The competition for the second base slot for the Oakland Athletics is expected to be heated when the A’s assemble for Spring Training next month.
Toward the end of 2013, Manager Bob Melvin platooned Eric Sogard and switch-hitting Alberto Callaspo at second base after the A’s acquired Callaspo in the trade that sent Grant Green to the Angels. The left-handed hitting Sogard finished the season with a .266 average, two HRs and 35 RBI. Callaspo had a combined .258 average and 10 HRs with both teams. After a sluggish start for the Athletics after the trade Callaspo picked it up and eventually hit four homers with 13 RBI in a productive September.
Veteran infielder Nick Punto is now added to the mix with his free agent signing in November. He adds talent and versatility by being able to play three infield positions backing up Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson. Being a switch-hitter, and possibly better defensively than the other two, he could make a serious run for the starting second base job at the opening of the season.
Sogard, who spent most of 2012 in AAA, came out of spring training last year showing that he could handle the bat with an impressive performance at the plate, hitting close to .500. He earned the starting second base job at the beginning of the season with occasional relief by Adam Rosales.
A fan favorite with his Nerd Power following, Sogard, 27, had a consistent year at the plate in 2013 turning in some defensive gems as well. Financially, Sogard will be a keeper. He doesn’t become a free agent until 2018 and was paid $495,000 for 2013.
Collaspo, 30, who was the Angels regular third baseman before the July trade, also provides the A’s with some infield depth and flexibility. He provides more power that the others with 10 HRs in each of the last two seasons and has been considered for the A’s designated hitter or a back-up first baseman for the upcoming season.
The A’s will pay Punto, 36, $2.75 million in 2014, and with a club option for 2015. Callaspo’s contract is at almost $5 million for 2014, making him possibly dispensable via trade.
It’s unlikely that the A’s will enter the season carrying all three. By doing so they would lose depth in the outfield or have to sacrifice a power hitter coming off the bench.
My nod goes to Sogard who I predict will be in the starting line-up on March 3, and with a similar spring performance to last year, he may not have to be concerned with a platoon situation as he gets more experience facing both left-handed and right-handed pitching.