It's probably not a good year to be a free agent this year if you are a first baseman or DH. The pond is full of those types of ducks. The list? Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, Lance Berkman, Manny Ramirez, Lyle Overbay, Aubrey Huff, Jorge Cantu, Russell Branyon, Hideki Matsui, Marcus Thames, Troy Glaus, Adam LaRoche, Derrek Lee, Ty Wigginton and Adam Dunn. Obviously, Damon and Ramirez are more known as outfielders, but Damon could probably survive in left field for a couple of dozen games. Manny could not.
That's seventeen players who need to find a job among thirty teams. It seems pretty reasonable that Huff will re-sign with the Giants, so the Fan will leave him out of this conversation. Cantu, Glaus and Thames will be considered role players. The Fan is tempted to put LaRoche in that category, but won't for now. So that brings us down to thirteen to consider as starter types in this position. As the Fan mentioned yesterday, all of the value of these players has to be generated by their bats. Few analysts give first baseman any brownie (or WAR) points for playing first and certainly there are none for playing DH.
Saying all of that, let's take a look at each of the remaining thirteen and rate and rank them and perhaps even make a suggestion or two about which teams they may end up with:
1. Johnny Damon: Surprised? Yeah. Understood. But at 37, Damon still provides flexibility. He can play left, first or DH. Damon can still steal a base for you (22 of 24 the last two years) and hit an occasional dinger. He would be worth a one year deal at $12 to $14. Angels? Tigers?
2. Lance Berkman: Berkman really doesn't want to DH. But he's been a first baseman for a long time and won't hurt you too badly there. Teams shouldn't give up on batting him right handed. The Fan still thinks he has a good year in him. One year deal at $12 to $14 with options.
3. Lyle Overbay: This ranking is surprising the writer as much as you probably. But Overbay is perhaps the best fielder of the bunch at first, has some pop and will give you 70 or more walks a year. Useless against lefty pitchers though. Tampa Bay?
4. Paul Konerko: Last year feels more like an outlier than anything else. It would seem improbable for Konerko to match it. But his problem is that he will want to command the dollars such a year would bring. But at 35, he still may have a couple of valuable seasons left in him. He really isn't much of a first baseman any more but he can play there if that's what you need. He would be an asset for Tampa Bay, but it's doubtful they will spend that kind of money he will want.
5. Derrek Lee: Lee is the same age as Konerko but didn't have the kind of year Konerko did. He looks much older. It wouldn't seem wise to move Lee to the AL, but after watching that World Series, perhaps we have to stop thinking of the AL as the dominant league, eh?
6. Adam Dunn: Dunn is one of the youngest of the bunch, but he plays old. He's slower than a mule and he wasn't disastrous at first base, but he isn't great either. It's also troubling that his walks, long one of his staples, were way down this past year. But he still hit his 38 homers, no? He is another bat that could help the Bay Rays. He would be a perfect fit for them.
7. Carlos Pena: Pena has had two awful seasons in a row. But it really seems like if he had a chance to work with a really good batting coach, he could come back in a big way. His power is still there. He's still a tremendous fielding first baseman. And, best of all, he could be a major bargain for somebody. The Fan doesn't think Tampa Bay should re-sign him as he is in too much of a rut there.
8. Jim Thome: The Twins certainly got their money's worth with Thome last year. He can still hit the ball a mile and can still get his fair share of walks. But golly, the guy has to slow down some time. Shown a willingness to play for peanuts.
9. Adam LaRoche: He may be rated too far down this list. Had a serviceable year last year with 25 homers with 100 ribbies. But this Fan just can't get past the strikeouts. 172 last year is just intolerable. And his power may have been inflated by playing in Arizona for half his games.
10. Ty Wiggintin: Wigginton, by all accounts, is a good egg and a great teammate. His willingness to keep trying hard despite his team's struggles early last year say a lot about the type of player he is. But he's simply a marginal talent who, if put in the right place, could have an Aubrey Huff type season.
11. Vladmir Guerrero: Vlad had a great half of a season last year, but really looked ancient in the second half and in the post season. He can only DH which limits his options. He just might have another league average season in him before he heads to the Hall of Fame. It's too bad that the carpet in Montreal ruined so many legs of so many great players.
12. Hideki Matsui: Matsui had a marginal season for the Angels. This Fan feels he is done as a productive major league hitter. He is a proud man who has done great things in his career. Can you see him being a marginal player somewhere for peanuts? This Fan can't.
12. Russell Branyon: Good golly, can he play for another team? He probably will. His power will always get him a cheap look with someone.
13. Manny Ramirez: Wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole. Sorry. He can ride off into the Barry Bonds sunset.
The first six on this list may get close to what they want for money. But the rest will be scrambling for jobs and it wouldn't be a surprise if a third of this list wasn't signed by the opening of Spring Training. Life goes on.