Tuesday, July 04, 2006

First (Base) Things First

First base. This shouldn’t take long. The Cubs already have one of the best first basemen in the game. In fact, he is arguably the nest defensive first basemen in all of baseball and is the second best hitter behind only Albert Pujols. So why look for another first baseman?

Well, remember what happened when DLee went down to injury. The Cubs had to move a second baseman over to play first. The result wasn’t pretty and the Cubs should learn from the experience.

Rather than listing out the stats for all of the possible reserve first basemen the Cubs could add, let me just throw out a few names.

Mike Lamb (Houston Astros – Age 30)
Hee Seop Choi (Boston Red Sox – Age 27)
Doug Mientkiewicz (Kansas City Royals – Age 32)

All three players will be FAs at the conclusion of the 2006 season. Lamb is earning $1.7 million per year. Choi earns $725,000 per year. Mientkiewicz earns $1.85 million per year plus incentives.

Of the three players, Mike Lamb is probably the best hitter, followed closely by Mientkiewicz. Choi is the weakest hitter. Another arrow in Lamb’s quiver is that he can also play third base. Mientkiewicz and Choi are strictly first basemen.

Lamb and Choi are used to playing as reserves. Lamb is working hard for a starting position in Houston, but he has an uphill battle trying to unseat Lance Berkman. Mientkiewicz went to Kansas City so he could start and still believes he is a starter.
It might be difficult convincing him to back up DLee.

What about Kevin Millar (age 34), you ask? Well, I consider him more of a starter, although he’s having a sub-par 2006 and he’ll be a FA at the conclusion of the 2006 season. But since you mentioned Millar, it made me think of the Orioles back up first baseman, Jeff Conine. Conine is about 70 years old (actually 40) and is rumored to be retiring after the 2006 season. If he doesn’t, the Orioles have an option on him for the 2007 season which Conine can void if he gets 450 + plate appearances in 2006.

Throwing Millar and Conine into the mix, here’s how I’d go:

1) Mike Lamb
2) Doug Mientkiewicz or Kevin Millar
3) Jeff Conine
4) Hee Seop Choi

Remember, all of these guys would back up DLee and would likely be the DH for interleague games in AL ballparks. Being willing to be a back up DLee will be key to signing one of these guys


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