Colorado was interested in bringing back former Rockies 37-year-old Jamey Carroll, but only on a one-year contract. He signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Twins worth $6.75M. The Carroll deal isn't what many would call a spectacular contract as it should be noted that Carroll will turn 38 before the season. However, it's a much better deal than what the Dodgers gave Mark Ellis, another small middle infielder with a sterling defensive reputation.
Ellis, who hit .248 with a .288 OBP in 519 plate appearances last year, was an elite defender at his peak but simply isn't as valuable a player as Carroll is at this point. Carroll's career OBP is .356 and over the last four seasons he's getting on base at a .362 clip. Ellis has had one year in the last four with an OBP above .321. The 35-year-old Ellis also plays second base to Carroll's shortstop, which is worth noting but isn't to say that either will be of great defensive value at their advanced ages going forward.
Despite Carroll clearly having more value than Ellis and the team's ownership situation still in flux, the Dodgers went out and gave the second sacker who ended last season in Colorado a 2-year $8.75M contract that includes a team option in 2014. The Rockies will receive a Type B draft selection as compensation for Ellis in 2012.
This really seems like a strange move by the Dodgers mainly because Carroll played for Los Angeles the past two years and had the best seasons of his career posting .321 and .329 wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) respectively. Obviously, this wasn't a straight Carroll or Ellis choice for the Dodgers, but it's now hard to talk about one and not the other given the pair of contracts. As Jon Weisman wrote on his Dodger Thoughts blog, "The Ellis deal strikes me as one issued by a team that has an overflow of money or an underflow in savvy." From the looks of this deal, the Dodgers might have both. But, hey, anytime you can lock up an infield of James Loney, Ellis, Dee Gordon, and Juan Uribe you have to do it, right?
Another possible option at the keystone is off the market and going to a division rival as Aaron Hill is going back to Arizona for two years and $11M. Hill, 30, was acquired at the trade deadline and finished strong for Arizona. He hit .315/.386/.492 in 33 games down the stretch as the Diamondbacks won the NL West. Even though he's struggled the past two years offensively, he's been moderately valuable because of his glove and power. The main reason he was compensated more than Carroll and Ellis was his age and given that his is just 30 he's a good bet to be worth the $11M.
These signings have left the Rockies with few options to pursue at second base. Early Tuesday, ESPN's Jim Bowden reported that there could be a deal between the Braves and Tigers that would send Martin Prado to Detroit for Delmon Young. The Rockies are still interested in trading for Prado as long as they don't have to give up either of their young centerfielders Charlie Blackmon and Tim Wheeler. As of Tuesday afternoon, MLB.com Braves beat writer Mark Bowman tweeted that although the Braves staff has been trying to get Young for years (Wow, that explains lots) there, "Won't be a Prado-Young deal." This still doesn't make the Rockies the favorites for Prado. Although they have been linked to him the most and have a much deeper well of prospects to offer than a team like the Tigers, they don't appear willing to give up anybody in their plans for Prado. Unless they get more creative in the trade market, the solution at second base will have to come from what is now a depleted free agent pool.
As far as I can tell, the best free agent second basemen still on the market is 29-year-old Kelly Johnson, who had a season to forget as he .209 with a .287 OBP in 481 plate appearances before getting traded by Arizona and finishing up nicely with Toronto (hit .270 with some power in 33 games). Johnson's career line looks a lot better when you subtract his 2011 season from the data. Coming into '11, Johnson had a career .269/.352/.447 batting line which comes out to a 109 OPS+. That's the kind of premium offensive production teams are thinking about when they give Johnson, former first round pick of the Braves, a shot. My question for the Rockies: what other choice do you have at this point?