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Previewing The 2020-21 Free Agent Class: Third Basemen

With the 2020 regular season having reached its end, there will be more and more talk about free agency during the upcoming weeks. MLBTR has already taken a look at the catchersfirst basemen and shortstops due to reach the open market soon. We’ll now turn to the shortstop position, where a few household names are without contracts for 2021.

Top of the Class

  • DJ LeMahieu (32): LeMahieu went a half decade between his 2014 appearance at third base with the Rockies and last year’s return to the position (on a part-time basis). He’s still only played 487 innings there over the past two seasons, but the way LeMahieu’s bat has exploded in the Bronx, a team would surely be comfortable moving him off his best position, second base, in order to get his bat in the lineup. Since signing in New York, LeMahieu has posted an outrageous .336/.386/.586 slash with 36 home runs, 43 doubles and four triples in 871 plate appearances. He’s also regarded as a plus defender at second base and has experience at first base and shortstop as well.
  • Justin Turner (36): Turner will be 36 in November, but he just keeps on raking at the plate. He posted a 140 wRC+ in 2020, slashing .307/.400/.450 in 175 plate appearances. By measure of wRC+ he’s been at least 32 percent better than a league-average hitter in all but one season since 2014 — he was “only” 23 percent better in 2016 — and he carries an overall .302/.382/.503 slash in more than 3000 plate appearances since landing in Los Angeles. Durability is something of a concern, and Turner’s once-excellent glovework has begun to deteriorate, but he’s still an outstanding offensive player. Age probably limits him to a short-term deal, which will actually be seen as a perk for some interested parties.

Potential Regulars

  • Tommy La Stella (32): La Stella has gone from light-hitting Cubs utilityman to an above-average hitter who teams might be willing to try as a regular at multiple positions. Since Opening Day 2019, he’s taken 549 plate appearances and delivered a .289/.356/.471 batting line while playing his home games in pitcher-friendly settings. That’s good for a 125 wRC+. La Stella isn’t a top-notch defender, but he can handle second and third base. He’s a much better hitter against righties, but La Stella did hold his own against southpaws in 2019.
  • Jake Lamb (30): Multiple shoulder injuries relegated Lamb to “reclamation project” status when the D-backs released him this summer, but he immediately bounced back with the A’s. It was only 49 plate appearances, but Lamb looked like his old self, slashing .267/.327/.556 with three big flies in 49 plate appearances. At the very least, that showing could earn him a one-year, make-good deal that he can try to use as a launching pad into a multi-year pact next winter. Lamb can play either corner infield spot, although he fits best on a team who can give him a right-handed-hitting platoon partner.

Part-Time/Utility Players

  • Ehire Adrianza (31): Adrianza was a solid utility piece for the Twins from 2017-19, but his bat cratered in 2020 when he hit .191/.287/.270 in 101 plate appearances. The bat has never been great, but he’s played everywhere except center field and catcher with Minnesota (including two innings on the mound).
  • Asdrubal Cabrera (35): Cabrera isn’t a shortstop anymore, but he keeps hitting and is capable of playing second base as well as both infield corners. He’s commanded one-year deals the past few winters and will probably be in line for another one this winter.
  • Marwin Gonzalez (32): Gonzalez hit well after a slow start with the 2019 Twins, but he never got into a groove in 2020. The veteran utilityman can play any of the four infield spots and both outfield corners, but he has rather unsurprisingly never replicated his 2017 season with the Astros.
  • Josh Harrison (33): Harrison had a nice 91-plate appearance run with the Nats in 2020, hitting .278/.352/.418. He’s been inconsistent on a year-to-year basis, but Harrison has a mostly solid track record and can play all over the diamond.
  • Adeiny Hechavarria (32): A glove-first utility option who can pick it at shortstop, second base or third base, Hechavarria hit .254/.302/.305 in 63 plate appearances with the 2020 Braves and is a lifetime .253/.291/.351 hitter.
  • Brock Holt (33): The 2020 season was a nightmare for the versatile Holt. He looked like an underappreciated free agent last winter despite a .286/.366/.407 slash from 2018-19, and this year’s .211/.283/.274 output won’t help his cause.
  • Brad Miller (31): Miller can play all four infield spots and either outfield corner. He hit well in 2020 and owns a combined .247/.329/.468 line in 595 plate appearances dating back to 2018. He’s slugged 27 homers and doubles apiece in that time, tacking on four triples.
  • Joe Panik (30): Panik is a lifetime .269/.334/.380 hitter with a good glove at multiple infield spots, but his big 2015 season with the Giants looks like a clear outlier. Since he wrapped up that stellar campaign, he’s turned in a combined .255/.324/.366 slash in 2123 plate appearances. Injuries have played a part, but at this point he’s a glove-first utility player.

Players with 2021 Options

  • Todd Frazier, $5.75MM club option with $1.5MM buyout (35): It’s hard to see the Mets picking up the Toddfather’s option after he hit .236/.302/.382 between Texas and New York in 2020.
  • Jedd Gyorko, $4.5MM club option with $1MM buyout (32): Gyorko can play all four infield spots and batted .248/.333/.504 with nine homers with the Brewers. His option would seem likely to be picked up in a normal winter, but the Brewers made some surprising option decisions a year ago. With revenue losses throughout the league and several players expected to be non-tendered, Milwaukee might feel a similar skill set can be found more affordably.
  • Eric Sogard, $4.5MM club option with $500K buyout (35): The Brewers aren’t going to pick this up after Sogard hit just .209/.281/.278 in his return to Milwaukee. Sogard had a very nice 2019 campaign between Toronto and Tampa Bay, but he looks like a rebound candidate again.
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