Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Monday, October 09, 2006

Possible Free Agents: 1B

This is the first in a series of posts that will look at each position and the possible free agents available at that position. For those of you who want to see the list directly, you can check it out at Cot's Baseball Contracts, an invaluable resource for those interested in the financial side of the game.

I'm starting with First Base because that's where Cot's starts. The Twins certainly don't seem to be in the market for a first baseman thanks to the emergence of Justin Morneau, but you never know; one of these guys could conceivably be in the mix as a backup or Designated Hitter type. Here are the names.

Sean Casey - Detroit Tigers
Unless the Tigers decide they want to give Chris Shelton another shot next year, which is unlikely, they will probably make a solid run at resigning Casey. The goodwill from their remarkable season will probably help them in that effort. Casey is making $8.5 million this season, and probably will cost in the $7-8 million range to sign for next year.

Jeff Conine - Philadelphia Phillies (Mutual Option)
Conine is 40 years old and no longer an everyday player in my mind (he nevertheless got 489 at bats this year, so what do I know?). The Twins should steer clear of Conine, who will probably end up back in Baltimore if he decides to come back next season; they seem to have a fascination with him. Conine would be an acceptable "veteran leader" type to have on the bench, but there have to be better places to spend money. Conine will make $2 million next year if the Phillies pick up his option, but there's no reason to expect that they will. He's worth, at most, $1.5 million (and that's only if a team plans on playing him regularly).

Darin Erstad - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Erstad is (or was) one of the most overrated players in baseball. He's the perfect example of a guy who lived off of one incredible season (2000, when he hit .355), and was able to parlay that into a foolish contract. Erstad has made around $8 million/year for the past four years, and for that money the Angels have gotten lots of injuries, and about 65 RBI's with a .280 batting average when he's healthy. They should part ways with Erstad willingly, and whoever signs him should not be willing to pay more than $4-5 million for a one year deal to see if he's healthy. Incidentally, there were rumblings earlier this year that he wasn't healthy, and there's a possibility that he could retire.

Robert Fick - Washington Nationals
Fick is a catcher as well as a first baseman, which could be useful to some teams. In 60 games this year he hit .266 with 2 homers. He works best as the last guy off the bench type, who can catch a little bit if needed. He made $850,000 this year, and that's probably about right for next year.

Nomar Garciaparra - Los Angeles Dodgers
The Twins should have pursued Garciaparra as a third baseman last year, but he's now settled comfortably into the first base role in LA, and I'd be surprised if they let him get away. Garciaparra was forced to settle for a one year deal because no one believed he could stay healthy. He was the NL comeback player of the year for hitting .303 and belting 20 homers. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury in the playoffs, which doesn't help his argument that he'll stay healthy. He made $6 million this year (with $4 million in incentives in the deal), and will probably be forced to accept another short, 1 or 2 year contract in the same price range that's also heavily incentivized. The Dodgers will probably go a little higher to prevent him from hitting the market.

Scott Hatteberg - Cincinnati Reds
A bargain at $750,000, Hatteberg hit .289 with 13 homeruns and 51 RBI's. He's not going to set the world on fire, but he's a solid enough option for a team that needs a cheap first baseman. He should get a little bit of a raise, to the $1.25 million range, for next season. That said, he's 36 years old, so there's not really a lot of upside potential.

Wes Helms - Florida Marlins
The 30-year-old Helms hit .320 with 10 jacks in limited action for the Marlins this season. He can play first or third and comes pretty cheap, making $800,000 this year. It wouldn't surprise me at all for Helms to be chased by a number of the mid-level teams looking to add a corner infielder, and honestly he wouldn't be a terrible fit for the Twins, who could use him off the bench and as an occasional DH, 3B, or if Morneau needed a day off, 1B. He should make somewhere around $1 million next year.

Jose Hernandez - Philadelphia Phillies
Hernandez's career is winding down, and he probably won't get a lot of interest in the fall. Then again, Julio Franco still has a job and he's ancient. Hernandez made $850,000 this year, and would probably be in the $750,000 to $800,000 if he was lucky enough to find a job next year. He was signed to a minor league contract last off-season, and that's probably the route he would have to go for this coming year as well.

Shea Hillenbrand - San Francisco Giants
Hillenbrand hit .277 with 21 homeruns with the Giants and Blue Jays this year, but why would you want him on your team? He had the infamous run-in with manager John Gibbons in Toronto that led to his ouster to the Bay, and there have been suggestions that he's done this before. In other words, he doesn't seem to be a good teammate, and he costs $5.8 million. I don't see the interest being very high, but he'll get a job somewhere, probably for closer to $4 million than his current salary.

Ryan Klesko - San Diego Padres (team option)
The Padres can't cut ties with Klesko quickly enough. They paid him $10 million for 6 at bats this season, and $8 million for a .248 batting average and 18 homeruns last year. His option is for $8 million with a $500,000 buyout - and that pretty much makes it a no-brainer. Klesko is already 35 years old, and his career progression has not been good. Some team (such as the Royals or Pirates or some other equally bad team) will probably offer him a contract and pay him $3-4 million for next year, but if they do I'm guessing it will be a bad decision.

Travis Lee - Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Lee made $2.45 million this year and hit .221 in 343 at bats. Why, oh why, oh why do teams keep signing him? Lee's a bust - if he finds a home next year and gets paid more than $1 million, he should consider himself unbelievably lucky.

Doug Mientkiewicz - Kansas City Royals
Douggie, Douggie, Douggie. As much as I loved you as a Twin, I've got to be brutally honest and suggest that the $1.85 million the Royals paid you was too much. He'll probably wander around the lower-tier teams for the rest of his career; maybe a return to Kansas City is in order (although I never figured out why they signed him in the first place).

Kevin Millar - Baltimore Orioles
One of the Red Sox "idiots" in exile, who made $2.1 million this year. He did about what you'd expect for that price, hitting .272 with 15 jacks. So long as he doesn't demand much more than that, he's an affordable option for an American League team that wants a 1B/DH who will play part time.

Scott Spiezio - St. Louis Cardinals
Very similar to Millar, with a .272 average and 13 homers. For some reason, nobody (ok, neither Cot nor ESPN) know how much he made this year. He'll find a job somewhere next year.

Matt Stairs - Detroit Tigers
He has some monster power if you throw him a fastball or a hanging curve, but his batting average (.247) was horrible, and probably won't be going up by too much. Stairs makes sense for a team that wants a left-handed pinch hitter who can DH a little and play some 1B. He made $1.35 million this season, and will probably be in that neighborhood again next year.

Frank Thomas - Oakland Athletics
MVP candidate. Far and away the best "1B" on the market, although at this stage of his career he's clearly a DH. The Athletics aren't going to let him get on the open market anyway; they've offered him a 2 year deal already, and I suspect he'll take the offer and stay in the Bay area.

Dmitri Young - Free Agent
Young was fired by the Tigers towards the end of the season. He's only 32, but seems to have some off the field issues that the Tigers obviously felt weren't taken care of. Young made $8 million this year, but he'll be lucky to find a team that would pay him half of that, and if there are actual unresolved problems, he might be out of baseball for good.


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