Garrett Atkins to the Orioles

The Orioles have reportedly signed Garrett Atkins (non-tendered earlier by the Colorado Rockies) to a one-year contract with a base salary of four million dollars with incentives. The deal includes an option for 2011 with a $500,000 buyout. Atkins is thus guaranteed about $4.5 million dollars for 2010. Is Atkins worth what Baltimore will be paying?

The now-30 year-old Atkins put up genuinely impressive offensive numbers in 2006 (.410 wOBA, 142 wRC+) and 2007 (.368 wOBA, 116 wRC+) for Colorado. His wOBA dipped to .337 (98 wRC+) in 2008, which isn’t too bad until one takes into account his home park. 2009 was even more disappointing for Atkins, as he only managed a .291 wOBA (67 wRC+) and saw his playing time cut. It is difficult to project players moving out of extreme run environments like Atkins, but CHONE posts context neutral linear weights and already has Atkins projected for Baltimore: .257/.326/.410, 3 runs below average per 150 games.

While that isn’t a thrilling offensive line, three runs below average isn’t actually all that bad for a third baseman. Unfortunately, Atkins’ fielding also seems to have fallen off of a cliff. In 2006, his UZR/150 at third was a reasonable -2.1, but Atkins followed that with a horrendous -14.6 in 2007. This was bad enough that he began to see more time at first base (where he also was hardly a defensive standout), but still was below average at third, with -8.6 and -0.7 UZR/150s in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The Fans Scouting Report rates Atkins well below average as a third baseman. Jeff Zimmerman projects Atkins at -7/150 at third base for 2010. He might play some first base for Baltimore, depending on whom else they sign, but neither the positional adjustment as well as his past play there suggests that would increase his overall value. TotalZone is much more generous, projecting Atkins as a +3/150 defender, but given UZR’s rating of him as well as the fans, it’s hard to project Atkins at anything better than -5.

Including positional adjustment, over 150 games Atkins projects as about a 1.3 WAR player for 2010. Assuming $4.4 million per marginal win as average market value, his $4.5 guarantee plus incentives seems to be in the right neighborhood.

It is worth reiterating that consistently paying “fair market value” isn’t really a “smart” thing to do. Teams on budgets need to get more for their money to win consistently, especially going up against New York and Boston in the American League East. On the other hand, it isn’t particularly “dumb,” either. It’s “average…” on average. It makes sense in this particular case. They certainly didn’t want to bring back Melvin Mora, who has entered the undead phase of his career. Baltimore’s prospects at third and first aren’t ready for the major leagues yet. Atkins isn’t a star, and will be lucky to be league average again. While Baltimore surely isn’t trying to contend, as has been noted elsewhere, sometimes a team simply needs to put a competent player on the field for fans. That’s okay as long the team doesn’t pay out the nose. Baltimore isn’t paying excessively for Atkins, and he won’t be blocking any prospects who might be ready for 2011. Way to bridge a gap, Mr. MacPhail.

How do you think Garrett Atkins will play for Baltimore in 2010? Enter your fan projection by clicking here.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

17 Responses to “Garrett Atkins to the Orioles”

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  1. PhD Brian says:

    Will the Orioles ever contend? Not likely

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  2. strikethreeout says:

    I just realized that MacPhail is a terrible name for a GM…

    Better than outright “Mr. Fail” though.

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  3. sorry your heinous says:

    He can’t be half as bad as Mora at running the bases, so: Win

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  4. Justin says:

    Thank you for a wonderful write up, I think you judged all aspects very well. Certainly and average player for an average salary on a team that needs just that. I suppose there is upside there as well which could make the move more interesting. More than anything, I believe the idea here was to not block the prospects: Bell, Snyder, Moore, Turner, Waring…etc.

    Keep up the GREAT work, Happy Holidays!

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  5. Lombard says:

    O’s should go after hank blalock for first and deal luke scott for an innings eater or several very solid consistent RPs

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  6. Andrew says:

    One thing not mentioned about Garrett Atkins is that his performance jumps off a cliff in high leverage situations. Over the course of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, he was one the most “un-clutch” players in baseball. While this statistic did not hold up in 2009, it’s because his low leverage performance was abysmal to begin with.

    As a Rockies fan, I was hoping for Atkins to sign with any other NL West team. I remain highly doubtful that the projected WAR value mentioned above will prove to be accurate.

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  7. saj says:

    Matt – you missed the strategic situation. The main 2010 goal of the O’s is to develop their potential young starters into a top line staff. If that succeeds, they compete, if not who cares. They don’t need a bat to achieve this, they need a defensive 3rd baseman to go with their terrific ss, a 3b whose play will encourage the arms to let em hit grounders. If pitchers run up good numbers and lose 3-2, they develop confidence and learn the right things. If they lose 6-5, they don’t.

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    • Interesting. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I’m not dismissing your point, but what great defensive third basemen are available that would have taken a short-term contract a la Atkins? Beltre and Figgins certainly wouldn’t.

      I guess that if the Orioles feel like they’re a couple of steps from contending in 2011, they could try to lock up Adrian Beltre for a few years and figure out something else for Josh Bell to do…

      Thanks for the interesting comment from another perspective.

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      • mystlyfe says:

        Joe Crede.

        Sure, Crede was even worse offensivley in 2009 than Atkins (and got hurt, once again), but he’s an excellent defensive 3B and still has power. Crede hasn’t had a UZR/150 under +7.2 since 2004, and has never posted a UZR/150 lower than +3.6.
        He’s also posted .ISO of .200 or higher in 2005, 2006, and 2008 (and a not too shabby .189 in 2009), and managed 15HR in only 90 games in 2009.

        As an O’s fan, Crede seems like a perfect fit. Sure, he’d miss 50+ games probably, but that’s what Wigginton and/or Aubrey are for. Hell, if he’s injured at the end of the season, Josh Bell might even be ready.

        Hopefully the O’s still sign Crede and play Atkins at 1B (and possibly try and flip him at the deadline).

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