Friday, January 23, 2009

How Four Days in December Shaped the Third Base Market

On December 8th, the Dodgers signed Casey Blake to a 3 year contract worth $17 million bucks. Blake, 36, was coming off a season in which he hit .274 with 21 home runs and 81 RBIs while compiling a .345 OBP. Solid yet unspectacular numbers for the veteran Blake, who at this point in his career seems to be a lock to hit between .260-.270 with 20 home runs.

Casey Blake was by far the best and safest option on the free agent market in the beginning of December. With Joe Crede's career in doubt because of constant back issues, the stable Blake became a target of both the Dodgers and the Twins.

However, when it came down to it, the Dodgers were the only team to offer Blake a guaranteed third year, which left them as the winners in the Blake sweepstakes. Even though Blake is already 36 and not a great defensive player, the Dodgers felt the need to give Blake the third year because of the stiff competition from thr Twins and the lack of viable options on the third base market.

But then December 12th, the Astros non-tendered starting third baseman Ty Wigginton. Even though Wigginton, 31, was coming off a season where he hit 23 home runs and 58 RBI in only 385 ABs, the Astros needed to cut payroll, and Wigginton became the unlikely causality. At this point in his career, Wigginton is likely to hit around .270 with 20 or so home runs. Sounds a lot like Casey Blake huh?

Now a free agent, Wigginton, only 31, has struggled to garner up much serious interest. He is of course looking to be a starter, but right now no one is sure that the opportunity will be available to him. The Twins, yes the same Twins who aggressively pursued average at best defender Casey Blake, have apparently shied away from Wigginton because of concerns about his glove.

So how different might it have been for both Blake and Wigginton if both were free agents at the same time? Well, I can tell you this much. There is no way in the world that Casey Blake gets three years from the Dodgers and I have significant reason to believe that Wigginton would have gotten strong interest from the Dodgers as well. With two quality third basemen on the market, the Dodgers could have simply played the waiting game to see which guy would have taken the more "team-friendly" offer.

However, because Wigginton was let go four days after Blake signed, we will never know how this would have played out. But what we do know is that because of the four day gap, Casey Blake has a contract that he probably never would have received while Ty Wigginton is struggling to find a new home in 2009.

Further proof the timing is everything folks. These two guys will put up roughly the same numbers in 2009, but the younger Wigginton (five years) is the one who is struggling to find work. Go figure.

And as for the Dodgers, they were forced to overpay for an aging third baseman, who is likely to decline within the next year or two. Not too many reasons to like this deal if you're a Dodger fan.


drbruce said...

Hey, maybe the mets should sign Wiggington- he's better off than what they have at 2nd even if he is mediocre in the field

Fikri said...

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