The Overbay Saga: Black or Red?

The ‘L’ word is contentious issue among Blue Jay fans.  Blue Jay first baseman, Lyle Overbay, was a player highly scrutinized in Toronto well before this season.  Now, Overbay is off to a horrid start hitting .127 AVG, with 0 HR’s and only 4 RBI’s.  If you go to some of the daily Blue Jay blogs you will find an ‘all out war’ going on between fans with different opinions on Overbay‘s value.  Who knew baseball could resemble war?  Seems like the furthest thing from war to me?  For Jay fans, Lyle Overbay is the Gaza Strip.     

In short, the debate stems from Overbay’s ability to play great defense and contribute an above average .OBP (on base percentage) – stats that go relatively unnoticed by casual fans that put high expectations on a first basemen in the catergories of HRs, RBIs and AVG.  Overbay’s contribution, or lack there of, is the main dispute.  Many Jays fan want him out of the lineup, where some believe him to be a key contributor getting on base and playing stellar defense. 

I can’t think of a Blue Jay that has been more disputed, criticized and argued more than Lyle Overbay.  If you listen to local sports talk radio after Jay games, you will hear a guy named Mike Wilner defend Lyle Overbay on a religious basis.  The day Overbay moves on, Wilner will likely feel an empty void in his life.  He has preached the Gospel of Overbay for so many years that Lyle must possess some kind of omnipotence in his mind.  I enjoy Wilner on the radio, so I hope he doesn’t have a nervous breakdown when Overbay is gone. 

Any baseball player, as we learned from the book/movie in pre-production starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill ‘Moneyball,’ players can be seen as financial commodities.  With Overbay it has been hard to tell if we were in the black or the red?  It is hard to compare him to other first basemen because he not like the others.  Overbay begun his contract with the Jays in fine fashion, but is now ending it in with a less-than-mediocre performance.  Are the Jays in the black or the red with Overbay?  Answer that question, but be prepared for war!

LyleO.jpg

 The Future of Lyle Overbay

In all likelihood, Lyle looks take a pay cut upon receiving a new
free agent contract. Making 7.95 million for the 2010 season, Overbay
has not lived up to the high expectations placed upon following the
first year of his contract in 2006. For that year, Overbay hit for a
.312 average, had 22 homeruns, drove in close to 100 RBI’s, had .OBP of
.372 and knocked his signature 46 doubles. However, for the next 3
years of his current 5-year-contract, Overbay’s homerun numbers dipped
into the teens, his RBI’s fell into the 60’s and those signature
doubles became merely average falling to the low-to-mid 30’s.

When Overbay was with Milwaukee, there was a year he hit an
astonishing 56 doubles in a season. This season led to a lucrative
contract with the Blue Jays; however, throughout the course of that
contract it became apparent those days were over.

Considering the numbers previously mentioned for past three years.
One wonders how Overbay was even able to survive at first base for the
in the A.L. East? He plays in a division where Mark Teixeira, Jason
Giambi, Kevin Youkilus, David Ortiz, Carlos Pena and Aubrey Huff
have
consistently put up ‘bigtime’ production numbers at the first base
position for their respective teams.

In the past three years Overbay’s production has dropped off. This is
usually an alarming fact for a first baseman. However, it is not as
grim as those numbers may suggest. Overbay is consistent contributor
defensively at first base. He is one of the best. Also, throughout
those years Overbay has maintained the same high .OBP (On Base
Percentage) that he had in his ‘breakthrough’ years. More and more,
teams are desiring players with high .OBPs. So, Overbay’s value has not completely
fallen off the map. I’d say that his value on the open market would be 2-3
million per year and only he’d get, at most, 3 years. Good, but a great
decline from the 7.95 million that he will make in 2010.

Overbay will be an intriguing player to look at during this upcoming
free agency because he is unique from other first basemen. How many
first basemen do you see that are purely solid .OBP guys? Don’t you
have be able to ‘mash’ to play first base? Does any team really want a
first baseman that is just good at getting on base and playing defense?

Overbay’s Future

Jays

It seems that Lyle Overbay will not be in the Blue Jays plans for
2011. The Jays have traded for top first base prospect, Brett Wallace,
and they will likely work him into the position – possibly as early as
this season. The Jays have also been incrementally reducing payroll
while allotting most of their assets into scouting and player
development.

The Possible Frontrunners

A’s

Having a high .OBP, and contributing on defense, Overbay would ideally
fit into Oakland General Manager Billy Beane’s ‘Moneyball’ philosophy.
Taking a sharp pay cut, Beane might want to exploit Overbay before he
passes the age of 35. At which point, Beane would hope that Overbay
increases his trade-market value for available prospects. Too many
obstacles abound in considering Overbay being signed by Oakland,
though. Top prospect Chris C. Carter might need to be held in the
minors a bit longer and Oakland’s experiment with AAA ‘mashers’ Jake Fox and Daric Barton
will need to fail. I’d only consider the A’s a secondary option for
Overbay in consideration of these factors.

Rays

Considering where a free agent might sign it is necessary to look at
primarily look at two things in terms of ‘team needs.’ One, what free
agents will the team possibly lose? And what players might be coming up
through the team’s system? The Tampa Bay Rays will face a dilemma with
both Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena‘s contracts coming up for renewal in
2011. If Tampa commits to signing Crawford for ‘big money,’ then Pena
will likely be out on the market. The Rays currently have an
interesting 19-year-old first baseman in there system, 5th round-pick
Jeff Malm, but he would be at least 3 years away from the major
leagues. Overbay would be an effective, cheap and solid ‘stopgap’
option for Rays that can add depth and defense. Being a small-market
team, I can see the going after Overbay, especially if the Rays choose
to commit to Crawford instead of Pena.

Mets

The Mets are team in need of first base help. They have a converted
outfielder playing the position now, and their system does not look
bright in the area of first basemen. If Daniel Murphy and prospect Ike
Davis
do not contribute effectively, the Mets will need help. Overbay
would fill a void for them, and with the amount money they’ve spent
recently on Bay, Perez, K-Rod and Santana they might go with him as an
affordable option if they are not in sweepstakes to acquire a player
like Carlos Pena.

Mariners (my pick!)

Lyle Overbay is a product of the State of Washington. In the past, he
has been rumoured to be headed back to his home state via a trade to
the Mariners. He has been quoted, saying that he would like to play
there. With Ken Griffey Jr. edging on retirement, the M’s might want to
move first baseman Casey Kochman over to DH for 2011, making room for
top 1B/OF prospect Dustin Ackley (depending on his progression), or a
‘stopgap’ option like free agent Lyle Overbay to fill in until Ackley
is ready. Having first base solidified on an exciting M’s team might be
desirable? The chance of Overbay playing for the M’s improves even
greater if Kotchman shows the same downturn in his statistics from last
season. Overbay could be considered in a deadline trade to the
‘predictably contending Mariners’ if Kochman’s stats continue to
decline. The Jays will likely be in the cellar of the A.L. East again,
and they will be looking for prospects to keep building their team. A
deadline trade to the M’s makes the signing of Overbay even more
likely. In any case, they will be at least rumored in
signing Overbay next offseason, in my opinion.

13 comments

  1. Jane Heller

    Interesting post. All I know is that when the Yanks play the Jays I always take Overbay very seriously when he’s at the plate. He’s one of those guys who does get on base and looks like he has power. Didn’t realize he was such a polarizing figure with Jays fans though!

    http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

  2. greg1969

    This sounds like our debate over our Red Sox 3B. Theo Epstein’s theory in acquiring Beltre was his defensive prowess–and he has shown some glimpses of it for us, so it may play out well. He also has had some serious misplays, incl. some due to Fenway’s layout. I’m waiting to see if Beltre will live up to expectations, esp. as the player he is replacing (at 3B, anyway) is as debated as Overbay–Mike Lowell. He has his fierce supporters (incl. me) and equally fierce detractors.
    Anyway, stopping by, as we’re getting ready to square off against y’all. First trip to the Rogers Centre. It will be interesting to see if Overbay gets traded, and if so, if you get your pick with the M’s!
    Take care, Jeremy!

  3. raysfanboy

    Overbay is the “Gaza Strip”? That is great writing, bud. Nice analogy. I don’t think that the Rays will want Overbay. I used to see him as a doubles machine, but now he just seems to have lost that lovin’ feelin’. If the Rays lose Pena, they’ll probably try to plug somebody like Willy Aybar over there–somebody in house. Plus, we have a stud 1B in the minors (Matt Sweeney) who will have a shot at that position next year.

    http://raysfanboy.mlblogs.com

  4. angelsgirl012

    Wasn’t he an all star last year? Or is that some other Lyle Overbay I’m thinking of…..

    Anyways I think you should be very proud of your Rick Romero! He kicked our behinds! He has great stuff

    http://mimi.mlblogs.com

  5. welikeroywelikeroy

    Jane,

    Ya, in Blue Jay world Overbay is huge. Talked about, critqued, blamed, cursed upon etc …. Funny how when I step out of this world he means nothing! ha ha.

    Greg,

    Thanks for coming by. I do enjoy Brownie Points on occasion, some great fans of baseball, like yourself, on there. I’d say Lowell has more vetern savvy than Beltre, but Beltre might have a higher upside. Your are right, that must be tough one for Red Sox fans. I could see that creating a mess.

    Jenn,

    I’m glad that you liked my speculating. If the Jays could have a player like Ryan Howard to lock into first base for years to come! I’m jealous.

    Mike,

    Thanks for stopping by!! I’m glad you liked my blog. It is funny how nobody wants Overbay, and I’ve thrown out all these teams. Ike is still young, I didn’t think that he would be called up this quick. He could definitely fill the void at first for you guys.

    rays,

    He has lost that lovin’ feeling. ha ha. I put a lot of conditions on Overbay being signed by the Rays. He seems like an option for them, but not a very good. Funny how nobody wants Overbay!

  6. Jonah

    Lyle is a solid defensive first sacker, but his ability to take pitches leaves me flabbergasted and befuddled at times. Never have I seen a player take so many called strike threes, and it just seems they take place in late-inning pressure situations with the game on the line. I’ve lived with his particular pitch selection for the duration of his time in Toronto, but sometimes I think working the walk for him has become all-consuming. I agree that he’s an easy target for what ails the Blue Jays, but obviously, he doesn’t deserve the majority of that criticism. He has joined the ranks of much-maligned pro Toronto athletes who probably will perform to what was expected once they depart for a newer squad.

    Jonah
    http://jonah77.mlblogs.com

  7. raysrenegade

    Homer,
    We also got a nice Cuban player by the name of Leslie Anderson who can play all three outfield spots plus First Base.
    But, got to feel your pain on Overbay.
    I have been wondering if they might even have done something before this season to at least shore up a replacement or just send him packing before the end of Spring Training.
    But you never know what he is like in the clubhouse, or could Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston have a special liking for the guy….
    Whatever the answer, I think it is past due for a change, plus might be the difference between winning and losing even this early in the season for the Jays.

    Rays Renegade

    http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

  8. welikeroywelikeroy

    Jonah,

    Patience is a good thing with any hitter. That is what I used to say before I saw Overbay. The guy is patient to a fault sometimes. You are right, he lets pitches pass right by him sometimes.

    RaysRenegade,

    The only reasons the Jays haven’t brought up Brett Wallace to replace Lyle Overbay yet is: 1. Overbay is making 8 million this season … pretty tough to bench a guy making that much 2. We want to keep developing Wallace so we can get the full advantage of his pre-arbitration and arbitration years. I saw that you signed Leslie Anderson, although I hadn’t heard that much about him before the signing. Seems like the A.L. East is aggressively tapping into the Cuban market for players with Igelsias, Hechevarria …. now Anderson being signed to hefty deals. Too bad about Desmond Jennings going on the shelf for you guys. I wouldn’t have thought that he could have made the lineup this season.

    Jeff,

    I don’t know what it is about state/team loyalty. The Jays always thrive to bring in Canadian players no matter how bad they are (i.e. Cory Koskie). No doubt, that factored in my decision on Overbay.

  9. OPWRKDNSCGTO

    I am too late to post here but I wanted to contribute too. Rays seems like a good destination for Lyle because Pena is a Boras agent that would want to be overpaid his little value he has and I doubt Rays would be interested in that even if they let go of Crawford. Mariners have found an answer in Justin Smoak hopefully. Mets are off the list as well because davis has done well this season. A’s won’t possibly replace Barton (superior 1B defensively and offensively) with Overbay. I am a Nationals fan and I think he might fit into our plans nicely. Most likely we will let go of Dunn because of his weak defense. Then I would like Nats to sign a good defensive 1B and Overbay seems to be the best choice. He might be willing to sign a couple of year deal and will be much cheaper than any other 1B FA. So we can also get a better OF in Crawford or Werth.

  10. welikeroywelikeroy

    Thanks for coming by, dude! I appreciate your comments.

    Overbay and Barton are basically the same type of player at 1B. Good defense, high .OBP, team contributor. Barton having a much better year with .OBP. Your right, why would the A’s want Overbay if Barton is already established there. I didn’t think much of Barton going into this year, but he has proved his value.

    Back when I made this post, Overbay was in a tremendous early slump. As the season winds down, however, things have changed. Lyle has actually made a pretty nice season for himself hitting 19 homers, and getting his average to a nearly respectable .248. Something is telling me that he might possibly get something in the 4-5 mill range. The 2-3 mill prediction I made, might just be a result of his early slumpage.

    My pick was the Mariners, but they addressed their need with the Smoak trade.

    For your sake, I hope that he signs with the Nationals. Some of Overbay’s best year were in the National league. Although at this point, I wouldn’t rule out the Blue Jays bringing him back. The recent trade the Jays made sending Brett Wallace out of town, caught me a little off guard. It is also difficult for me to see the Jays going with Adam Lind next year at 1B?

    Jeremy

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