Assuming the Orioles choose to buy Garrett Atkins out for $500K instead of paying him $8.5MM next year, he'll hit the free agent market once again. This time, he and his agent will have a harder time securing a guaranteed contract, unless Atkins' production surges.
That's not out of the question for the 30-year-old, even though he's hitting .227/.261/.291 without any home runs. Atkins, who makes a base salary of $4MM this year, hit at a nearly identical clip (.194/.270/.285) through the first two months of last season before posting a more respectable .254/.341/.392 line for the remainder of the season. That improvement, plus the not-so-distant memory of his 2006-08 production added up to a $4.5MM payday for Atkins.
This year, he'll need a more pronounced second-half surge to obtain that kind of guarantee. It's been a while since he was a difference-maker at the plate and his defense is below average, according to UZR. Atkins is in the lineup for now, since Rhyne Hughes hasn't hit as well as the Orioles would like. But Andy MacPhail recently told Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun that the O's will continue looking at internal and external options as the club attempts to find more production at first base.
If the Orioles don't replace Atkins and he rebounds this season, he could find a modest one-year deal this winter. If he loses playing time, he'll have a hard time signing more than a minor league deal this offseason. And if the Orioles release him, there's no guarantee another team would have a roster spot for Atkins.
I don’t think the O’s will give him a long enough leash to find out whether his second half measures up to last year’s pace. As soon as Brian Roberts comes off the DL, they’ll need a place for Ty Wigginton, the only Oriole hitting in the entire lineup. Where else can they put someone with a stone glove like Ty but at first? I think Atkins starts riding the pine as soon as B-Rob comes back.