The Remaining Left-Handed Hitting 1B/DH Options for the 2011 Blue Jays


Last Wednesday, in an article on the Jays official team website, GM Alex Anthopoulos revealed that he is becoming more receptive to the idea of converting Adam Lind into a first baseman when he said:

"“We’re getting a little more intrigued by it. We’re not ready to commit to it right now, but we would like to have a scenario where at least we can continue to find out about Adam at first. The upside for us long term in finding out about Adam, there’s huge value to that.”"

Even though he is inclined to having Adam Lind as the Jays’ Opening Day first baseman, Anthopoulos still hinted towards signing a DH/1B option to complement Lind when he said:

"“Just for the roster construction going forward. So, to find someone that can be a little bit more of a hybrid role — whether they’re DH and play some first — that’s the ideal scenario for us.”“To go sign a bona fide first baseman that you’re going to have to promise everyday at-bats … we can sit here the following year and say: ‘You know what, we still haven’t truly found out about Adam Lind because we had an established first baseman that needed to play the position.'”"

The concept of bringing in a possible veteran to platoon with and mentor Lind at first, but DH when needed as well, makes total sense. That being said though, the current state of the 1B/DH free agent market is not exactly overwhelming.

Below is a look at the remaining left-handed hitting 1B/DH options that are available on the free agent market. Add your comments in the section below, and I’ll have a post on the remaining right-handed hitting options tomorrow.

Jason Giambi:

Signed to a 1-year/$1.75M contract by the Rockies for 2010, Giambi operated primarily as a pinch-hitter while appearing in 37 games at 1B this season. He compiled a .244/.378/.398 slash line along with 6 HR and 35 RBI in 176 at-bats for the Rockies this season.

He’s perhaps the most seasoned option at first base, having played at least 270 innings at the position every season since 1996. He also hit left-handed pitching respectably this past season with a .277/.390/.489 line.

He definitely has veteran experience he could pass along to a young Jays team, but he will turn 40 in January and he always gets hassled in Toronto for his connection to steroids in the past.

Mark Kotsay:

In the last two seasons, Kotsay has played a total of 591.1 innings at first base, committing just one error. Along with 8 HR and 31 RBI, he hit a poor .239/.306/.376 line in 107 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2010.

In addition to playing first base, the recently turned 35-year-old Kotsay can play all three outfield positions. He made just $1.5M in 2010, and could be one of the cheaper options available.

Russell Branyan:

In 109 games split between the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners in 2010, Branyan managed a .237/.323/.487 line along with 25 HR and 57 RBI. He played 51 games at 1B this season and 116 there last season, and he can also play third base. Like Kotsay, Branyan only made $1.5M in 2010, so he would likely come as one of the cheaper 2011 options.

While Branyan has power, he also strikes out a ton. The soon to be 35-year-old struck out 131 times this past season, and has a career strikeout mark of 38%. Add the fact that he’s atrocious versus left-handed pitching (.190 avg. vs LHP in 2010), and Branyan would not seem to be the ideal platoon partner with Adam Lind, who already has trouble hitting lefties.

Nick Johnson:

Johnson, who has always had injury problems throughout his career, went on the DL May 8th with a wrist injury which then required him to have season-ending surgery in August during his rehabilitation. In a 2010 season cut short with the Yankees, Johnson posted a .167/.388/.306 line, with 24 walks in 72 at-bats.

Excluding his injury shortened 2010 campaign, Johnson has posted an OBP of .408 or higher every season since 2005, so he knows how to get on base. He has always hit LHP better than RHP over his career, and has been an adequate first baseman defensively over the course of his career.

The Yankees signed Johnson to a 1 year/$5.5M 2010 contract for 2010 after he was coming off a career-high 2009 season. It would be interesting to see if he could be signed to an incentive-based, low salary 2011 contract given his injury plagued 2010 season.

Lyle Overbay:

Despite it being highly unlikely that he would return to Toronto in 2011, especially after losing his cool with the media early in the season during his slump, Overbay could still be a last-resort option for the Jays in 2011.

I’m sure just reading Overbay’s name makes some of you want to scream, but he was healthy, appearing in 154 games, and finished the year with an acceptable slash line (.243/.329/.433).

His brutal start and finish to the year, combined with his desire for a fresh start elsewhere as an everyday first baseman, make Overbay an unlikely candidate to be on the Jays in 2011.

Other names that could be possibilities, but are highly unlikely include Jim Thome (who hasn’t played 1B since 2007), Brad Hawpe (who only has 22 career innings at 1B, all of which were in 2010), Casey Kotchman (who hit .217/.280/.336 in 2010 with the Mariners), and Hank Blalock (who only had 63 MLB at-bats in 2010).

While the more appealing 1B/DH options for the Jays next season are right-handed hitters, if I had to choose one from this list it would be Nick Johnson.

Assuming he could be signed to an incentive-laden contract. It wouldn’t hurt to have him around to teach Aaron Hill and Adam Lind how to draw a walk and be patient at the plate.


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