Monday, January 25, 2010

First Base

With the signing of Miguel Tejada over the weekend, the Orioles appear to have finalized their roster for 2010. Tejada will play third, while Garrett Atkins will man first base. Given Atkins' shift across the diamond, I think it is worthwhile to reevaluate his acquisition.

As we saw when the Orioles signed him a few weeks ago, Atkins is probably a bit above replacement level as a third baseman. When moving over to first, however, he no longer benefits from the positional adjustment, pushing him darn near close to replacement level as a player. This might be excusable if there were no other options or Atkins was reasonably expected to improve in 2010, but he's 30-years old and coming off a truly awful year in the weaker league (and in a great hitters' park). I can understand the roll of the dice if Atkins is going to play third base; not so much if he's going to play first.

Rather, I would have liked the Orioles to sign Ryan Garko. He's two years younger, has played in the American League, and projects to post a higher OBP and ISO than Atkins. Both are right-handed hitters and could thus platoon with Michael Aubrey or Luke Scott. In fact, check out Garko's career split versus lefties: .313/.392/.495 in 485 plate appearances. Aubrey, in a small-sample size 122 Major League plate appearances, has a .283/.336/.487 line against righties. That seems like pretty decent production from a corner infielder put together on the cheap, no? (Full disclosure: Atkins is a career .301/.384/.486 against lefties, and was .268/.363/.428 in 2009). Mostly, I think the Orioles could have come up with a productive solution at first base for less money and less risk than paying Garrett Atkins $4.5 million.

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