Garrett Atkins flopped for the Orioles after signing a one-year, $4.5 million deal last offseason, so he’s had to settle for a minor-league contract with the Pirates this time around and will be reunited with former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle.
Atkins gets an invitation to spring training, but the Pirates have already inked fellow third basemen/first basemen Andy Marte and Josh Fields to minor-league pacts, so there will be some competition for corner infield bench spots in Pittsburgh.
Atkins has gone from hitting .329 with 29 homers and 120 RBIs as a 26-year-old to on the verge of being out of baseball at age 31, and while that’s surprising it wasn’t particularly sudden. In his final four seasons with the Rockies his OPS dropped from .965 to .853 to .780 to .650, and by the end his numbers away from hitter-friendly Coors Field were horrendous. And then he hit .214 with a .562 OPS in 44 games for the Orioles, earning $500,000 per RBI.
Getting tired of waiting for Adam LaRoche to accept or decline their reported three-year, $21 million offer has caused the Orioles to “renew talks with Derrek Lee,” according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun.
Zrebiec reports that a deal with LaRoche was believed to be imminent at one point, but now the two sides are at an “impasse” for unknown reasons. He speculates that LaRoche is either holding out for more money or simply “doesn’t want to play in Baltimore.”
In either case the Orioles might be better off signing Lee to a one-year deal anyway. LaRoche is a solid enough player, but a slightly above average first baseman isn’t worth a three-year commitment at that type of money and there’s a strong chance Lee will be the more valuable first baseman in 2011.
Lee is coming off arguably the worst season of his career, yet his .774 OPS is basically the same as the .788 OPS posted by LaRoche. Age and health are also factors, but I’d certainly take my chances on Lee for one year before going anywhere near LaRoche for three years.
Baltimore is “closing in on signing” first baseman Adam LaRoche, according to Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse.
Craig wrote this morning that the Orioles, Nationals, and Padres are seemingly fighting it out for LaRoche and Derrek Lee, so perhaps Lee could generate a nice little bidding war now.
Arizona declined its $7.5 million option on LaRoche for 2011, choosing a $1.5 million buyout instead, and then LaRoche turned down the Diamondbacks’ arbitration offer, so they’ll receive a compensatory draft pick between the first and second rounds for letting him walk.
LaRoche drove in a career-high 100 runs this year, but also had his lowest batting average (.261), on-base percentage (.320), and OPS (.788) since 2005. He’s typically been a slightly above-average first baseman offensively and adds some extra value with a good glove.
If the Orioles end up signing LaRoche he’ll join trade acquisitions Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy as part of a new-look infield that includes just one holdover in second baseman Brian Roberts.
Peter Gammons reported yesterday that the Red Sox had agreed to a contract with Matt Albers, while “a source familiar with the negotiations” told Alex Speier of WEEI.com that the deal is “getting closer” but “not done yet.”
Albers was non-tendered earlier this month by the Orioles, who didn’t want to keep him despite a projected salary that likely would have been around $1 million or so in 2011.
He had a 4.62 ERA in 193 innings spread over three seasons in Baltimore, but posted a sub par 124/92 K/BB ratio while allowing opponents to hit .274.
However, as a ground-ball guy with an average fastball that clocked in at 92.5 miles per hour this season the 27-year-old right-hander could be a useful middle relief option if his control improves.