One can debate whether the second base position is the top priority for the Royals' remaining off-season shopping spree, but it almost certainly is first or second on the list. While there are plenty of names/dreams out there, the five players shown below seem to be those that keep coming up with (and keep in mind this is the off-season) some semblance of an actual real-life reason behind the rumor.
Here is what they accomplished in 2013:
Ellis' positive fWAR over the past three seasons has almost entirely been the result of good defensive metrics. He has not slugged above .400 since 2009. The BABIP fairy has seldom been kind to Ellis despite a decent line drive percentage most seasons, but 5,500 plate appearances into his career, it is hard to see that trend reversing. For his career, the 36 year old (turns 37 on D-Day) sports a .265/.330/.390 line and not once has had a negative defensive WAR. I like Ellis on a one year deal for $5 million as he is better than anyone not named Bonifacio that has played there for the Royals in the last three years (and, like most, I don't believe in Bonifacio as the everyday guy there in 2014). Much more than a deal of that nature and I get skeptical. Steamer projects Ellis to be worth 1.6 fWAR in 2014, while Oliver projects 1.7 fWAR.
The switch-hitting Franklin will turn 24 in early March. As a rookie in 2013, he struck out 27% of the time. The defensive metrics didn't like him much at all, but one season's worth can not really be relied upon. Nick had some impressive offensive numbers coming up through the Seattle system and only played 113 AAA games before reaching the majors. There is reason to believe that Franklin, once he gets settled in the Majors could be a productive bat. Enough reason to trade Billy Butler, however? Projections are iffy with a guy who has just one year under his belt, but Steamer has him at 0.2 fWAR (almost no playing time), while Oliver has him at 2.6 fWAR.
Like many of you, I was excited when the rumors began circulating that the Royals had interest in going after Omar Infante. The thirty-two year old has posted on-base percentages of .345 or better, slugged over .400 and batted over .300 in three of his last five seasons. Infante's fWARs the last four years have been 2.1, 2.1, 2.9 and 3.1. Yes, sign me up. That is, until the contract terms began floating around that had phrases that included 'four years' and '$30-$40 million' in them. The projections have Infante at 2.2 fWAR (Steamer) and 2.6 fWAR (Oliver).
The 30 year old Kendrick is the biggest name of those rumored to be in the mix for Kansas City and, truthfully, he is the best of the five we are discussing here. While Infante had a better year (statistically) in 2013, that season was his best. The 2013 campaign was pretty much business as usual for Kendrick. While one might attribute Kendrick's offensive numbers to be the result of a high BABIP (.340), you might be wise to note that Kendrick has never had a BABIP below .313 in eight major league seasons. The rub with Kendrick is the money (he is owed $19 million over the next two seasons) and the fact that a name like Duffy, Ventura or Zimmer (plus something more) likely has to go to Anaheim as part of any trade. Steamer has Kendrick being worth 2.8 fWAR in 2014, Oliver 3.2.
The left-handed hitting Murphy will turn 29 on April Fool's Day next spring. He has mostly played second for the Mets, but has also spent time at first, left and right: not necessarily defending any of those positions particularly well. Through 2,400 major league plate appearances, Murphy has a career line of .290/.333/.424 and that career line is pretty much who he is. Murphy made $2.9 million last season and is arbitration eligible. Steamer project Murphy at 2.1 fWAR and Oliver at 2.5.
Do you fill a hole with Mark Ellis or 'go big' with Howie Kendrick? Do you roll the dice with Franklin? I can see positives and negatives with all five. If I had to make the call right now, I would probably go after Ellis on a moderately cheap one year deal, keep Billy Butler in my lineup and use whatever excess funds allotted to get another starting pitcher.
Honestly, I am not sure that is the right move. Tell us your move.