Yankees free agent target: Mark Ellis

Stephen Dunn

This is really what it's come to.

Following Robinson Cano's dash to the Pacific Northwest, the Yankees will now have to scramble to find an alternative to man second. As it stands, the market for second basemen is pretty weak, but perhaps there may be a diamond in the rough.

That diamond in the rough could be Mark Ellis. Ellis spent last season with the Dodgers, hitting .270/.323/.351 with a 92 wRC+ in 480 plate appearances. For reference, the average second baseman in Major League Baseball sports a .257/.316/.376 line with a 91 wRC+, so basically Ellis is pretty much average offensively when you compare him to his peers at the same position. Ellis' platoon splits, however, are a bit discouraging, but not very surprising given he's a right-handed batter. Last season, he hit .282/.331/.414 with a 112 wRC+ against lefties while hitting just .265/.319/.325 with an 83 wRC+ against righties. In his career, Ellis is a .276/.348/.429 (110 wRC+) hitter against lefties while hitting .262/.324/.377 (90 wRC+) against righties.

Thankfully, defense is Ellis' calling card. Last season, UZR/150 rated him as a +7.8 defender, DRS had him at +12, FRAA at +3.3, and, finally, dWAR at +1.5. That's been pretty much the same for his career, too, as UZR/150, DRS, FRAA, and dWAR peg him as a +9.1, +125, +~66.4, and +~16.9 defender, respectively, in 1314 career games and 11214 innings at the second base position.

There are two problems with that, though. One: Ellis has always been a second baseman and that's about it. He has played eight career games at third base, 15 games at shortstop (most recently in 2005), and five games at first base. For a guy who isn't all that special with the bat (especially given his platoon splits), you'd at least like to have a bit of versatility. Maybe they can try him out at other spots if they sign him, but I'm not counting on it. Also, he's 36 years old and turns 37 in June. At an advanced age like that, you could see his defensive numbers take a nosedive.

Even before Cano agreed to sign with the Mariners, the Yankees had interest in Omar Infante, and I expect that interest to grow now that Robbie is gone. However, since Infante is now the best second baseman available on the open market, it's far from a guarantee he'll end up becoming a Yankee, which is why the team may end up having to pursue Ellis. At the same time, they could peg Kelly Johnson as the regular (or at least against right-handed pitching) second baseman while signing a cheap utility man (Jeff Baker!) to fill Johnson's original role. With all this said, it's pretty sad how the Yankees go from having a star like Cano holding down the fort at second for the last nine years to having to go bargain hunting for the likes of Mark Ellis, but that's the world we currently live in, unfortunately.

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