First and Foremost: First Base Options

Using The Strike Zone’s updated free agency predictions I decided to take a closer look at the first base options available to us. I’ll do my best to espouse on each and every candidate that Matthew Pouliot put forth. Here are the free agents, followed by trade candidates/non-tender (in arbitration, making them free agents) candidates.
Paul Konerko (White Sox) – Konerko will command a lot and when all is said and done, could net five years and $60 million. We should at least hang in there for the preliminary bidding, but when the years go past four and/or the dollars past $44 million, I would move on.
Frank Thomas (White Sox) – Thomas is a potential candidate to be signed, but with the White Sox letting Everett go, I can’t see that happening. Even if Thomas leaves the White Sox, he’s more of a DH candidate than a 1B candidate. While he’s not exactly injury prone, there are warning signs there.
Erubiel Durazo (Athletics) – Durazo is a very solid hitter, but is also more of a DH variety than he is for 1B. His fielding is okay, it’d work fine, and Durazo is a very real, under the radar, possibility here. Unless Jim Bowden is hired as our GM – then we’ll have too many “toolsy” outfielders and one will be converted into a 1B. (Side note: I am very, very against Bowden being our GM and I pray and hope to god that this interview is only for appearances.)
Rafael Palmeiro (Orioles) – Yeah, that’ll happen.
Kevin Millar (Red Sox) – Not as far-fetched as one may think. His defense was adequate and he had an okay second-half. If he came back, though, he’d almost certainly split time with another first-baseman, and we really ought to think about finding a full-time one. He’ll find a starting job elsewhere, though, as it’s obvious his ego has gotten the better of him. He WAS valuable to our clubhouse in 2003 and 2004, but not at all in 2005 when he kept harping he was. Valuable members of the clubhouse don’t say how important it is to keep oneself.
Doug Mientkiewicz (Mets) – He’s a good candidate to return as a backup 1B, and we know Tito can throw him out at other positions with relative ease – as evidenced by his second base showing in 2004. However, Mientkiewicz, coming off a bad season (actually, two straight ones now) is going to probably look to enhance his value with a starting job – not ready yet to become a fulltime reserve. He won a ring two years ago, I can understand why he’d chose playing time and money over another contending season.
Scott Hatteberg (Athletics) – Hatteberg’s pretty much done. He’s not good enough defensively to warrant a starting job, or even a reserve job and his bat is pretty anemic. He had one solid season and one good season with the A’s, but that’s it. His career may not be over yet, but should be within two years.
Travis Lee (Devil Rays) – A good fielder, Lee rebounded from an injury-plagued 2003 with Tampa Bay in 2004 to post a .757 OPS and boasts a career .751 OPS. He’s a very good option and we should at least explore bringing him aboard. Lee hits a fair amount of doubles and may benefit from the Green Monster.
Jeff Conine (Marlins) – Conine will return to the Marlins in a matter of days, but even if he wasn’t going to, he’s more of an outfielder than a 1B. However, he has demonstrated the ability to play 1B so you can’t rule Conine out. However, like Timlin was guaranteed to return, Conine is such for Florida.
Olmedo Saenz (Dodgers) – Saenz can also play third. His season-by-season totals are encouraging, followed by a .265/.341/.461 line. A platoon of Saenz and Olerud might work out fantastically. Saenz really hits left-handers, so we may want a better option than Olerud (.286/.345/.436 in 2005 v. RHP) … I would select either Saenz or Olerud to be the left-handed pitcher part of a platoon.
J.T. Snow (Giants) – Snow’s got a glove, but his bat left him entirely this year. Fluke or not, who knows. He’s an option to bring in, but considering he’s only had one season over 400 ABs (422 in 2002) in five years, he’d be a platoon candidate, and is utterly inept against left-handed pitching. An Olerud/Snow platoon would a) be very affordable, b) play to each other’s strengths, c) be good offensively and spectacular defensively and d) allow us to pursue more attractive first basemen next year, which while thin as well, does give a bit more options at first.
John Olerud (Red Sox) – I’d like to see Olerud return, but only as a platooner where he hits against left-handed pitchers. He’s been one of my favorite players of all-time, but Olerud is also not the same Olerud he once was and now he’s another Snow, another Saenz … a replaceable person.
Matthew LeCroy (Twins) – The Twins let go of their resident “power-hitter” much like they did the same with Ortiz. LeCroy’s a stumblebum only deserving of a DH spot, but he does hit. He could be quite able in a Red Sox uniform. If he had started most every game, he would have hit roughly 30 home-runs, so there should be a market for this guy. We may want to take a quick look, but since he’s not exactly the fielding type, we may only want to nab him if the price is right.
Daryle Ward (Pirates) – Ward has only shown flashes of the promise that he held as a Dodger and only did, for a short period of time, as a Pirate. I wouldn’t consider Ward at all.
Julio Franco (Braves) – The oldest MLB player, he’s pretty much not slowing down at all. His age is going to work against him in his contracts, so we should look at signing him to a contract. Low-risk, high reward. Definitely someone worth considering should we go the platoon route.
Mark Sweeney (Padres) – Sweeney’s actually pretty good with the stick, so I’d explore opportunities for him just as much as I would for Franco. He’s actually more palatable than Franco, both age and offense-wise.
Robert Fick (Padres) – Shouldn’t be considered.
Calvin Pickering (Royals) – Pickering should only be brought in for competition and minor league depth. There’s no question he can hit at AAA, but he has yet to show that in the majors – well, to be fair, he can, based on a .246/.338/.500 line, but that’s pretty much what he can do starting full-time and that’s not what we want, plus his defense is not what we want.
Josh Phelps (Devil Rays) – Also shouldn’t be considered – his defense isn’t good enough and he’s inconsistent.
Jack Cust (Athletics) – Cust is intriguing, but we can’t hand him a spot. He needs to get out of team control and become a free agent. He did that, now he needs to find a major league team willing to give him a real shot. As much as I would like that to be Boston, it can’t be.
Tino Martinez (Yankees) – After an anemic season, Tino is a free agent. We could look at bringing him in as a reserve, but that’s pretty much it. He’ll head somewhere in a platoon role.
Eduardo Perez (Devil Rays), Brad Fullmer (FA), Greg Colbrunn (Rangers), Dave Hansen (Mariners), Mike Kinkade (Indians), Scott Spiezio (FA), Jose Offerman (Mets), Carlos Baerga (Nationals), Wil Cordero (Mets), Lenny Harris (Marlins) all are doubtful to see a Boston uniform this year. There are many other options out there, and there’s no reason why we should give any of these people a job as a starting first baseman or even a backup first baseman.
The trade candidates/non-candidates are as follows:
Carlos Delgado (Marlins) – Delgado would be a nice net, and we could offer Bronson Arroyo, Kelly Shoppach, and perhaps one other player would get it done. Delgado could help replace Manny’s thump should he be traded, but if not, an Ortiz-Ramirez-Delgado lineup is absolutely vicious.
Jim Thome (Phillies) – I would do this given the right deal, with someone like Mark Sweeney brought in as a reserve should Thome get hurt. He’s been too good for too long to let one season define him. Baseball is famous for writing off people – Thome this year, and Boston can identify with Keith Foulke – but that’s another story for another time.
Lyle Overbay (Brewers) – The Brewers have maintained they do not want to move Overbay. Probably smart, hold onto Overbay for one more year and ease Fielder in, but the Brewers are running out of time to deal Overbay. His value will just keep diminishing, even if it’s low now because the Brewers have Fielder. Overbay may bring demand at the trading deadline, but I think they can get more from him now. I’d definitely explore an Arroyo/Wells and Shoppach trade for him.
Chad Tracy (Diamondbacks) – The Diamondbacks have Glaus entrenched at third and Tony Clark hitting a mean streak at first. They’ve got other corner infielders and outfielders making their way up, which limits Tracy’s role. Someone has to go. If it’s someone, why not Tracy and why not to the new GM’s former team? Hitting .308/.359/.553 is extremely enticing and it would be incredible to net Tracy, who will enter the 2006 season at 25 years old. However, Byrnes is no slouch (and certainly would have taken over as Sox GM) so let’s file this under pipe dreams.
Darin Erstad (Angels) – I would be interested in trading for Erstad, but only to put him in centerfield.
Mike Sweeney (Royals) – Another possibility, but his injury issues, contract, and defense make this a little sketchy. I wouldn’t bank on this, although Sweeney would be a nice net.
Shea Hillenbrand (Blue Jays) – Hillenbrand is a good player, but not a great one – not one worth what the Blue Jays would ask us to give.
Eric Hinske (Blue Jays) – Owed a lot of money and not good enough.
Hee Seop Choi (Dodgers) – Choi figures to move on now that DePodesta is gone. Choi needs a shot somewhere, he hits for power and walks (but strikes out way too much). He can give someone value. It could be Boston, and I can stomach the strikeouts as long as he realizes his potential. (I could stomach 2004 Bellhorn but not 2005 Bellhorn.)
Ben Broussard (Indians) – I can see Broussard being an option, but I expect him to stay with Cleveland.
Todd Helton (Rockies) – He’s owed serious money for a long, long time. I doubt he’ll ever be moved while he’s in this contract.
Ryan Howard (Phillies) – A very, very tantalizing name, but completely unrealistic – trading the Rookie of the Year? Thome is more likely to go.
Sean Casey (Reds) – In his free agent year, I could see him in Boston if the right deal came along. He doesn’t hammer the ball with power, but is a doubles hitter and keeps his average high (career .305). Really, he’s not a bad idea at all.
Jeff Bagwell (Astros) – Bagwell will either return to the Astros or retire.
Phil Nevin (Rangers) – Nevin is owed too much and is worthless.
Adam LaRoche (Braves) – Good with the glove, LaRoche is coming off a dissapointing season after a promising rookie start in 2004. We could explore a trade for LaRoche, but he’s not exactly what Boston builds around, so I would file this under ‘not gonna happen’.
Adrian Gonzalez (Rangers) – Now we’re talking. The young power-hitter won’t come cheap and thus likely not an option, but if we nab Adrian, we’ve got to pat ourselves on the back.
Ryan Shealy (Rockies) – Shealy was rumored to be heading to Boston along with Larry Bigbie in exchange for Kelly Shoppach and someone else who’s name escapes me right now. This trade could be rekindled.
Jason Stokes (Marlins) – Jason Stokes, Please. By the way, Stokes hit .283/.340/.674 this season for the Marlins’ AAA team in 46 AB after a season in AA where he hit .272/.345/.513.
Brandon Sing (Cubs) – One Cub is one Cub too many. With the exception of Bill Mueller. All kidding aside, Sing’s simply not an option right now.
Carlos Pena (Tigers) – Pena posted similar numbers to his 200 campaign, but there are more important numbers underlying this. Pena hit a shocking .181/.307/.283 pre-All Star Break and earned a demotion to the minors. He returned after the break and turned a corner, hitting .286/.345/.662. This makes me extremely interested in acquiring him, but not interested in acquiring him and handing him the fulltime job. I’d want a Sweeney, a Franco, an Olerud behind him.
Ken Harvey (Royals) – Harvey is also simply not an option.
With these names in mind, what would I like to see next year?
Well, I think we need to stay away from Konerko and focus on short-term choices, because there’s no shortage of good names here. I’m not willing to give up what it would need to acquire Overbay or Casey or Tracy. Here are some names that I would like to see in a uniform belonging to the Red Sox next year:
John Olerud, Olmedo Saenz, Ryan Shealy, Mark Sweeney, Jason Stokes, Julio Franco, Carlos Pena.
We could certainly go after Delgado (that would be worth it) or Thome, but I like the names above being used in a platoon role. If we write Stokes off because he’s almost certain to repeat AAA wherever he ends up, and forget about Shealy … just because, we are left with Olerud, Saenz, Sweeney, Franco, and Pena.
I’d do my darndest to bring every single person into spring training and let two people fight it out. Right now, I’d be inclined to give the job to Olmedo Saenz for lefties, and Carlos Pena for righties.

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