The offseason is a time for deliberation and investigation. It is a time for rumors and chasing stories, and a good bit of roster speculation. Who will be traded where? Where will the big free agents sign? Will Jeffrey Loria once again lose what's left of his malicious mind and trade the entirety of the Marlins for a cheese sandwich?
Yet as the winter wears on and the air turns harsh and raw, we begin to long for what once was. The Hot Stove cools and we're left praying to the baseball gods that the warm sunswept fields of Florida and Arizona may arrive just a bit sooner this year. All that's left now is the wait for Yoenis Cespedes to sign and the wrath of Snow Miser himself barreling in for a date with the eastern seaboard. The board is still missing pieces, so we can't begin to tell you who will win the division and who will be left sitting on their hands at the trade deadline (it's the Brewers).
Times like these call for a deck of cards, a well-stocked pantry and a bottle of rum. There's dead air to fill and not all of us can bedazzle your screens with deep breakdowns of projection systems. So instead, we're going to make a roster entirely out of third basemen.
The savvy reader will pause to ask why we're heading so eagerly into the jaws of the monster that is the internet's unending craving for content. The answer is twofold. First, it's okay to have a little fun every now and then. Fun is good! I promise I won't flip my bat. Second is that I needed something to write about, and a little conversation with Ben Diamond of Baseball Essential and BP Bronx planted this seed in my head. That first link is to a tweet of his, so you now know where to direct your complaints.
It's rather convenient that the third base position is one of the more interesting ones in baseball. The skills and tools that this group of players has (or lack) are incredibly varied. Because it's a corner position, these players aren't necessarily the most mobile, but we all know a few third basemen that dazzle us with their gloves. There's power to spare at this position, and plenty of strong throwing arms. This exercise won't be as easy as composing a roster out of nothing but shortstops, but it also won't be as difficult as using only first basemen.
The construction of this roster was done with an eye towards relative ability to play the assigned position, as well as a desire to assemble an offensively viable lineup. I went to FanGraphs and pulled up a leaderboard for third basemen that had at least 120 plate appearances in 2015. Pull up a chair, and let's enjoy ourselves with some baseball silliness; after all, it's 15 degrees outside!
First Base: Todd Frazier
The Toddfather is a pretty good third baseman. He's a net positive at the position by most defensive metrics. However, he's got experience playing first base, and that's a lot better than just sticking someone there and crossing my fingers. As we all know, playing first base is actually incredibly difficult. Frazier hasn't logged enough time at first to have a meaningful defensive sample but I'll take actual experience any day of the week.
Second Base: Matt Duffy
Who could have seen Matt Duffy coming? He'd hit 13 homers in his entire minor league career before coming to the Giants and swatting 12 while posting a 116 wRC+. Duffy is a small and agile man, which makes him perfect for the middle infield. He amassed 12 defensive runs saved at third base this year and should do a more than adequate job at second base.
Shortstop: Manny Machado
Machado sometimes looks like the second coming of Brooks Robinson. Knee surgeries have slowed him ever so slightly, but the man is still a natural shortstop. He only came up as a third baseman because of JJ Hardy's bat. JJ Hardy isn't on this team, and neither is any other shortstop for that matter, except for Machado. He's the only choice here.
Third Base: Adrian Beltre
The grandaddy of all modern third basemen is still going strong. He tied Nolan Arenado for the lead among all third basemen in DRS, and he did it in fewer innings. Beltre is as good as it gets at the hot corner. 4.6 fWAR at age 36 is pretty dang good, and frankly it would feel just flat out wrong to build this team without him.
Catcher: Josh Donaldson
Donaldson didn't have a full season in the big leagues until he was 27. The reason it took so long for him to stick is that he was drafted as a catcher and was relatively without a position for a long time until he managed to master third base. While it's probably safe to assume that Donaldson isn't particularly good behind the plate, he at the very least has caught before, and for quite a long time. The other option here is Pablo Sandoval, who was also originally a catcher. So Donaldosn it is (although the latter option would provide some quality entertainment).
Right Field: Kyle Seager
The lion's share of Seager's non-third base playing has come at second, but we're sticking him in right field. There are two reasons for this. The first is that we desperately need a lefty bat in the lineup. The second is that Seager's arm should be decent enough for right field (right fielders need to be able to pose a threat for runners heading for third base) and he's young and athletic enough to handle a corner position.
Center Field: Kris Bryant
Bryant is a freakish athlete with a howitzer for an arm. Joe Maddon was crazy enough to give him 18 innings of work in center last year, and dangit we're crazy enough to run him out there for a full season. There are surely players that could do a better defensive job here (Josh Harrison, Giovanny Urshela, etc.) but Bryant's gotten his feet wet here and his arm plays at any outfield position. I mean, after all, he might be the next Ben Zobrist. Why not?
Left Field: Matt Carpenter
Hooray, another lefty bat! Carpenter will be our leadoff man, and though he's only spent 36 innings in left field, he's also got a smidgen of experience in right and he's too good to leave out of the lineup. Carpenter has logged time at five different positions in the big leagues. It stands to reason that he won't completely embarrass himself out there.
Pitcher: Nolan Arenado (!?)
Arenado is one of the three best defenders on this list, if not the best. He hit 42 home runs last year, and even if he plays half of his games at Coors Field, that's still darn impressive. So why in the world is he pitching?
Because Arenado has an honest-to-goodness laser beam attached to his shoulder. It's anybody's guess as to whether or not he'd be able to find the plate and still throw gas, but he's certainly got a live arm and at the very least he can probably throw a mean fastball.
Designated Hitter: Evan Longoria
Longoria is just thirty years old, but he's already got quite a bit of mileage on him. He can still hit, and in the interest of keeping him fresh, we're sticking him at the DH spot. Everybody loves dingers!
There are some very good players that didn't make this lineup. Anthony Rendon, for instance, is quite excellent when he's healthy, and can play both second and third base. Josh Harrison has played all over the field. Jung-ho Kang is just pure fun and can also play multiple positions. If we were to hammer out a full 25-man roster, they'd absolutely be on it. That being said, I actually think that this lineup would catch the ball pretty well. There's no question it would be an offensive force, and how Arenado would fare on the mound is anybody's guess. As far as I've been able to tell, he didn't even pitch in high school. But the defense behind him should actually be quite adequate.
Of course, it would be harder if we were to do this with first basemen or left fielders. Bryan Grosnick did it with catchers to wonderful effect, and Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus had every position in baseball fight amongst themselves for his amusement. I wasn't aware of Sam's article until I was nearly done with mine, and his third base lineup makes a lot of sense in a pre-2015 season world.
This little study in absurdity started as a source of amusement in the bleakness that is a world without baseball. It ended far longer than any article on such a nonsensical topic deserves to be, and you, dear reader, have survived to the end.
Please pick up your congratulatory party favor on your way out, and I hope you survive until the sound of baseballs being catapulted into leather gloves once again fills the air of warmer climates down south.