Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Who's on First?

I am dreading the decision the O's are about to make regarding who will man first base this season. Hey, if free agent contracts with Craig Wilson, Carlos Pena or Aubrey Huff don't scare you, what will? The pickings are slim for what should be a premier offensive position. Here are the players listed in order of desirability (at least in my opinion).

Adam LaRoche - It looked like this deal might actually get done but now looks dead in the water. The rumor was that the O's would send Brian Roberts and Hayden Penn for Marcus Giles and Adam LaRoche. I like Brian Roberts a lot but in all honesty, Marcus Giles probably would have replaced his offensive numbers and defense and they are both the same age. I like Hayden Penn too but would have parted with him for a 27 year old power-hitting lefty who is just now arbitration eligible. LaRoche's 32 homers in 2006 could have been 40 with Camden Yards' shorter right-field fences. Alas, although the Braves seem inexplicably determined to trade LaRoche, the O's don't seem to be in the running any longer.

Richie Sexson - I’ve never been a great fan of Sexson's game. He strikes out far too much to be of much use unless he's going to knock 40 HR for you. OK, I'm overstating that point a bit. He is a very useful hitter but has never been the star he is paid to be. But if he's healthy, you can pencil him in for 35 HR and he would be nice protection for Tejada.

Jay Gibbons - Of the likely scenarios, this is the one I like the best. Gibbons needs to be in the lineup anyway and I think he can help the team in the field if given the chance. If the team was willing to let Melvin Mora work out the kinks at third base, they should be able to show some patience with Gibbons at third. Hell, Millar is average at best in the field so I'm not sure why that's such a concern. The real concern is health and maybe that's why the team is looking like they will primarily put him in the DH slot. With Jeff Conine and Javy Lopez gone, his bat is needed somewhere and if healthy he'll knock in 25-30 HR.

Kevin Millar - Millar had his typical Millar-like season. A .272 - 15 - 64 line is pretty close to his career averages. I don't like him as a primary option at first base but for $2.75 million for one year, he will give you better production for less money than some of the free agents listed below. He is patient, makes good contact and gives you a little pop (41 extra base hits in 2006) at a discount price.

Aubrey Huff - Huff started out this off-season by reportedly asking for a three or four year contract at $7 million a year. It's not a big surprise he's still on the market given that his performances over the last two years have been at sub-Millar levels. Still, if you can get him for three years for $5 million a year or less, it's worth the risk for a lefty power hitter who is still only 30.

Ben Broussard - I have followed this guy for years and really thought he would develop into a nice power hitter in time. Sadly, he is at best a very nice platoon player who needs to sit against any lefty that can get the ball over the plate. If you can get him cheap, he would pair nicely with Millar or Gibbons to patch together some production for next year.

Craig Wilson - I don't get it. He'll cost more than nearly any other viable option and he probably will not outperform Millar. He's not even a lefty! Camden Yards loves lefty power and you can project a bit of improvement for a guy like Huff but with Wilson you'll get a free-swinging strikeout artist who'll hit .265 with 17 homers. Please O's, please pass on this guy.

Carlos Pena - Another one I don't get unless you can get him signed to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. Maybe Terry Crowley can work some magic and turn him into a poor man's Richie Sexson but that's a real long shot at this point in his career.

Oh and Jay Payton at first? I'm not buying that as true option. Left field is his.

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