So as not to bury the lead, I’ll start right off with the inspiration for this article. In last night’s game day thread a question about whither Drew Ellis from Xerostomia prompted this comment from Michael McDermott:
“For an out of the box idea, Ketel Marte at 3B?
It would be a less difficult position than CF for him”
This is a really intriguing idea from Michael, which immediately resonated with me for a number of reasons. I sent out a text to a scout to ask his thoughts and his immediate response was “I like it” So lets explore together the current and future state of third base in the organization and see what makes sense.
Current MLB Roster
Eduardo Escobar had been the primary incumbent third baseman since arriving via trade in July 27th 2018. Signed to a 3 year extension soon after the conclusion of the 2018 season, Eduardo enjoyed a career year in 2019. However he slumped badly in 2020. Looking for additional corner infield depth for 2021, Mike Hazen signed Asdrubal Cabrera to a one year contract. Cabrera and Escobar have been splitting time at 3b, with Escobar sliding over to 2b when Cabrera is at 3rd. Here is how the primary players innings breakdown has looked at these two positions so far in 2020:
- 3b: Cabrera 204 Inn, Escobar 105 Inn
- 2b: Escobar 190 Inn, VanMeter 105 Inn
Both Escobar and Cabrera will be free agents at the end of 2021 for their age 33 and 36 seasons respectively. Eduardo is making $7.67M this year, while Asdrubal is making a very modest $1.75M. So the first question Mike Hazen will need to decide on is whether he brings back both, one, or neither for 2022 to play the hot corner. I can see Hazen wishing to retain perhaps one of them if he can for a modest free agent salary. But I don’t think he’ll want to retain both, and he probably won’t “pay up” to keep either one. Some other team may offer more for their services than Hazen can budget for, taking that decision out of his hands. Keep in mind this decision is going to hinge on a lot more than their batting numbers through May 11th.
In House Minor League Depth Chart:
The aforementioned Ellis is playing in Reno to start the season. Despite some rather disappointing offensive numbers and just average at best defense at 3rd he keeps getting promoted to the next level. There seems to be a bit of The Peter Principle going on here with him. Now 25 years old, over his 4 year minor league career, in 1187 PA he has a .234/.332/.411 triple slash, including a 1 for 22 start in Reno.
Ellis is splitting time with 28 year old Christian Lopes, formerly of the Rangers and Blue Jays organization. He’s primarily a second baseman, but has been getting some looks at 3rd.
Domingo Leyba , now 25, is playing Short Stop for Reno, and he could possibly be an option down the road. He has a pretty good hit tool, but every time I see him play defense I cringe at the idea of him playing everyday Short in the majors. He’s more likely a potential second base option sometime later this year or next year, but third is always a possibility.
Shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, who got a quick look during Nick Ahmed’s absence the first week of the season is down in AA Amarillo. I’ve never heard of the team considering him for third base, and he hasn’t played there yet. But he’s filled out his 6’2” frame, listed at 203 pounds now. He might even be heavier than that. It’s not unthinkable the team could try him at third for a while. Ahmed is signed through 2023.
Below is the 3rd base 2021-2022 free list copy and pasted from MLB Trade Rumors. Due to budgetary restraints, it’s always hard to project the Diamondbacks as major players for a position player free agent. The few times they have spent big in free agency always seem to be for pitchers. So if Arenado opts out I doubt he’d be an option for the D-backs. Kris Bryant’s bat is resurgent, but the glove is not getting better with age. He won’t be cheap either. Maikel Franco is the youngest player here, but he’s not hitting at all. Josh Harrison is hitting well. But he’s 34. Is he better or will he be cheaper than Eduardo or Asdrubal ? Kyle Seager keeps chugging along, and has been an underrated player. He’s having a good year. Seattle should pick up that option. There may not be anyone out there in the D-backs price range that is a clear upgrade to what they already have. But let us know who may be the apple of your eye in the comments.
- Ehire Adrianza (32)
- Nolan Arenado (31) — can opt out of remaining five years, $164MM
- Kris Bryant (30)
- Asdrubal Cabrera (36)
- Matt Carpenter (36) — $18.5MM vesting option ($2MM buyout)
- Eduardo Escobar (33)
- Maikel Franco (29)
- Todd Frazier (36)
- Marwin Gonzalez (33)
- Josh Harrison (34)
- Brock Holt (34)
- Jake Lamb (31)
- Brad Miller (32)
- Jose Ramirez (29) — $11MM club option ($2MM buyout)
- Kyle Seager (34) — $15MM club option (buyout size dependent on stats in 2020-21)
- Travis Shaw (32)
- Eric Sogard (36)
- Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (30)
While the other areas to potentially fill 3b are more easily definable with names, it’s always hard to anticipate a trade. You never know exactly what the other 29 teams are thinking, let alone Mike Hazen, who always surprises us. But there may be a trade target out there in the majors or minors that he has his eye on. Is there anyone you think the team should go after in a trade ? Give us your proposal in the comments if you think this is the proper route, but be realistic ;)
This brings us back to the initial question; What about moving Marte to third? The obvious negative, and it’s not a small one, is it’s a position he’s almost never played before professionally, with the exception of 11 innings back in 2017. (He only received 1 chance) Some may balk at the idea of him having to learn and get used to yet another new position. That’s a valid concern. And of course the player himself may not like the idea.
The numerous pros of the idea can be listed out too however:
- Many a shortstop and second baseman have been shifted over to 3rd successfully
- He has the arm to handle it
- With defensive shifts on over 30% of the time, he’ll frequently be over towards Short, or sometimes perhaps even in shallow right, like the Padres use Machado.
- Ketel has bulked up. His more muscular frame may limit his range at shortstop going forward. So he’s probably not ever going to be an every day option at Short again, although he can play there in a pinch if needed.
- Turning the pivot on Double plays may create additional injury risk for him, and the team has a more depth at 2b to call on.
- Moving out of centerfield will save wear and tear his legs and lower back perhaps, and of course clear the way in 2022 for Alek Thomas, and perhaps Corbin Carroll by 2023. The overall roster construction puzzle seems to work out better.
So what do you think ? Here is a poll where you can pick your preference for which general area the team should look to fill the thirdbase hole in 2022 and beyond. Let us know your more detailed thoughts in the comments
How Should D-backs fill 3b Hole in 2022 and beyond ?
This poll is closed
Resign one or both of Escobar and Cabrera
Utilize Minor League Depth
Sign a Free agent other than Escobar or Cabrera
Trade for a thirdbaseman
Move Ketel Marte to 3b