The First Base Dilemma, and what Dilemma needs to be fixed?

Lyle Overbay of the Milwaukee Brewers’ time may be short in Milwaukee, as stud first-baseman Prince Fielder is knocking on the door. Please note I said knocking, present tense. This creates a dilemma in Milwaukee, as Overbay has been nothing but an offensive machine so far this year and could make a very good first baseman for a contender if he was traded at the deadline, whether it be the Orioles, Dodgers, or some other team.
Note I did not say Red Sox, which is curious, because I’ve wanted Overbay on this team for a good while.
Simply put, the Red Sox are all set at first base this year. If Overbay was to go after the season (likely because as long as Milwaukee contends, Overbay should remain at first, and thus give Prince more seasoning in the minor leagues, whether he needs it or not) then I say the Red Sox should go hard after him (or Prince, if the Brewers put him on the block instead) but if the Brewers either (a) decide to put him on the block regardless of their success and hope Prince plus what they get in return can create a finish in second place or (b) collaspe, starting their minor firesale, the Red Sox should look elsewhere.
The Red Sox have Kevin Millar, struggling, and is hitting .238/.327/.320, and .125/.125/.188 since John Olerud (.353/.389/.471) arrived. Olerud proves slick defense and offense (and is also a walking ad in the field) while Millar provides something else valuable, no matter how horrible he’s hitting as long as he is okay with sitting on the bench and platooning with Olerud (as he is). Those are his character and track record with streaks.

”I don’t believe just because a guy got a couple of hits that you sit your first baseman down,” said the manager. ”This is a long haul and sometimes it takes some patience for it to work. I can’t forget what Millar has done for us and how important he is to our ball club. What he did for us in the second half was pretty damn good.”

”There’s no right or wrong here. There’s no ‘who’s better?’ From Day One I’ve given everything I have to the Red Sox. None of this is for lack of effort. Ever. And there are other things you can bring to a team beside what shows up on the back of a baseball card. It’s nice to have people backing you when things are not going so well.”

This wasn’t the quote I had in mind (the first one was, the second one was not) because there’s a quote out there by Tito saying how important Millar is to the clubhouse. And he is. Olerud and Millar make a fine platoon in my mind, and if we ever need some more bonecrushing offense, well, there’s always Roberto Petagine tearing it up in AAA who can step in.
So, we’ve established not going after Lyle Overbay, hitting .295/.429/.500 this year, even though I still want him wearing red and white next year. Who should we go after? Should it be a replacement for the .253/.363/.377 hitter manning second base? I say no, because since May 1st, he is hitting .272/.391/.391. The power isn’t there, but it’ll climb, and he’s hitting for a respectable average. Plus, of course, we have Dustin Pedroia who could step in next year (or if we have to, this). The starting rotation has been a mess all season long, but it doesn’t need improvement – just stability.
Short, left, center, right, and catcher are all locked up. The bullpen is the only issue – glaring issue.
Boston is 12th in bullpen ERA (a vast improvement from a few weeks ago when they were over 5.00) and it rests at 4.71, good enough for 12th. The Yankees are 10th and Minnesota is 1st at 2.43, Baltimore 8th at 3.86. So we’re almost a full run worse than Baltimore.
Keith Foulke has a 6.23 ERA. Halama 5.70, Embree 5.23, Mantei 3.00, Myers 1.64, Timlin 1.38. Myers has seen more time of recent, appearing in six of the last nine games, zero runs scoring in that span. It’s obvious Tito is turning to Myers more with the struggles of Halama and Embree, and I feel it’s important to replace Alan Embree. We don’t have a go-to lefty in this game, a power one that Embree used to be. One that can come in and shut hitters down. Mantei and Timlin are our best relievers (closer not included in definition of reliever) and we need some lefty balance. Myers provides that balance, but he’s not one who can pitch in the 8th inning of a 1-0 game in September. Halama is valuable because of his endurance, and has started turning things around as well (his ERA has gone down five straight outings).
Embree is embattled so far this year and while his velocity has not gone down yet, as was feared, he is much, much more hittable. Who could we get that is a lefty and good enough to shut opposing hitters down – and on a bad enough team to make a change? Well, with more and more teams being competitive every year, the teams that are selling are not as plentiful now. At the trade deadline, yes. But now? Not so much. Let’s look at the teams in a definite selling place.
Tampa Bay – Casey Fossum, Mark Hendrickson, Trever Miller. Most Enticing: Since Fossum pretty much won’t go anywhere and Hendrickson isn’t good enough and is a starter anyways, that leaves Miller. He has a 3.38 ERA this year, a 9.45 K/9 and is 32. He is also a free agent at the end of the year.
Kansas City – Andrew Sisco, Jeremy Affeldt, Jamie Cerda, Brian Anderson. Most Enticing: Anderson is a horrendous starter, Cerda has a 6.53 ERA (but 3.15 last year) and Sisco is a Rule 5 draftee, young, with promise. Going nowhere. While Cerda wouldn’t be a terrible acquisition, I like Affeldt. New Royals manager Buddy Bell has anointed Mike MacDougal his closer, taking it away from injured (and about to return) Affeldt. The 25-year old could be moved and used to be a starter before being moved to the bullpen because of blister issues. He has a career K/9 of 6.83 and an ERA of 4.40. The 25-year old would be a good move, but alas, Cerda is more likely to be moved than Affeldt.
Houston – John Franco. No thanks.
Colorado – Brian Fuentes, Bobby Seay. Most Enticing: Seay is injured and hasn’t had the track record long enough to be a viable trade candidate. Fuentes has been very good for an embattled Rockies pen, throwing up a 2.92 ERA so far this year. The Rockies could move the 29-year old for some young pieces. Probably a move that makes the most sense.
These are the only teams right now that could move these pieces. Oakland, Cincinatti, Pittsburgh, and Seattle could become sellers later on, but no one is as enticing as Fuentes, Affeldt, and Cerda. Mike Gonzalez of PIT is going nowhere. Ricardo Rincon is a possibility, but is 35 and has declined. Kent Mercker of the Reds is a possibility, but I just don’t trust him from his Boston days, and Eddie Guardado from Seattle would be a big bounty, and Ron Villone I just can’t trust.
I would say with all the names out there, I like Fuentes and Affeldt the most. If these two weren’t available, I’d look at Miller, Cerda, Mercker, and Villone, but certainly not give up much for them. Embree could be moved in the deal, in a different deal, or just plain waived – or put on the DL with a mysterious injury which the way his season has gone, might be an actual injury. Either way, as the trading deadline approaches, I believe the one position the Red Sox should address above all others is the lack of a go-to lefty in the bullpen.

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