That Big Offseason Bat At 1B That’s Being Promised

August 31, 2010 |

With the Orioles as bad a team as they are, it’s been time to start planning the 2010 offseason since April.  We’ve been hearing the same obvious words from Andy MacPhail since last offseason in that they’ll be looking for a “big bat” this offseason.  This is going to have to be done in the Free Agent market, or via trade.  I’d like to take a look at a couple of options that will be available.

It seems everyone in Baltimore is excited over the pending arrival of Adam Dunn.  The thought of this horse launching home run balls at the Warehouse has led many around town to wear lobster bibs 24/7 since they can’t control their drool.  Dunn will be 31 years old (generally within the peak age of sluggers) with career numbers of .250/40/100.  He is a prototype cleanup hitter with average to below average defensive skills at 1B.  Dunn will probably be looking at garnering 15mil+/yr on a short term contract, but I think he could be signed for about 50mil on a 4 year deal.  I just don’t believe the Nationals want to give him up though.  With the money they attempted to throw at Teixeira a couple years ago, coupled with locking up Zimmerman for a few more years, it seems the Nats would like to have their power corner infield positions set to help make the lesser players around them better and hopefully compensate for their still young pitchers.  The fact that he wasn’t dealt at the trade deadline, and that they made the price so high to attain him tells me they are going to go full force in trying to keep him this offseason.  With the disappointment the Nats fans are experiencing from the Strasburg washout, I believe the Nats front office will do what it takes to keep them happy by signing Dunn.  I really hope I’m wrong here, I think he’d be a great fit.

A few months ago, I would’ve put Adrian Gonzalez in this mix being as he is looking to command a huge deal in 2012 and thought he might be traded before the Padres excercised their team option for next year. But with new ownership and a new GM in San Diego, it appears as though they will keep him going into 2011 and see what happens from there.  He may be available in the offseason, but the deal will have to be spectacular as the Padres think they can compete again in the NL West in 2011.  I suspect the Red Sox, Giants, and Angels will make a run at him both in the offseason, as well as before the 2011 trade deadline.  As much as AGonz loves the west coast, he will eventually be the long term solution at 1B the Red Sox have been looking for.  They will throw the world at the Padres and AGonz, and have the talent and cash to do both.

Another player with a team option next that does look to be dealt is Prince Fielder.  The youngest player in this bunch at 27, with a ton of upside and huge numbers in his first couple of seasons.  The left handed hitting Fielder is averaging .280/38/105 in his first few seasons with the Brewers.  He has an OBP of close to .400, and has been the catalyst of a few playoff runs in Milwakee.  There have been numerous conflicting reports on his attitude, but it cannot be denied that he’s a team guy that will keep the rest of the players loose on what will be a tight club with Buck at the helm.  This deal would take some creative work from the Orioles, but one that could definitely be done in my opinion.  The Brewers are looking for a pitcher that’s established or has a ton of upside in return for Fielder.  The Orioles have this in Chris Tillman.  Package Tillman with Nolan Reimold in a sign and trade deal.  If the O’s were serious with their offer to Teixeira 2 years ago, they shouldn’t shy away from paying Prince.  6 years, 120-130 mil is not out of the question for someone with Fielders talent and youth.  This would unblock the logjam in the OF, leaving Markakis, Jones, and Pie to patrol.  Scott and Fielder could trade DH and 1B roles throughout the year.  Fielder’s bat (as would all these big bats) could make Weiters, Jones, Markakis, and Scott much better just in number of better pitches they’d see.  PrinceMania would be huge (literally) in Baltimore, but there will be competition from both Chicago clubs, the Angels, and the Giants for his services.  He is definitely my top choice, even with his price tag. 

These next two guys are the guys Andy MacPhail will target, no doubt.  They will come cheaper than others on this list, have no upside, and are aging.  One averages .280/32/100 in 14 seasons, the other .280/28/90 in 14 seasons. 

The first player is Paul Konerko, the White Sox veteran having an outstanding year, but statistics indicate that he will decline after this year.  His batting average on balls put in play is so far above normal, the decline is bound to happen.  Also, at 35, you just don’t get better (unless you’re Barry Bonds?).  He is the captain of the White Sox and their replacement at 1B is still a year or two away, so I can see them signing him to a 1 year, 1 year with an option for a second, or maybe a 2 year deal to keep him.

The second player here is Derrek Lee.  Lee has been a very productive player over the years, and even had a run at the NL MVP as recent as 2009.  But another player at 35 years old, he has seen a drastic decline in his numbers this year.  My only hope with DLee is that MacPhail didn’t fall in love with him during their 2 years together in Chicago and now wants him to be an Oriole.  While I think he is/was a great player, and he may be eligible for a rebound year, I do not believe he’d be a good fit for the Orioles.  Another declining star at 1B could be distrous for this club and the fans. 

Of course, Aubrey Huff may be back on the market on the cheap, but I don’t think he’d come back here unless he’s forced to by the fact that no one else signed him, and the Orioles waited too long and wound up not signing anyone either.  This would be another 1 or 2 year deal that doesn’t help anything long term.

Carlos Pena will likely be an option the Orioles will take a good look at if the price is right.  A very slick fielder at 1B, he has a ton of power that could relieve some pressure off the rest of the lineup.  His career numbers of .240/35/100 are great for a power hitter, and he does walk about 80 times per year, but his average and OBP for a 4 hitter is a little suspect and I wouldn’t want to pay a premium price, even on a short term contract for someone that doesn’t fit where he should…we’ve spent enough on these types of guys. 

Overall, if the checkbook truly is open this offseason, I’d love to see a deal for Prince Fielder.  The Yankees are locked into their corner infielders, the Red Sox are definitely in love with AGonz, and the talent pool will be very deep this year for other teams with the same needs to fill.  With no real prospects in the minors for the 1B position in the foreseeable future, the Orioles don’t need to overpay for a short term stopgap that will only play while the team is still bad.  They also don’t need to find a guy with declining skills that no other team wants and pretend they’re the answer.  They need a guy that will help this team get better now, puts butts in seats at the Yard, and still be here when it all comes together in a year or two.