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Trade Market For First Basemen

On Tuesday we analyzed the free agent market for first basemen, noting plenty of openings and a large group of players who will be fighting for regular playing time.  Let's see what the trade market adds to the equation.

The Big Names

The Winter Meetings are coming up in a couple of months, and trade talk could be dominated by Prince Fielder rumors.  77.8% of MLBTR readers expect the big man to be traded this offseason, according to a recent site poll.  Fielder, 27 in May, had an off-year in terms of his 32 home runs and .471 SLG yet led MLB with 114 walks and posted a stellar .401 OBP.  Fielder, a Scott Boras client, reportedly rejected an extension offer from the Brewers in the five-year, $100MM range.  He's arbitration eligible this winter and could earn around $15MM in 2011 before hitting free agency.  The White Sox and Rangers were reported July suitors for Fielder; the Brewers figure to seek pitching.

A year ago Adrian Gonzalez was considered a strong trade candidate.  I think the Padres' surprising run this year takes him off the market this winter, but it'd be silly not to listen.  At $6.2MM for 2011, Gonzalez would be a superior trade target to Fielder.

Carlos Lee is more of a big contract than a big name - he's owed $37MM over the next two seasons.  Lee spent most of his time in left field but picked up 20 games at first base toward the end of the season.  He slumped to .246/.291/.417 this year and could only be dealt for a similarly bad contract.

Non-Tender Candidates

James Loney, Casey Kotchman, and Dan Johnson are our speculative first base non-tender candidates.  Loney has enough promise that a trade is much more likely than a non-tender.  Kotchman, on the other hand, is certain to be cut loose.  As for the Rays' Johnson?  He would not be expensive to retain through arbitration, having picked up only 140 big league plate appearances this year.  He is 31 years old, though, and the Rays could non-tender him in December for the flexibility.  Johnson's appeal lies in his destruction of Triple-A pitching this year, though there's no particular reason for the Rays to move him.

Projects/Platoon Bats

Four other first basemen who could draw trade interest: Travis IshikawaChris Davis, Garrett Jones, and Jeff Clement.  Ishikawa's future with the Giants may depend on whether they re-sign Aubrey Huff or another free agent.  The 27-year-old Ishikawa has a career line of .265/.327/.400 in 665 plate appearances, with problems against southpaws in a scant 67 PAs.  Davis had a shot to take over as the Rangers' regular first baseman this year, but his minor league success has not carried over.  He too has struggled against lefties and must await his team's offseason decisions.  Clouding the picture for Davis is Mitch Moreland's success this year.

The Pirates may have given up on regular playing time for Jones and Clement.  Jones had a full 654 plate appearances to prove himself, and he did hit 21 home runs, but his .247/.306/.414 line was subpar.  Like Ishikawa and Davis, lefties give him trouble.

Reds prospect Yonder Alonso would not be labeled a project at this point, but we'll put him in this group.  24 in April, Alonso was drafted 7th overall in 2008.  He hit .296/.355/.470 in 445 Triple-A plate appearances this year, and is blocked by Joey Votto.  Alonso has increased his versatility by playing 30 minor league games in left field, but he still may be dealt to fill a need.

Summary

We mentioned in the free agent post that the Orioles, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, White Sox, Rangers, Braves, Nationals, Cubs, Brewers, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Dodgers, and Giants could be seeking first base help this winter.  The trade market adds two serious names in Fielder and perhaps Loney, plus a host of players who would be cheap to acquire and will have to earn their playing time.


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