Since the trade deadline has people thinking about impact of player moves on next season, I thought it would be a good time to review who might be available as free agents after this season. In particular, I'm going to look at two positions where the Cubs are likely to have openings, first base and second base. I realize everyone's familiar with these individual players, so I'll just post a summary stat, but also use the list to identify which other teams might be looking to sign someone at those positions. TODAY: First Base.
My understanding of who is available is based on this list at mlbtraderumors.com. If you know more about certain teams' plans, or young players coming up, please post and add to the limited information I can give.
At first base, notable hitters are Adam Dunn (.935 OPS), Paul Konerko (.929), Aubrey Huff (.936), Troy Glaus (.790), Victor Martinez (.819), Carlos Pena (.751), Adam LaRoche (.781), and Lyle Overbay (.735). Of course, Pujols would be available if the Cardinals don't exercise his option. The Astros also have an option on Lance Berkman (.781) which is not likely to be exercised, as do the BoSox on David Ortiz (.908). For comparison, Derrek Lee has a .727 OPS so far this season. Note that's 10 players plus Pujols and Ortiz (not really a first baseman).
The players' ages are listed at the link above. The only player rumored to be possibly dealt before the end of the month is Dunn. Adam is likely to get a 4-year deal covering his age 32 to 35 years. Adam LaRoche is the same age, and may get a 2- or 3-year offer, but it depends on how he holds up the rest of this year. Konerko, Lee, Ortiz, and Huff are all 35 now, and Glaus is 34. Martinez is 32, and Pena is 33. Their lack of consistent performance (due to either injuries or streakiness) may put them with the older players as guys having to accept one-year deals, it depends on the market.
So. who will be bidding for their services? First of all, their own current teams. But not all of them. For first baseman, many of these players are not hitting much above replacement value. For example, LaRoche and Pena each have exactly a 100 OPS+. There are several minor leaguers who could step in and do that.
Others have often mentioned Kila Ka'aihue of KC, partly because he has Billy Butler ahead of him and the talented Eric Hosmer coming up behind. This year we've seen Ike Davis, Justin Smoak and Matt LaPorta get regular playing time, and Chris Davis get another shot. Knocking around in AAA are guys like Jeff Larish (L/R, 27, Tigers), Brandon Allen (L/R, 24, Diamondbacks). [Edit: I had listed Chris Richard (Rays) and Andy Tracy (Phillies) but they're each 36 yrs. old.]
Here are my (admittedly uninformed) projections of possible starting first basemen by team next year.
- Atlanta: Freddie Freeman
- NY Mets: Ike Davis
- Philadelphia: Ryan Howard
- Florida: Logan Morrison (trade Gaby Sanchez)
- Chicago Cubs
- St Louis: Albert Pujols
- Cincinnati: Joey Votto
- Milwaukee: Prince Fielder (if he's traded, he takes a spot on another team, and the Brewers go young)
- Houston (assuming they don't exercise Berkman's option)
- Pittsburgh: internal (Garrett Jones, Steve Pearce, Ryan Doumit)
- LA Dodgers: James Loney (may try to upgrade)
- San Francisco
- San Diego: Adrian Gonzalez
- NY Yankees: Mark Teixeira
- Boston: Kevin Youkilis
- Toronto: Brett Wallace
- Tampa Bay
- Detroit: Miguel Cabrera
- Minnesota: Justin Morneau
- Chicago WS (counted as open, but could try Viciedo at first)
- Kansas City: Billy Butler
- Cleveland (counted as open because LaPorta can play OF and Hafner is a DH)
- LA Angels: Kendry Morales
- Oakland: Daric Barton/Chris Carter
- Seattle: Justin Smoak
- Texas (counted as open because Chris Davis is iffy)
Of the teams without a player listed, only Washington is almost guaranteed to have enough funds to bid for the top free agents. I could see San Francisco getting involved. Houston, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Texas, Oakland, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay probably won't be offering multi-year deals for big money.
That leaves 10 teams without a first baseman. Nearly all of the free agent players I listed above would be available on one-year contracts, or the AAA hitters would be available for a reasonable trade.
When someone says "We can get a one-year rental" to replace Lee, they apparently mean someone like Glaus, Huff, or LaRoche, who each did well this year. Such players should be available for only a few million, perhaps with some incentives.
HOWEVER, the Cubs also do not have any first base prospects knocking on the door. I just don't think they value Matt Spencer, etc. that highly. A one-year rental would make sense if
(a) the Cubs write off 2011 as a rebuilding year, and just want a veteran to corral Castro's throws or
(b) they expect another player to move to first by 2012 (Ramirez, Soriano, and Colvin have been suggested on this board) or
(c) they expect the free agent market to continue to be depressed, perhaps because of the (unlikely) possibility of a work stoppage after 2011 or
(d) they want to be major players for Pujols, Gonzalez, or Fielder after next season
I rate all of these as unlikely.
THEREFORE, it would not surprise me to see the Cubs attempt to deal for a younger first baseman, especially a left-handed hitter currently doing well in AAA. They probably can't get that for any of the players they are currently trying to move mid-season. Maybe Larish or Tracy for Lilly. What's your sense of the fairness of such a deal? Personally, I would expect the Cubs to try to move other young players for a guy another team feels is not going to be a starter for them. Taking Kila as an example, Jim Hendry might offer B to C prospects like Casey Coleman, Marwin Gonzalez, or Jeff Samardzija (if he really wants a shot at a major-league rotation). There's a good chance at least one of the veteran free agents is still hanging around at the start of Spring Training, and you can sign him for a million or so as a pinch-hitter and part-time player. Then, if the kid doesn't work out, you have a backup.
Thanks for reading this far. I have just tried to put a lot of information in one place, to enable rich discussion. If there are errors in what I wrote, please correct them in your posts. Obviously, given similar information, other people will draw different conclusions.
I hope to post about 2B tomorrow.