Position-by-position trade deadline preview: First base


This is the second in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Prince Fielder (Brewers) – Fielder has overcome a slow start in grand fashion: by month, he’s posted OPSs of 741, 880, 956 and now 1074 so far in July. Still, one gets the feeling that his trade value isn’t what it was a year ago. That’s in part because he’s going to be very difficult to get signed to an extension before he becomes a free agent following next season. It also doesn’t help matters that he could ask for about $20 million in arbitration over the winter. Since the offers won’t overwhelm, the Brewers will probably be better off keeping him and hoping for better luck in 2011. The White Sox are thought to be interested, but unless they offer up Gordon Beckham — and they probably won’t — there wouldn’t seem to be a potential match.
Adam Dunn (Nationals) – I led off the NL notes on Rotoworld with my thoughts on a possible Dunn deal. There’s a chance the Nationals will move Dunn if they don’t think he’ll come down from his request for a four-year, $60 million contract. Still, the odds are against it right now. The White Sox and Yankees have shown the most interest.
Derrek Lee (Cubs) – Lee posted the second-best OPS of his career as a 33-year-old in 2009, but at .247/.337/.391 right now, he’s currently on pace to finish below 800 for the first time since 1999. Maybe there is still time for that to change: he’s gone 11-for-26 with five extra-base hits and eight RBI in six games since the All-Star break. Lee has a no-trade clause and likes Chicago, so it’s not simply a matter of the Cubs finding a taker for him. It’s possible he’ll accept a trade, but far from a given. An August deal could be a possibility here.
Lance Berkman (Astros) – Berkman and Lee are basically in the same boat: both are former All-Stars having down years and both have no-trade clauses and no huge desire to move on. The two are also free agents at season’s end, though Berkman has a $2 million buyout attached to a $15 million option for 2011 that makes him a more expensive proposition. Berkman came out last week and said he didn’t expect to be traded, but because of his salary, he’s another player who could potentially be available during August.
Adam LaRoche (Diamondbacks) – LaRoche would seem to have about as much to offer as Lee and Berkman, but with fewer strings attached. He doesn’t have a no-trade clause, and while his contract includes a $1.5 million buyout attached to a mutual option for 2011, he’ll be owed just $1.5 million over the final two months of this season. The Diamondbacks may be willing to pick up a portion of that buyout anyway, since it’s money they expected to be on the hook for all along. LaRoche, typically a second-half player, is hitting .259/.332/.453 at the moment. It seems doubtful that the Giants would bid for him after he spurned them last winter, but he’d make a lot of sense for the Angels.
Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays) – Overbay isn’t going to be anyone’s top choice, but there are worse platoon first basemen around. He’s gotten better every month since a dreadful April, and while his overall .251/.331/.414 line is still pretty unimpressive, he’s hit a respectable .271/.363/.449 against righties. Odds are that he’ll clear waivers and remain available into next month. If the Angels, Giants, Rangers or another contender is sweating its first base situation then, Overbay could be a fit.
Xavier Nady (Cubs) – While Nady could step in at first base for the Cubs if Lee is traded, he’s actually the more likely of the two to get dealt. He’s struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery, but that’s in part due to a lack of at-bats. He’s had just 141 this season, hitting .220/.289/.340 in the process. No contender should be looking to pick him up to play regularly, but he could probably help a team starting three times per week between first base, the outfield and maybe DH.
Russell Branyan (Mariners) – Branyan has been laid up with another back injury of late, making a trade a whole lot less likely. The Mariners, who just picked him up from the Indians last month, weren’t going to get much for him anyway, so they’ll probably just keep him and hope his power will help them avoid a 100-loss season.
Casey Kotchman (Mariners) – It didn’t figure that anyone would want Kotchman a month ago, but he’s bounced back to hit .333/.422/.692 with three homers in 39 at-bats during July. Like Overbay, he’s a potential fallback for a team that fails to get its top choice. It helps his case that he’s the slickest fielder in this group.
Dan Johnson (Rays) – In Johnson and Chris Richard, the Rays have a couple of the International League’s top performers stashed away at Durham. Johnson, 30, is hitting .300/.413/.603 with 25 homers in 307 at-bats, and he’s been playing plenty of third base and left field, which might make him more interesting to teams. The 36-year-old Richard is batting .297/.387/.514 in 286 at-bats. The Rays may yet decide to give Johnson a look as a part-timer, but if he’s not in their plans at all, letting him go to a team that would use him would be the kind thing to do.

Diamondbacks hire Dave Magadan as hitting coach

Dave Magadan Rangers
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Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks’ new hitting coach is Dave Magadan, who “parted ways” with the Rangers last month after three years filling the same role in Texas.

Magadan also previously was the Red Sox’s hitting coach and his teams have generally done pretty well, including the Rangers scoring the third-most runs in the league this year.

He’ll have plenty of talent to work with in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks scored the second-most runs in the league led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta. Turner Ward, who had been Arizona’s hitting coach, chose to leave the team two weeks ago.

A’s reacquire Jed Lowrie in trade with Astros

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie, who was traded from the Astros to the A’s in 2013 and then re-signed with the Astros as a free agent last offseason, has now been traded back to the A’s.

Lowrie got a three-year, $23 million deal from the Astros with the idea that he’d play shortstop in the first season and then move to another position whenever stud prospect Carlos Correa arrived. Instead he got hurt right away, Correa became an immediate star, and the Astros weren’t so keen on paying him $15 million over the next two seasons.

He could resume playing shortstop for the A’s, who watched rookie Marcus Semien make an absurd number of errors there this year. Lowrie hit .271 with a .738 OPS in two seasons in Oakland, which is similar to his career totals and makes him a solidly above-average offensive shortstop. There’s a decent chance the A’s will have a Lowrie-Lawrie double-play duo in 2016.

In return the Astros get minor leaguer Brendan McCurry, a 24-year-old right-hander who split 2015 between high Single-A and Double-A with a 1.86 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 63 relief innings. He was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2014 and doesn’t have exceptional raw stuff, but McCurry’s numbers are incredible so far.

White Sox sign catcher Alex Avila to a one-year deal

Detroit Tigers' Alex Avila, right, is congratulated by third base coach Dave Clark after his solo home run in the third inning in the second game of a baseball doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

There have been a lot of articles published in the past few days about how to navigate awkward Thanksgiving conversations with your relatives. Heck, we even wrote one.

But there’s always room for more! Such as “How to talk to your father at Thanksgiving dinner about the fact that he let you walk away from the only team you’ve ever known to sign with a division rival.” Which is what Alex Avila will likely be talking about with his father, Tigers GM Al Avila:

The older Avila can’t even say he did it because he’s opposed to nepotism. After all, he just hired his other son — who has had his law degree for just over a year — as the Tigers assistant legal counsel for baseball operations. Though I’m sure that wasn’t nepotism. He probably just aced the interview and impressed everyone more than the other candidates did.

OK, those are jokes. In all seriousness, this is a good move for Alex and Al and, probably, the White Sox. With the emergence of James McCann, there really is not space for Alex Avila in Detroit in anything other than a backup capacity. In Chicago, he’ll get more playing time. At least if he can (a) stay healthy; and (b) not hit .191/.339/.287 again like he did in 2015.

Pirates sign outfielder/first baseman Jake Goebbert

Jake Goebbert

The best thing about minor Thanksgiving week transactions is that they are almost certainly done by GMs frantically looking for some work to do rather than go pick up their in-laws at the airport. I mean, sure, the player in question could very easily be an important player who fills a key role in the organization, but it’s not like it couldn’t have waited until Monday, right? This is the GM equivalent of you pretending you have to run into the office on Wednesday afternoon and, in reality, driving around in your car, listening to Neil Young and promising that NEXT YEAR you’re just doing a small Thanksgiving dinner with no family and, maybe, might even go on a little trip, just you and the wife.

Or is that just me? OK, maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, that’s how I’m choosing to view the Pirates activity today. First they traded for Allen Webster and now they’re signing minor league free agent first baseman/outfielder Jake Goebbert, according to Adam Berry of MLB.com.

Goebbert, 28, hit .294 with an .844 OPS and 10 homers for Triple-A El Paso last season. He has 115 plate appearances in the bigs, all for San Diego in 2014. Overall he has a line of .282/.386/.465 with 30 homers in 997 Triple-A plate appearances in the Astros, Athletics and Padres organizations.

Not a bad depth move, especially given that the Pirates are looking to trade Pedro Alvarez and otherwise re-jigger their first base situation.