Cardinals to sign Mark Ellis, Yankees continue twiddling thumbs

USA TODAY Sports

December's half over and the Yankees still don't have a plan for second base. Mark Ellis is reportedly no longer an option.

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are just about done signing former Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis to a one-year contract. That's one more second baseman off the board for the Yankees' whose roster as of now would have Kelly Johnson as the Opening Day second baseman. Management acknowledged that signing Johnson was more of a move to strengthen the bench, so it doesn't seem like they plan on starting Johnson. Brendan Ryan, Yamaico Navarro, and Eduardo Nunez all have a little experience at second too, but those are some slim pickings.

The Yankees need to move quickly on finding a legitimate second baseman though. Although he turns 37 next year, Ellis would have been a solid solution for the position, especially on a short one-year contract. He's about an average hitter for a second baseman given his 92 OPS+ in 2013 (which incidentally was identical to Brandon Phillips), but he's remained a terrific defender even while he's aged. Alas, he will not be a Yankee in 2014, and it doesn't seem like the Yankees ever had any kind of talks with him.

The free agent options at second base are bleak, led by glass statue Brian Roberts and Jeff Baker, who while had a nice year in 2013, has only played 155 games at second and never more than 104 total in a season.  Michael Young sadly could be an option, but he hasn't been a starter at second base for more than a decade now and has only appeared in 32 games there since 2004. Also he'd likely be a butcher on defense as he's been for years, and at his best is only a league-average hitter. At his worst, he's an 80 OPS+ disaster like he was for the Rangers in 2012. The farm system has basically nothing, since Corban Joseph just had major shoulder surgery, David Adams is now on the Indians, and the only possibility is 24-year-old Jose Pirela, who has appeared in five games above Double-A Trenton.

As people on Twitter have noted, Brian Cashman previously called the second base market "deep," so it's certainly possible that he's referring to the trade market. The Yankees have already been linked to Phillips and Darwin Barney, but neither inspire much confidence. Barney is a second base version of Brendan Ryan, and the declining Phillips has an ugly four-year, $50 million commitment through 2017. They haven't been connected to Dan Uggla, but he's far worse than Phillips and costs $26 million for two years. Gross. Names like Howie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy, Jedd Gyorko, and (at this point) even Marco Scutaro are more interesting options, but it's difficult to say whether or not any of them would be be made available by their respective teams, let alone the possibility that the Yankees even have the necessary matching trade chips to acquire one. The Yankees could also be inquiring the Mariners about their young second basemen Nick Franklin and Dustin Ackley, who don't seem to have a place on their roster given the Robinson Cano signing.

Regardless, the status quo isn't going to cut it. We just have to hope Cashman has a ninja move up his sleeve.

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