In today’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo reports that free agent first baseman/DH Lyle Overbay hasn’t drawn much interest thus far in the off-season. Overbay turns 37 years old next month and has posted a below-average adjusted OPS in each of the past three seasons (88, 95, 87; 100 is average) but he proved to be quite useful to the Yankees when Mark Teixeira succumbed to a wrist injury.
If used as a platoon partner at first base or at DH, Overbay makes sense for a team looking to boost production on a budget. He posted a .748 OPS against right-handed pitching last season compared to .516 against lefties and has an .815/.684 split over his 13-year career. Cafardo suggests the Orioles or Indians could be fits but doesn’t expect Overbay to find a home until January.
Unfortunately for Overbay, this off-season has featured a glut of options at first base, so his value is less than it normally would be in a typical off-season. Five free agent first baseman signed multi-year deals, another six received a one-year deal, Kevin Youkilis went to Japan, and still there are in excess of ten free agent first basemen remaining including Overbay.
Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.
Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.
Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.