It’s becoming increasingly clear that Prince Fielder won’t be the first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers for much longer, whether he’s traded this month or this winter. While I’m not ready to go as far as Mike Hunt did and proclaim that he hasn’t been a Brewer for a long time (cutting it a little too close to the “A-Rod’s not a *REAL* Yankee” talk for me), I am ready to start looking at possible replacements for him at first.
If the Brewers don’t get a replacement for him in a trade (still a possibility, if you think the Brewers would target Dayan Viciedo from the White Sox), what would the internal options be? Luckily, they have a slew of guys who’d be better off playing first base. I can think of about five right off the top of my head.
- Casey McGehee. This seems to be the most logical solution, and I think one everyone could at least live with in the short-term. While he wouldn’t be your prototypical hard-hitting NL first baseman, he’d at least be a big defensive upgrade over Prince (although just about anyone with a pulse would be an upgrade over him this year). His reputation as a utility player would seem to indicate he’d have less of a problem transitioning to first in a pinch than some of the other players on the roster, but we can’t really know for sure — he’s only played four innings of first base in the majors, spread out over three games. I’d be fine with it for the rest of 2009, but I wouldn’t like it for much longer than that.
- Mat Gamel. It seems like we’ve been talking about moving Gamel off third base for a long time now, and while his footwork at the hot corner has gotten better and he’s putting in the long hours to improve, he’s still a liability there. His strong arm and athleticism may make him a good fit for right field if Corey Hart is gone, but I’d be more comfortable keeping him in the infield. His problem on defense has never been getting to the balls, it’s been setting his feet and throwing it across the diamond. For the most part, that wouldn’t be a worry at first base. Offensively, he figures to at least be average for a first baseman, if not better than that in the future. I still believe in his potential as a 30-HR guy, and I get the feeling the Brewers would like to keep a left-hander in the lineup if they do move Fielder. Even if he doesn’t slug as much as Fielder does, there at least wouldn’t be a drastic drop in OBP like there would be if McGehee was the pick.
- Corey Hart. If the team decides to try to sign Hart long-term and trade Fielder. Hart started out as a first baseman, would probably be passable there defensively, and should be able to hit enough to at least be a league-average first baseman.
- George Kottaras. He’s a pretty bad defensive catcher, but he still does have some value with the bat. His walk rate would be appreciated, but if he does move out from behind the plate, the Brewers would have to call up another catcher to take over as Jonathan Lucroy’s back-up, and there aren’t any other catchers on the 40-man roster. He’d be fine as part of a platoon, but I think it would take too much roster manuevering for this to be a viable solution, and I don’t think anyone would be happy with it long-term.
- Jim Edmonds. I don’t know why, but horrifyingly enough, I see this is somewhat likely if Prince is moved mid-season. It’s like a perfect storm of what Ken Macha likes — Edmonds hits left-handed, so the Brewers wouldn’t lose that left-handed presence in their lineup; he’s a veteran, so Macha doesn’t have to trust any young players; and he’s not Mat Gamel. Furthermore, if this is the solution, Gamel is likely still stuck in Triple A, as McGehee is still your everyday starter at third. When you think about it, this would make so little sense that you could actually see it happening, couldn’t you? It’s the type of contradictory message we’ve gotten used to this year — “We’re throwing in the towel on 2010 by trading our best hitter, but we’re still trying to win games.”