As Dave noted yesterday, Adam LaRoche‘s recent deal with the Diamondbacks puts the remaining first base/DH types still on the market on notice: there aren’t many spots left, and the contracts aren’t going to get any bigger. It’s not the most “scientific” method out there, but let’s use LaRoche’s contract and projected value as a baseline for some of the 1B/DH types remaining on the market. It might be illuminating in its own way, particularly given the ambiguity in the free agent market in general this offseason.
Starting with our “baseline”: LaRoche’s contract is reportedly $4.5 million with a $1.5 million buyout for 2011, so six million dollars guaranteed. CHONE has LaRoche as a +7/150 hitter for 2010, and defensively Jeff has him at -1/150. +7 hitter, -1 defender, -12 prorated positional adjustment for 1B, + 20 replacement level = 1.4 WAR player. Both CHONE and the Fans project LaRoche for almost 150 games. Dividing the six million guaranteed dollars by 1.4, we get about four million dollars a win.
So who are the rest of our contestants on the first base/designated hitter game of musical chairs? [To avoid repetition, simply assume -12 position and +20 replacement for each player.]
Russell Branyan: +15 hitting, average defense. Of course, if Branyan was likely to play 150 games, he would have been signed for pretty big money by now. Fan Projections have him playing 118 games; CHONE is less optimistic, projecting 103. Splitting the difference, let’s call it 110, which would mean about 1.7 WAR — the best player here. Given our “LaRochian baseline,” 1.7 WAR would cost about 1/$6.8M or one year. He might make sense for the Mets if they are serious about contention this year. They have the money and could get Branyan for one year — even 100 games of Branyan is probably worth one marginal win over Daniel Murphy at first, and with Carlos Beltran missing the first month of the season or so, the Mets will need every win they can get. I wonder what he turned down from Seattle?
Jason Giambi: +8 hitting, -6 fielding = 1 WAR, but the fans project him for 80 games, and CHONE for only 100, so he’s closer to 0.5 WAR. I’d be surprised if anyone gave him two million dollars guaranteed. His fielding stats imply that he’s better off as a DH. How many platoon DH spots are there?
Jim Thome: +11 hitting, no defense (DH-only -17), 1.4 WAR. Closer to 1 WAR after adjusting for playing time. Thome is better than Giambi, but won’t play first under any circumstances. He’s definitely near the end of the line, but I’m a bit surprised there hasn’t been more talk about him. If he’s willing to take a big pay cut (to around $4 million), Thome might actually make sense for the White Sox, unless they really think Andruw Jones is going to hit enough to DH full-time (or play in the outfield full-time while Carlos Quentin DHs, which seems unlikely).
Ryan Garko: +8 hitting, -3 fielding = 1.3 WAR. CHONE projects him for 130 games, so 1.1 WAR. LaRoche’s contract implies 4 million dollars. We’ve been over the Giants’ foolish decision to non-tender Garko before. No, Garko isn’t a star, but he’s at least a decent stopgap. At 29, he’s probably not going to fall off of a cliff. If you are surprised he projects as a better hitter than LaRoche, keep in mind that Garko has spent most of his time facing the superior pitching of the American League, while LaRoche has been (aside from a few weeks in Boston) an NL guy. Given that Garko was just going into arbitration for the first time this off-season, the team acquiring him would also have him under control for the following season. Once that is factored in, Garko might end up being the best “value deal” left on this list, and could fit into plans for a variety of teams.
Carlos Delgado: +1 hitting, -2 fielding = 0.7 WAR. Over 120 games, 0.6 WAR. I’ve always liked Delgado, but given his age and injuries, I’m not sure he’s worth it at this point unless he’s willing to take a minor league deal. Some team will probably pay him for his “veteran presence.”
Hank Blalock: -3 hitting, -2 fielding = 0.3 WAR. Do you really think Blalock’s going to play 150? Six years ago, it seemed like he and Mark Teixeira would be torching the AL West for years to come. Tex is a superstar in pinstripes, while Blalock looks like he’s done. I’d say he’ll be lucky to get a major-league deal, but you never know.
Fernando Tatis: -3 hitting, +1 fielding (TotalZone) = 0.6 WAR. Over 120 games, 0.5 WAR. Tatis has also played left field, so might be closer to a 1 WAR player. He fit on a team that needs a right-handed bench bat that can play 1B and some OF, and has been mentioned in connection with Seattle.