The Los Angeles Dodgers’ search for a second baseman continues. The solution might lie in the most obscure of places — a 1B/OF free agent. On many other websites there has certainly been a lot of debate about who the Dodgers should pursue to occupy second base. Ian Kinsler is clearly the focal point, and there’s good reasons for it. The Detroit Tigers publicly state they’re trying to get younger and the Dodgers need a second baseman. That’s about as natural a fit as possible.
And Ian Kinsler’s a really good second baseman. He just produced 5.8 WAR as a 34-year-old. That mark was the 11th-best WAR total in an offensively potent American League. In fact, the season he just turned in was a historic one as far as second basemen go.
There’s no denying Kinsler is a good player, and he’s definitely cost-controlled. He’s slated to earn $11 million in 2017 and he has a $10-million option for 2018 which would obviously be picked up by whatever team he plays for at that point. All this means that Kinsler is going to cost a fortune in a trade. Cody Bellinger’s name is being thrown around as the centerpiece. However, there have also been reports that Kinsler will not waive his no-trade clause should the new team not give him an extension. This wrinkle would make it easier to acquire Kinsler, but it would also undermine his best asset — a tiny contract.
But with everyone’s minds on trades, there’s another option the Dodgers could pursue and that option is named Steve Pearce.
In a way, Pearce reminds me a lot of Justin Turner. Both began their careers off slowly. Pearce never played more than 100 games until 2014 when he was 31 years old. Although Turner played more games earlier in his career, they weren’t that productive. The similarities start to come together when you notice they began to rake at the plate late in their careers. We all know about Turner’s numbers, but Pearce isn’t a slouch either.
In 2016, Pearce slashed .288/.374/.492 in 300 AB. Pair that with 13 home runs and a K% of 17.9% and you’ve got yourself a solid offensive player. He hits for average, gets on base, hits for moderate power, and doesn’t strike out much. So why hasn’t anyone been talking about him?
To begin with, people really only think of him as a platoon partner. Last year, FanGraphs even came out with an article stating “Orioles Reacquire Lefty Masher Steve Pearce.” As much as I love the writers there, I don’t buy the argument he only hits lefties. Just this year, Pearce posted a 176 wRC+ against lefties but still hit a well above-average 118 wRC+ against righties. Basically he goes from being a god against left-handed pitchers to being above-average against right-handed pitchers. And that’s crazy valuable!
With that problem being solved, he’s still not getting talked about. And that’s because he finished 2016 hurt. He actually underwent successful elbow surgery this year. So I’ll give the critics that.
But there’s another reason why no one’s talking about Steve Pearce as a second baseman. That’s because he doesn’t really play second base.
From 2007 to 2016, Pearce has played 33 games at second base, totaling a measly 242.2 innings at the position. But before you say signing a guy who has barely played second base to play second base all year long is dumb, I’ll explain. In those 242.2 innings, Pearce averaged 1.7 UZR/150 innings. Basically, he’s been about average defensively. Sure, it’s a ridiculously small sample, but it’s better than no data.
All I’m saying is that the Dodgers would be smart to look into Steve Pearce. MLBTradeRumors projects he’ll receive a 2 year, $20 million offer. With that price tag, he’ll be a lot cheaper than acquiring Ian Kinsler. And there’s definitely a reason for that. He’s coming off elbow surgery and isn’t a natural second baseman. But offensively speaking, Pearce is better than Kinsler. It’s just a matter of whether he could play second.