Non-tender tango: Garrett Atkins

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MLB_atkins.jpgDecember 12th is the deadline for teams to decide whether to
tender contracts to unsigned players on their 40-man roster. With that
in mind, this is the second in a series (
here’s the first one) regarding some of the most
likely non-tender candidates and where they may find new homes. Though
this assessment is based on some logic, it’s mostly intended to be a fun exercise.

Garrett Atkins – .226/.308/.342 with nine home runs and 48 RBI in 354 at-bats (126 games) in 2009

Why he’s a goner:

Atkins, who turns 30 in December, made $7.05 million in 2009 and
the Rockies simply won’t overpay him for a second straight year. Atkins
batted just .194/.270/.285 over the first two months last season,
losing his grip on the starting third base job to Ian Stewart. He
finished with a pathetic .199/.272/.287 slash-line against right-handed
pitching, continuing a disturbing tumble in overall production since

2006: .965 OPS (OPS+ 136)

2007: .853 OPS (OPS+ 113)

2008: .780 OPS (OPS+ 96)

2009: .650 OPS (OPS+ 66)

the cause of his precipitous decline? Well, general manager Dan O’Dowd
speculates that Atkins changed his approach at the plate after 2006
and has been unable to find his swing since:

“The way the game is set up, the
arbitration process pays for power and RBIs, for run production. Maybe
he felt this greater need to try to hit more home runs, because he was
naturally more of a line drive hitter, and tried to lift the ball and
do some different things.”

Atkins shouldn’t have spurned O’Dowd’s previous attempts at a
multi-year contract? Now that Atkins will reach free agency a year
sooner than originally thought, he won’t find a guaranteed starting job
waiting for him, but he does boast an .870 career OPS against
southpaws, including a respectable .790 OPS against left-handers in
2009. His best bet may be to find a platoon situation that could
blossom into a full-time gig.

Possible fits:

Orioles: We already know that team president
Andy MacPhail
doesn’t want prospects Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell to
start the 2010 season in the majors
. While they wait, the Orioles will
consider a group of one-year stopgaps, including Troy Glaus, Carlos
Delgado and Hank Blalock to address a corner infield spot. The Orioles
are rumored to have interest in Atkins, as well, but they’ll take their
chances on signing him once he’s cut loose by Colorado.

Rangers: Atkins has never been anything to write home about
defensively, so he could fit the bill as a designated hitter/backup
infielder-type from the right side of the plate in Texas. He’d be
worthwhile insurance for Michael Young, as well.

The Mariners are looking at in-house options of Matt Tuiasosopo, Bill
Hall, Jack Hannahan or possibly Jose Lopez at third base with Adrian
Beltre leaving via free agency.

Phillies: The Phillies could use some righty pop late off the
bench, so Atkins would give them a bit of a safety net. The Phillies
are expected to look at a group of more notable free agents like Mark
DeRosa, Adrian Beltre and Placido Polanco to be the starting third

Indians: In Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer, Paul Hoynes writes that
the Indians are seeking a right-handed first baseman
that would allow
Matt LaPorta to play the outfield against left-handers. Again, Atkins
is nothing special with the glove, but he has played 105 games at first
base in his career. Though, with LaPorta as the primary first baseman,
playing time would be infrequent.

Where he should end up:

Of the teams mentioned above,
Baltimore represents Atkins’ best situation to resurrect his career as
an everyday player. If signed, he would likely be a given a real chance
at a starting job, at least for a little while, until either Snyder or
Bell are ready for a promotion. Likewise, the Orioles could use Atkins
as a trade chip once they fall out of contention. Signing Adrian Beltre
or Chone Figgins would be a nice statement to appease the fans, but
even the most die-hard will admit they aren’t close to
contention quite yet. Though it won’t sell many tickets, signing Atkins would be
a low-risk move that could reap benefits for both sides.

Video: Jonathan Lucroy who? Roberto Perez homers twice in World Series opener for the Indians

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Roberto Perez #55 of the Cleveland Indians hits a three-run home run during the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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Back in July, then-Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy vetoed a trade that would have sent him to the Indians, helping the club make a significant upgrade behind the plate after losing Yan Gomes to an injury. At the time, Roberto Perez had only played in 11 games, batting .043. Gomes had hit .165 before his injury, and Chris Gimenez batted .202 over 42 games. It was not much of a logical leap to think the Indians would eventually falter due to a lack of production at the catching position.

But here the Indians are in the World Series facing the Cubs. In Game 1 on Tuesday night, Perez — who finished the season with a .183 average and three home runs in 184 plate appearances — drilled a pair of home runs, accounting for four of the six runs the Indians would score in a shutout win over the Cubs.

Perez’s first blast was a solo that that just cleared the left field fence at Progressive Field, coming on an 0-1 fastball from starter Jon Lester. That padded the Indians’ lead to 3-0.

The second homer put the game away, as he punished reliever Hector Rondon for hanging a 2-2 slider with two runners on base, slugging this one enough to clear the left field fence by plenty. That doubled the Indians’ lead to 6-0, the score by which they would eventually win.

Perez is the first catcher to homer twice in a World Series game since Gary Carter did it for the Mets against the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Perez is the first Indian to homer twice in the same playoff game since Jim Thome in the 1999 ALDS against the Red Sox.

Corey Kluber dazzles as Indians blank Cubs 6-0 in Game 1 of the World Series

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

From the moment Kris Bryant struck out looking for the second out of the first inning in Game 1 of the World Series, the Cubs knew Indians starter Corey Kluber brought his A-game and that they were in for a long night. Bryant was Kluber’s second strikeout victim in as many batters and he would go on to strike out eight batters through the first three innings, setting a World Series record.

The Indians, meanwhile, gave Kluber an early cushion, scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning. Francisco Lindor hit a two-out single, then stole second base against starter Jon Lester. Lester proceeded to walk Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to load the bases. Jose Ramirez brought one run home with an infield single to the left of the pitcher’s mound. The lefty then hit Brandon Guyer with a pitch to force in another run, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead.

The Indians scored one more run in the fourth inning when catcher Roberto Perez snuck a solo home run over the fence in left field, victimizing Lester yet again.

The Cubs struggled to get any kind of momentum going, wasting a leadoff double by Ben Zobrist in the second inning and a two-out double by Kyle Schwarber in the fourth. Through six innings, Kluber yielded only three hits with zero walks and nine strikeouts. He took the mound to start the seventh but departed after Zobrist led off with a single to left field.

Reliever and ALCS MVP Andrew Miller entered the game, but the Cubs seemed to have a better time against him. Schwarber drew a walk and Javier Baez singled to left, loading the bases. At the very least, it seemed, Miller would give up at least one run, if not two. The average team scored two runs with the bases loaded and no outs, according to Baseball Prospectus. But Miller showed why he was named the MVP of the ALCS, getting Willson Contreras to fly out to shallow center. Schwarber thought the ball would drop, so he was way off the second base bag, but center fielder Rajai Davis didn’t notice and fired home to ensure a run didn’t score. Despite the mistake, Miller rebounded by striking out Addison Russell and David Ross to escape the inning with no damage done

Miller returned to the mound for the eighth inning for his second inning of work. After getting Dexter Fowler to fly out, he walked Bryant. Miller got Anthony Rizzo to fly out to shallow center, but Zobrist singled to center to put runners on first and third with two outs. On his 46th pitch of the night, Miller struck out Schwarber to escape the inning.

Perez decided to double the Indians’ lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the eighth. Cubs reliever Justin Grimm walked Guyer and allowed a single to Lonnie Chisenhall, forcing manager Joe Maddon to replace him with Hector Rondon. Rondon hung a 2-2 slider and Perez crushed it, this time clearing the fence by plenty for a three-run homer. He’s the first catcher with two homers in a World Series game since Gary Carter in 1986.

Closer Cody Allen, who thought he was going to be used in a save situation, took over in the top of the ninth. After striking out Baez, Contreras doubled to right field. Allen then struck out Russell as well as pinch-hitter Miguel Montero to end the game in a 6-0 victory for the Indians.

Game 2 of the World Series will start an hour earlier than usual on Wednesday due to forecasted inclement weather late at night. Jake Arrieta will make the start for the Cubs opposite the Indians’ Trevor Bauer.