Even after the recent signings of Adam Dunn, Aubrey Huff, and Victor Martinez, there are still a number of intriguing older first basemen left on the market. Unfortunately, many of those players share a similar flaw: each has peaked in terms of production at a position that doesn’t typically age well. Given the four-year deals handed to Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn, and the two-year contract given to Aubrey Huff, these older sluggers have to be wondering if they too are in line for a multi-year deal.
While it will be difficult for Dunn and Martinez to live up to those contracts in the second half of their deals, they were two of the younger options at the position. Huff’s deal is particularly interesting, considering many of the remaining first basemen on the market (Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee, Lance Berkman, and Lyle Overbay) are about the same age as Huff. If his deal is any indication, those players could receive some lucrative offers.
This off-season to date has been defined by a rise in prices over what we’ve seen in the past two years, and it’s clear the agents for the remaining available players will attempt to follow the trend. Lance Berkman is reportedly seeking between $8-10 million next season despite the fact that he’s coming off a year where he hit .248/.368/.413. If Berkman is demanding $8-10 million after a down year, how much should Paul Konerko demand following arguably the best offensive season of his career?
Adam LaRoche and Carlos Pena are also still looking for work. LaRoche, 30, still could have some productive seasons left in his bat, but he was forced to settle for a one-year deal last off-season and responded with his worst offensive season since 2005. Pena hit only .196 and was unbelievably bad down the stretch, including a number of memorable strikeouts in the playoffs. If either is able to land a multi-year deal after their 2010 performances, you will know that inflation is running wild.
Based on the Dunn, Martinez, and Huff signings, it’s clear that some teams were willing to give an extra year to get the player they really wanted. This might bode well for the remaining free agents at the position, who can use those contracts to argue that market value has changed, though they’ve also lost potential bidders with jobs being filled. While Konerko probably has the most to gain (considering his stats last season), Pena, Berkman, and Lee could all seek multi-year commitments. Will teams give in to an appearance of a change in prices, or will these players end up in a game of musical chairs? It should be one of the more interesting developments of the winter.