04 November 2011

Free Agents - First Base

This is the second of a series of posts on free agents.

C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP | RHRP | LHRP

David Ortiz might be a good value at first base.
Another area for improvement for the Orioles would be to upgrade at first base.  In these listings, I have also included several internal options in addition to free agents.  For the purpose of this post, we are using the following groupings:
Elite: Greater than 4.5 WAR / 600 PA
Good: 3.5 to 4.5 WAR / 600 PA
Above Average: 2.5 to 3.5 WAR / 600 PA
Average: 1.5 to 2.5 WAR / 600 PA
Poor Starter: 0.75 to 1.5 WAR / 600 PA
Backup: Below 0.75 WAR / 600 PA
No one below a projected 0.75 WAR should be offered anything more than a minor league contract with an invite to training camp.  The values were calculated by weighting performance of the past three seasons normalized each year to 600 PA.  This ranking does not consider injury status which will likely affect some players.

Elite (greater than 4.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Albert Pujols (6.9)
Pujols is arguably the best player in the game and is likely to pull in an 8 year, 200 MM deal.  This is likely to be beyond what the Orioles could afford.  In the near term, his presence can completely change a team with his elite offense and good defense.
Prince Fielder (5.7)
We mentioned earlier that Fielder is likely to be the better deal of the two.  He does not have Pujols profile, but he is a decent bet to give back value on his contract.  There are some concerns about his body type as people remember Mo Vaughn, but David Ortiz has aged somewhat well.

Good (3.5 - 4.5 WAR / 600 PA)
David Ortiz (3.5)
Speaking of David Ortiz, this might seem a little peculiar.  Ortiz is not a first baseman, but he does have a solid bat.  If we assume he costs a team 15 runs as a first base man, he still projects as being worth 3.5 WAR / 600 PA.  At 36 years old, he certainly is a candidate to see his performance collapse.

Above Average (2.5 - 3.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Derrek Lee (2.9)
The Orioles were quite underwhelmed with Lee's performance last year.  However, in Pittsburgh his offense blew up and he finished the year strong.  He could reward someone who takes a chance on him.
Carlos Pena (2.8)
Pena seems to be underrated by many.  He has a solid bat and is a solid defender at first base.  Chicago will probably look in a different direction for first base this year.  A team might be able to sign him to a short term deal for under 10 MM.
Nick Markakis (2.6)
Markakis played first a few times last year and, according to this system, is currently the Orioles' best option at first base.  However, he is more valuable in right field.

Average (1.5 - 2.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Michael Cuddyer (2.2)
Cuddyer can play several positions while playing none of them particularly well.  That versatility is valuable, but it appears to me that he is somewhat overvalued for his versatility.
Mark Reynolds (2.1)
If Reynolds is truly a -30 run defender at third, then he has to move off the hot corner.  If he is more in line with his career line of -10, then he probably should head back to third base.  He would provide decent production here, but he would not be special.
Luke Scott (1.9)
Scott's year last year caused his value to take a dive.  If last year was the result of several injuries that do not affect his 2012 season, then he could potentially be the best option at first.
Eric Hinske (1.7)
Hinske followed two solid seasons with a poor one last year.  It is always difficult to expect a bounce back season from a 34 year old who is better utilized as a platoon player.
Casey Kotchman (1.6)
How much do you believe in Kotchman's awful 2010 season?  How much do you believe in his outstanding 2011 season?  A good bit of his worth is also tied up into his glove.

Poor Starter (0.75 - 1.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Russell Branyan (1.4)
Branyan had a poor season last year and is also a bit of a platoon player.  I would not be too sold on him.
Lyle Overbay (1.3)
Overbay has been on a downward trend the last few years.
Brad Hawpe (1.2)
Hawpe is not the guy he used to be.  His performance has collapsed.
Juan Rivera (1.2)
Rivera has some value for a team who wants a contact oriented power bat off the bench.  Beyond that, I don't see much value here.
Nolan Reimold (0.8)
Reimold's 2010 hurts his value here.  If you believe in what he did last year, then he looks like a 1.7 WAR player at first base.  He could be passable, but you need to get more production out of other positions if this is to be a first division team.

The Rest (less than 0.75 WAR)
Mark Kotsay (0.7), Ross Gload (0.4), Xavier Nady (-0.2), Chris Davis (-0.3), and Jorge Cantu (-1.3).

If the Orioles are to go big then putting money down on Fielder makes more sense to me than Pujols for the reasons I spelled out in a previous post.  If the next tier of talent is considered, I would target a one or two year deal for Pena or Ortiz.  Beyond that, I would place Mark Reynolds at first base.

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