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Tejada Returns to O’s

Baltimore Orioles signed Miguel Tejada to a one-year, $6 million contract with $1M in possible incentives.

After a two-year stint in Houston, Tejada is headed back to Baltimore to take over third base for the O’s. The 35 year-old has never appeared at a position other than shortstop in the big leagues, but Miggy hasn’t rated particularly well at that spot. His three-year UZR/150 at short is -4, and John Dewan’s Plus/Minus system has Tejada at -4.7 per year from 2007-2009.

Tejada is no longer the prodigious power hitter of the late ’90’s and first half of the aughts. His wRC+ was 109 in 2007, 92 in 2008 and bounced back to 112 this past year. His Isolated Power has remained relatively stable over that period: .146 in ’07, .131 in ’08 and .142 in ’09. However, his home run stroke is on the wane:

Tejada’s home run per fly ball rate, 2007-2009

2007: 12.7%
2008: 8%
2009: 7.7%

The righty batter has never drawn many walks (career 6.3 BB%), but his rate of free passes taken has gone from 7.2% in 2007, 3.6% in 2008 and 2.8% this past season. Among batters with 500 or more plate appearances, only Bengie Molina showed a stronger aversion to ball four.

As you might expect, Tejada is swinging more often, both at pitches off the plate and within the strike zone. His contact rate has increased. Maybe Tejada is choking up in deference to Father Time:

2007: 28.4 O-Swing%, 67.9 Z-Swing%, 48.1 Swing%, 85.9 Contact%
2008: 34.7 O-Swing%, 70.4 Z-Swing%, 53 Swing%, 86.5 Contact%
2009: 32.5 O-Swing%, 71.9 Z-Swing%, 52.7 Swing%, 88.4 Contact%

(the MLB averages are about 25% for O-Swing, 66% for Z-Swing, 45% for Swing and 81% for Contact)

That combination of few walks and ample contact makes Tejada a Three True Outcomes trailer. Over the past three seasons, he has put the ball in play at the fourth-highest rate in the majors.

While he’s not a fantasy force anymore, Tejada still retains value as a guy who will qualify at multiple positions. His shortstop eligibility is certainly a plus. CHONE projects a .297/.333/.434 triple-slash for Miggy in 2010, with a 104 wRC+.

Tejada’s taking over third means that Cesar Izturis remains at short, and Garrett Atkins will slide over to first for the most part. Which makes Ty Wigginton Atkins’…stunt double? It’s not especially what the difference is between the two. Neither gets points for defense, and Wigginton holds the edge at the dish:

Three-year wRC+

Atkins: 98 wRC+
Wigginton: 107 wRC+

CHONE predicts a 97 wRC+ for Atkins next season, and a 105 mark for Wigginton.

Tejada’s not a bad option if you’re in a pinch at the shortstop spot. He’s on the downslide, but his bat should be a tick above average in 2010.