Thursday, January 5, 2012
What 1B options exist besides Fielder?
By Richard Durrett
Prince Fielder is the biggest fish left on the free agent market, but he's not the only first baseman available. Many of you have wondered on twitter and via email what other possibilities are out there should the Rangers decide to try to get another first baseman either as insurance behind Mitch Moreland or someone who could compete with him in spring. And let me add: This front office believes strongly in Moreland and they want to see how he does coming off the surgery.
Ben & Skin's Burning Question - Are the Rangers making the right decisions in passing on Prince Fielder and possibly moving on from Josh Hamilton after this season?
But you asked for options besides Fielder, so here are a few:
* Casey Kotchman. He's a left-handed batter (the Rangers would probably prefer a right-handed hitter) who hit .306 with 1o homers and 48 RBIs and had a .800 OPS for the Tampa Bay Rays last year. The 28-year-old played in 146 games and had 500 at-bats. But Kotchman has a career .268 average, meaning that 2011 could be the exception and not the rule. He does have a longer track record than Moreland, but the club might rather see what the cheaper Moreland can do when healthy.
* Derrek Lee. At 36, he would be a short-term option or could possibly platoon with Moreland. Lee is a right-handed hitter who hit .287 against left-handed pitching (101 at-bats) in 2011. He was traded to the Pirates from the Orioles at the trade deadline in 2011 and hit .337 for the Pirates, but played in only 28 games thanks to a fractured left wrist in August. He's a career .281 hitter and did have 35 home runs as recently as the 2009 season with the Cubs.
* Carlos Pena. The 33-year-old (turns 34 in May) hit just .225 last season, but had 28 homers and 80 RBIs for the Cubs in nearly 500 at-bats. He hasn't sported a batting average more than .250 since 2007 with Tampa Bay, but he does have power, something the Rangers' haven't had at first base since Mark Teixeira departed. Pena has had at least 28 homers in his last five seasons. He's also had at least 158 strikeouts the last four seasons. In other words: He's all or nothing. Pena was a first-round pick of the Rangers (10th overall) in 1998 and was traded to Oakland prior to the 2002 season (with Mike Venafro) for Jason Hart, Gerald Laird, Ryan Ludwick and Mario Ramos.
There are other options that aren't quite on the tier with these three. But does anyone in this trio jump out at you? Would you like the Rangers to try to get one of these or just head to spring training with Moreland (and Mike Napoli and Michael Young, who can also play first)?