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!
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?
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
The Possible Frontrunners
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.
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.
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.
The quartet in the A.L. East has just gotten a lot more powerful. The expression, ‘beasts from the east,’ has never been more true than it is right now. The Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays look to improve on strong years that saw each of them support very respectable final records.
So, what do these teams have to look forward to in 2009? Well, at least these are the guys I will be looking forward to seeing in 2009.
The Red Sox have these guys.
Probably one of the best left-handers in the game, Jon Lester, is only getting better. Last year he showed what he is capable of. A ‘big’ 2009 may be in the works for him. If you were wondering who the guy tucked on the right is? It is Lars Anderson, Red Sox first base prospect. Anderson was only drafted in 2006, however, he has been killing the minors and should probably get a look at ‘the show’ this season. Anderson’s future prospects were definately one of the reasons why the Red Sox did not pursue Mark Teixeria as aggressively as many might have hoped. Last year’s American League MVP and all-around scrappy ‘little-big man,’ Dustin Pedroia, will be interesting to watch in 2009. First of all, the guy is always getting dirty, putting his heart on the field and awkwardly swinging to stardom. I love Pedroia’s game. If watching the AL MVP follow-up on his amazing season is not enough, then watching him making diving plays at second, steal bases and try to ‘leg out’ a double on every ball he banks off the monster is. He’s a small guy, but he plays very big and right now he ‘big in Boston.’
As if the Rays needed any more players young players. They have David Price.
The number-one-pick overall in 2007, and it is easy to see why. He has wicked stuff. The Rays had enough confidence in him to close out games in the World Series. This year, he will likely be featured in an already steller pitching rotation that includes Scott Kazmir, Jamie Shields, Andy Sonnanstine and Matt Garza. Five legitimate starters going into 2009. Most teams would take any of these guys as their #2, if not at least #3 starter. The strength of the Tampa’s rotation will be tested against a division that just got a lot stronger in the pitching department. I’m really looking forward to seeing their young pitchers next year, especially Price (that god for MLBTV and MLB Extra Innings).
Now lets state the obvious shall we.
Everybody, me among them, is going to want to see what these lunkers will do.
Yes, the Yankees landed the ‘big fish’ in the free agent market. Their team does look devastating on paper; however, as the old cliche goes: ‘games aren’t won on paper.’ These guys will compliment Arod, Jeter and Rivera in what the Yankees are hoping is money well spent. I think everyone is going to be interested watching these three, after the contracts they just signed. To be fair, the Yankees did have a lot of money coming off the books to facilitate this.
Now for the Blue Jays. With all this looming above us (just scroll up), it is obvious the Jays will have a big challenge in 2009. We are no longer big players in the free agent market, with financial constraints the Jays cannot even afford a top 10 free agent without seriously having to budget. The Canadian dollar dwindling has hurt the club, there have been job losses in the organization (so much for me getting a job there) and we lost two of our top pitchers last season, Shaun Marcum (injury) and A.J. Burnett (free agency). Most prognosticators will predict the Jays to finish 4th in the division – just like last year no doubt. Some might even throw the Jays behind the lowly Orioles in the A.L. East. A team that I didn’t even consider for this entry because I’m not really looking forward to seeing anyone on that team (hmm… maybe Adam Jones).
So, lets be positive, because none in the organization seem to be (i.e. Vernon Wells, Cito Gaston). The Jays are going to get a very good look at some young and possibly emerging players this year. Notably Travis Snider, Adam Lind, Dustin McGowan, Jesse Litsch, David Purcey and possibly even Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, J.P. Arencibia and Scott Campbell. Travis Snider might be a ‘stud’ in the making, and if only Vernon Wells and Alex Rios could remain healthy, that would give the Jays a very strong outfield. McGowan staying healthy might actually lessen the burden of losing Burnett, Aaron Hill looks like he may be healthy and ready to get back to form, Jose Bautista and Rod Barajas are wildcards that may do well and we all hope that Scott Rolen has had enough time to rest his shoulder for a great 2009 campaign. This all being said, it will probably take all these things for the Jays to be anywhere near competitive in the A.L. East.