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Another Cheap Shortstop Option

Omar Quintanilla
With the All Star Break, there is not much use in updating the projected standings until next week. Thankfully, there is a little trade deadline news.

The middle infield trade options are thinner, at least for the time being. Word out of Pittsburgh is that the Pirates are looking to sign 2B Freddy Sanchez and SS Jack Wilson to contract extensions. The two are quite good friends, so good that neither will re-up without the other. It is an interesting turn of events, considering both seemed halfway out the door a week ago.

This is a disappointing turn of events for the Mariners. Both Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez would be good fits in Seattle, and the two teams matched up reasonably well in a possible deal. From Pittsburgh's perspective though, locking the duo up makes great sense. Neither is blocking a good-looking prospect. Keeping a few veterans would help restore the team's credibility with the fan base too, though I doubt anyone has forgotten that the team locked up Nate McLouth long-term in the offseason, and traded him for prospects midway through this year.

Anyway, where does this leave the Mariners?

The first thing is to look at Ronny Cedeno, the worst bat in the lineup. Sure, his hitting stinks, but his defense has been good. Yuni was by far the worst defensive shortstop in baseball, and if Ronny keeps up his current pace, he is arguably in the tier right below the elite players this year. On top of that, his BABIP is a stunning .200, and for his career it is .289 (including the .200 average this year). Granted, .289 is not great, but Cedeno has had horrible luck. Even with all his strikeouts, his batting line should be closer to .205/.242/.356, which is still awful, but less awful. It makes him Yuni Betancourt version 2009 awful, but with way better defense.

So, the goal is to find an upgrade at shortstop. There are a couple of options often discussed out there:

  • Julio Lugo, INF, Red Sox - Boston may have to DFA or release Lugo any day now as guys return from the DL. Julio is in his 30s, so he is older. He is hitting decently well this year, and would be an upgrade at the plate. However, Lugo's defense has slipped dramatically this year. He certainly doesn't fit the Ryan Langerhans/Jack Hannahan light-hitting, great defense, cheap pick-up mold. I'm not sure he is better than Ronny Cedeno.
  • J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers - Hardy would clearly be an upgrade over Cedeno, as well as nearly any shortstop in baseball. He has a league average bat at a position with few league average hitters, and combines that with killer defense. Hardy is also just 26 years old, but all indications are that Alcides Escobar is Milwaukee's shortstop of the future. Alcides is sitting in AAA, tantalizingly easy to call up. On top of all that, the Brewers could use pitching, so guys like Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn must look attractive to them. I would be willing to part with one of them to get Hardy.
The Mariners should not go after Lugo, and I doubt they will. They should pursue Hardy, and I'm sure they are. You know Zduriencik has a good relationship with the front office personnel that he was working for at this time last year. I would dangle Erik Bedard, and if that's not enough, throw Jeff Clement in. I'd try to sell Milwaukee on the idea that they could use Clement at first base if Prince Fielder leaves once his contract is up, which appears likely.

Still, if the Brewers want a few more prospects for Hardy, he might cost a little too much for the Mariners. However, there is a cheaper option that is worth considering:
  • Omar Quintanilla, SS, Rockies - At 27 years old, Omar is neither young nor old. He is yet to have success in the majors, and won't ever get an opportunity in Colorado with Troy Tulowitzki around. In fact, Quintanilla only has 32 at-bats all year despite playing in the NL, where pinch-hitters are used much more often. He is buried on the Rockies bench.
There is a reason Omar rides the pine though. He didn't hit well at all as Tulowitzki's injury replacement last year, especially away from spacious Coors Field. In fact, he has seen action in bits and pieces of the past five seasons, including this one, and never hit.

Why does Omar Quintanilla intrigue me then?

Quintanilla has fielded pretty well, despite the offensive struggles. On top of that, his minor league track record at the plate is much more solid than his MLB shortcomings would suggest. The only similar defensive players to Omar I could find are guys like Augie Ojeda, Robert Andino, and Paul Janish. Those players do not hit either, but give no reason to believe that they are better than they have shown.

There is no way Omar would cost that much. I would offer Josh Wilson and Roy Corcoran, and see what the Rockies say. Colorado is looking for bullpen help, and maybe they would take a chance on a guy like Corcoran for such a small loss to them. Trading a struggling middle reliever for a potential starting shortstop would be good for the M's, and trading a useless bench player for a possible bullpen upgrade would be good for the Rockies.

Omar Quintanilla is essentially another Ronny Cedeno. He's got a good glove, but is yet to hit in the majors despite a track record of success in the minors. Collect enough guys like that, and one is bound to pan out.