Word from Ken Rosenthal is that Jermaine Dye is open to moving from his primary position of right field to first base in order to land a job in 2010. This is coming on the heels of some especially brutal defensive seasons from Dye. From 2006-2009, here are Dye’s respective UZRs: -22.5, -21.6, -19.4, -20.0. With the RF positional adjustment at -7.5, it’s pretty apparent that Dye is a liability in the outfield. Considering that first base is the easiest position to play (something that I can back up with personal experience), Dye’s openness to the move should help him get work. But can it make him a productive player?
The first question is whether or not Dye’s transition to first base would actually make him a better defensive value. Right now, he’s worth roughly 27 runs less than the average fielder over 150 games. I haven’t scouted Dye; I wouldn’t know if Dye has the necessary skills to become adept at picking throws or stretching off the base, or fielding ground balls.
We saw with Skip Schumaker‘s move to 2nd base from center field that the transition certainly wasn’t smooth at the outset. Schumaker’s situation is similar because Schumaker hadn’t seen any time in the infield in his professional career, much like Dye, who’s played all of one game in the infield over his 15 major league seasons. Dye just hasn’t shown much athleticism in the outfield, so it would seem that he would still be a below-average defender at first base anyway, even without considering the effects of the positional move. Because of that, I personally wouldn’t expect Dye’s transition to go nearly as smooth as Schumaker’s seems to have worked out.
Of course, we can entertain the possibility. Let’s say that Dye somehow ends up as a semi-respectable fielder at first base, somewhere around a -2.5 first baseman. Then his value relative to the average defensive player is -15 runs, which adds around 12 runs to his value and makes him even slightly more valuable in the field than at the DH position. How will his bat play?
Dye will be 36 next season. As such, it’s hard to imagine any sort of dramatic increase over his .344 wOBA from 2009, although his 2008 wOBA of .376 is encouraging. A good estimate would probably lie on the low end of that range, in the +7.5 to +12.5 wRAA per 150 games, which would make Dye a 1.25-1.75 win player per 150 games.
Honestly, though, I find it really hard to believe that Dye will be any sort of productive defensive player. His transition will likely mirror Adam Dunn‘s play at 1B for the Nationals moreso than Skip Schumaker’s, and Dye will probably continue to be a huge liability on defense. It’s possible he could be a slightly above replacement DH, but unless he’s willing to take a huge paycut, he’s not worth taking the spot of a prospect or some sort of freely available talent like a Brian Myrow or Jeff Fiorentino.