so like Fernandez, he's not yet actually available to MLB teams.

Jed Lowrie (30)

No offense to Lowrie, but him being probably the best currently available player gives you a good idea of how thin the market is. 2014 was something of a down year for Lowrie, as he hit .261/.327/.396 with a wRC+ of 93, down from 120 in 2013 and 110 in 2012. He can be expected to provide roughly league-average offense and defense at shortstop, making him worth 2 to 2.5 WAR. Something like 3 years, $24-30 million is likely.

Asdrubal Cabrera (29)

After putting up well better than average offensive numbers in 2011 and 2012, Cabrera has now been a little below average in each of the last two years. His defensive ability (long a point of disagreement among Tribe fans) has slipped a bit, and he's probably best suited to second base, and in a market with more talent available, he'd probably settle for two years, but as is, he may be able to get a 3-year deal, something similar to Lowrie.

Rickie Weeks (32)

It's sort of hard for me to believe Weeks is 32 already. In 2012 and 2013 Weeks' offensive production was way down, but h rebounded this year, batting .274/.357/.452, good for a wRC+ of 127. Weeks has become a below average defender though, and he's not a good base runner anymore, plus he's missed significant time in each of the last two seasons. I'd bet he gets a 2-year deal for $12M or so.

Stephen Drew (31)

I kind of feel bad for Drew. He had a great season in 2013, then turned down a qualifying offer in expectation of a lucrative multiyear deal. Because of the draft pick compensation tied to him, that deal never arrived, and he eventually settled for a prorated version of the QO he'd turned down. Then he had an awful year, with a .162/237/.299 batting line (44 wRC+) in 300 PA. He'll probably get 1 year, ~$8 million from a team that doesn't want to make a longer commitment to one of the guys above.


Beyond those guys are the likes of Emilio Bonifacio (whom I prefer to Mike Aviles, but don't view as a starter) and other guys best suited to a bench role. It's not a good year to be in the hunt for a good middle infielder.

How are the Indians set up here, and what should they do?

The Indians have Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez set to begin 2015 as the starters at second base and shortstop. Mike Aviles had his option picked up and will serve as the backup for those positions, and at some point Francisco Lindor should arrive, claiming shortstop for years to come. The Tribe is set in the middle infield, and ought to be for some time.

Given the lack of available talent, it's reasonable to wonder if maybe the Indians ought to shop one of their guys, with Jose Ramirez being the most likely. Given his youth and his production during the final couple months of the 2014 season, I have to think most teams would prefer him to most (all?) of the guys on this list, except he's going to cost next to nothing for the next three years.