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The First-Base Picture, Beyond Teixeira

Since we all seem to be of the mind that the Nationals are the longest of longshots to win the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes, it may be useful to look - as the Nationals have been doing, I'm told -- at what else is out there on the marketplace in terms of first basemen, as a Plan B (or C or D).

The short answer: not much.

The next-most desirable free agent first baseman after Teixeira? Depending upon your tastes, it could be Eric Hinske, Richie Sexson, Kevin Millar, Sean Casey, Rich Aurilia or Tony Clark. In other words, yuck, yuck and yuck.

Now, if you believe there is a reasonable chance that the injured (or make that perpetually injured) Nick Johnson - who remains under contract to the Nationals for $5.5 million in 2009 - will be ready for spring training, and can remain healthy for a large portion of the season, it could make sense simply to supplement him with a low-cost veteran from that list. But it appears as if the Nationals don't believe it, and we would tend to agree that it's always very risky to assume full health for Nick Johnson.

A second group of possibilities exists on the trade market - where some attractive first baseman are at least theoretically available -- but it is difficult to locate a good match for the Nationals among those teams. Here are four possibilities:

*Prince Fielder. The Brewers are not exactly seeking to trade their cornerstone cleanup hitter, but they also appear willing to listen to offers, because he is about to start costing them a lot of money via arbitration - at least $8 million next season in his first year of arbitration eligibility, with hefty raises in each of the following two seasons - and will become a free agent after the 2011 season. Their chances of locking him up to a long-term deal before then are slim, since Fielder's agent is Scott Boras. It would take a lot to pluck him away from the Brewers, and the Nationals are not exactly loaded with the type of can't-miss, close-to-major-league-ready prospects that such a deal would require.

*Adrian Gonzalez. Similarly, the Padres are not eager to trade their best young player - whom they have locked up at an affordable price ($3 million in 2009, $4.75 million in 2010, with a club option for $5.5 million in 2011) - but are in absolute fire-sale mode, and thus would likely listen to offers for him. Again, though, it would probably take multiple blue-chip prospects to get him.

*Paul Konerko. The White Sox are definitely interested in moving the 32-year-old Konerko, a three-time all-star who is under contract for $12 million in both 2009 and 2010. At that price, the Nats' cost in prospects would be minimal, but there are the problems of Konerko's slipping production (his OPS slipped from .932 in 2006 to .841 in 2007 to .782 this season) and his full no-trade privileges.

*Garrett Atkins. The Rockies have made it known Atkins is available this winter, and he is two more seasons away from free agency. But he's also a third baseman by trade, although he has played 77 games at first base in his career, with 61 of those coming last year.

That's the basic lay of the land. So you tell me: What would you do?

By Dave Sheinin  |  November 21, 2008; 10:09 AM ET
 
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Comments

Let's assume a few things:

1. The Nats are not the longest of long shots for Tex. The only question is length v. cost and/or are one of the "biggies" willing to overspend. Answer...probably.

2. Fielder is a non-starter. No one outside of the AL will touch him because of his perpetual weight problem.

3. Atkins is the best of those available and could certainly grow with the team.

4. Johnson remains an option, assuming that there is someone in the system (Marrero?) who will be ready in '10.

My best guess...work with Willingham. He's not spectacular, but will be at least adequate and could turn into a serious firstbaseman.

Posted by: Catcher50 | November 21, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

What would I do? After reading that, add a few more years and a couple more million to what I was planning to offer Teixeira is what I'd do.

To me, Gonzalez is the most attractive prospects among those you mention. The cost, however, would be prohibitive, I'm afraid.

Ditto for Fielder, whom I very much enjoy watching (and whom I respect for being a vegetarian).

So it looks like it's going to look something like either Konerko at 1st or a Johnson/Sexson platoon, unless Bowden can get creative and pull in someone like Saltalamacchia from Texas (who has only played 38 games at 1B, all in 2007).

Posted by: JohninMpls | November 21, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Although Fielder would be a nice pickup, the Brewers have a half-decent front office that won't give him up for cheap. Gonzalez is not only the biggest bargain, salary-wise, but Kevin Towers is an awful GM who could be talked into giving up baseball's next great slugger for far less than he is worth. They'd be set for years with Gonzalez at first.

http://www.examiner.com/x-901-Washington-Nationals-Examiner

Posted by: johnbdugan | November 21, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I really don't think it matters much what is written in the paper or blogs about what you/we would do. Until it is proven and that it becomes history that the front office of the Nationals has shown they will unlock the safe and pay for a premium player or two, speculation simply is just that. I will believe it when I see it. Now, to put it bluntly, I'll be shocked if Nick Johnson is not the opening day starter at first base. To me, it's just that simple. Good luck Nick.

Posted by: cokedispatch | November 21, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

What is the latest on Nick Johnson - is he healthy enough to resume baseball activities - shouldn't he play some Winter Ball to shake off the cobwebs?

Posted by: comish4lif | November 21, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I know he's a LF techinically, but Adam Dunn is at least one of the free agent "options" for Nats 1B.

Posted by: Nacer09 | November 21, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

As much as I'd like to see Texiera here, Adrian Gonzalez would likely work out even better. I would offer something like Marrero, Detwiler and Martis to San Diego and see if they bite. All 3 are great prospects, but they are just that, prospects. If you have to add Nick Johnson or Austin Kearns and eat his salary, go ahead and do it. You might even consider Willingham or Milledge instead of Johnson/Kearns. If you take out Marrero, give them 2 MLB players.

You might also be able to slip in one of the up and coming Catcher prospects we have, like Norris, instead of Martis or Detwiler. The Pads look like they need help across the board, much like we do, but I don't know their farm system except that it has been written about as being terrible.

Posted by: NatsWin | November 21, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I echo the sentiment for Nick Johnson. Take that money and sign Derek Lowe.

Posted by: sbiel2 | November 21, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Sign Adam Dunn, who has played more than a few games at 1B in his day. Then if Johnson is ready he plays first, and if not you put Dunn there fulltime. If Johnson is ready to go you move one from Kearns, Millege or Pena to

Also, Why exactly can't Pena play 1b? Or Willingham or any of our surplus of outfielders?

Posted by: tboss | November 21, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Wouldn't Adam Dunn be Plan B?

One other option could be to hope Nick is healthy, and use as his backup someone from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. I believe the deadline to protect players on the 40-man roster ended yesterday, so we should be seeing some names popping up of players available for the draft soon.

Also, has it been mentioned that according to the e-mail from the Nats to season-ticket holders, the free Nats Express Shuttle from RFK to Nats Park will continue next season?! Speaking for those of us that drove with kids, this is GREAT! Thank you Lerners.

Posted by: erocks33 | November 21, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Catcher50

To begin with I think we can safely say that we are indeed a long shot for Texeria. Three teams with deep pockets and excellent shots at reaching the world series before his contract would run out are in the bidding.

I like Gonzalez but a team in fire sale/rebuild mode is very unlikely to hand over a first baseman who is that cheap. Given what we would get, and given that we have two potential major leaguers in the minors at this position unless we can get a long term solution we are better off keeping our prospects and getting something a little cheaper like Konerko or Atkins.

Or maybe the Padre's will give us Gonzalez for Redding and Kearns. You know, if we get them really drunk.

Posted by: soundbloke | November 21, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

This is a joke, right? I have never seen a vegetarian with the potential to have his own zip code and climate...
__________________________________________________

Ditto for Fielder, whom I very much enjoy watching (and whom I respect for being a vegetarian).

Posted by: JohninMpls | November 21, 2008 10:31 AM

Posted by: TimDz | November 21, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Oh heck widdit, just give Scott Boras whatever he wants and take Teixeira. If the options after him are that bad, then how are the Nats gonna be able to make a statement to bring back the fans?

This is from someone who for whatever reason just renewed his 20-game plan for next season. I must be nuts, right? :-P

Posted by: Juan-John | November 21, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Nuts about the Nats? Hey, that has a nice ring to it. Might make a good song.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 21, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

On the trade front I favor Gonzalez, Fielder, Atkins, Konerko in that order. But I think there are other more likely (not necessarily more attractive) options available via trade. These include Ty Wiggenton, Travis Haffner, Daric Barton, Connor Jackson, Chad Tracy, Adam LaRoche, and others. If I could have my pick I would pry Connor Jackson away from the Dbacks.

Posted by: natbisquit | November 21, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

work on adrian gonzalez and tex. ignore the DH and reclamation types. we found a couple to keep last couple of years and now it's time to move on.

our young pitchers will need confidence in a great defense behind them. nick johnson, adrian gonzalez, teixiera all offer top notch defense.

kearns and cash/marrero/balester = gonzalez?

Posted by: longterm | November 21, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

on another note, is it any wonder we couldn't get much for cordero? look at all the closer options out there. maybe we can add a piece there also...

Posted by: longterm | November 21, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"After reading that, add a few more years and a couple more million to what I was planning to offer Teixeira is what I'd do."

Ugh, seriously.

Posted by: Section506 | November 21, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

if boston gets texiera maybe we can make a play for lars anderson. they need a defensive outfielder and catcher. maybe they would also consider guzman a worthy enough upgrade at shortstop to return lowrie.

Posted by: longterm | November 21, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

you heard it here first. guzman/kearns = lowrie/anderson!

Posted by: longterm | November 21, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

According to MLB Trade Rumors:

"According to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, outfielder Jacque Jones hopes to play in 2009. He just finished up a winter ball stint, and his agent has received some nibbles. Jones will be getting laser eye surgery this winter."

If it's the same place Guzman got his surgery, SIGN HIM NOW!

Posted by: Section506 | November 21, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

It actually is true. He became a vegetarian in the offseason after his wife, Chanel, gave him a book about how chicken and cattle are treated.

I know, it doesn't look like he's lost weight. I adopted a vegetarian lifestyle in March and I've probably only lost a pound or two. French fries, after all, are 100% vegan.

For those who care, Miller Park purportedly offers soy dogs - although I couldn't find them last year - and Ben's Chili Bowl at Nats Park features a vegetarian chili that is very good. So ball parks are coming around.

-----

This is a joke, right? I have never seen a vegetarian with the potential to have his own zip code and climate...

Posted by: JohninMpls | November 21, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Fat Matt Returns ... Matt Lecroy is the new manager of the Hagerstown Suns, the Nats Low A affiliate

Posted by: Brian_ | November 21, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Longterm:

Absolutely love the optimism!

Posted by: soundbloke | November 21, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Come on. We all know that Bowden has already called Adam Dunn and told him and his agent to shop a deal around and bring him a number.

I will be VERY surprised if Dunn is not a National by the New Year.

Willingham is going to play in the outfield. I think the team has finally come to the realization that Austin Kearns is not going to develop into a consistent run producer and was grossly over-valued by the organization.

Why this team signed Dmitri Young to a 2 year extension when no one else would have offered him more than 1 is a mystery to me.

For a player like Young, who admitted he sat on his laurels in the last offseason and failed to control his weight, he needs the pressue of a 1 year contract to continue to focus and prepare.

Another example of the front office not really knowing a player on their roster.

For all the money wasted on LoDuca, Young, Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns in 2008 we could have had Derek Jeter under contract.

What a joke.

Posted by: leopard09 | November 21, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"Matt Lecroy is the new manager of the Hagerstown Suns, the Nats Low A affiliate"

How bad will his boys have to play to drive him to tears?

Posted by: nunof1 | November 21, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

My order of first base possibilities and the chances: Teixiera-slim to none; Gonzalez and give up Marrero, Burgess, Ballister and Weilems or something to that affect-maybe, but would we/they want to do that?; a young stud such as Ka'aihue (KC), or Kyle Blanks (SD)-definitely possible, but I hear no rhetoric directed in that direction.
Otherwise, stick with what we have and go for someone like Cruz. I believe natbisquit(SP) has been one of the few bloggers to mention how an addition to the bullpen should take some priority.
I also think Sanchez(sp) could be pried away from SF at a reasonable price.
Jeeves

Posted by: jcampbell1 | November 21, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Every time I read "X will never happen, because it's the Nationals" I get a mental image of the Family Guy scene with Peter Griffin played by Bea Arthur nasally whining "You'll never make it, Joe, just give up!"

Posted by: Section506 | November 21, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

ok, roll with nick johnson and see what happens. unless tex comes, which we all doubt, the Nats wont be in playoff contention anyways. its worth it to see if nick actually suits up.

but then again, i am the biggest johnson fan this side of montreal.

going after all of these guys is nice, but at the same time, seems a little premature, especially any potential trades.

gotta upgrade the rotation, first off.

Posted by: theraph | November 21, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Section 506

Well, unlike cartoons, progress in real life is slow and takes work. We can't just go into an 80's themed montage of Stan and Bowden merrily fixin' up the club and suddenly challenge for the world series as lovable kids that no one else believed in.

Posted by: soundbloke | November 21, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad some of you aren't the GM the way you are offering four or five of our best prospects for one player.

Posted by: Nacer09 | November 21, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Dave - so you believe Ibanez can't be brought in to play 1st? He played 135 games at 1st earlier in his career, and there was talk pre-Sexson of him playing 1st rather than OF in Seattle. Why I bring up Ibanez is a 2 year, $26 million deal with an option and a buyout might land him and cover 1st until Marrero or plan B is ready. Also, if Nick can play this year, Ibanez can chill in LF or RF for a year or until Nick is dealt.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 21, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

longterm - you are not getting Lowrie. No way. But Lars Anderson would be an excellent target. My guess is BA will have him somewhere between #25 and #50 in next year's prospect list. He's too good and young to keep as an eventual Ortiz replacement. I'm not sure what the Nats have that could get Anderson, but perhaps Detwiler (they like hard throwing lefties) and Montz, and if they pull off the Willis for Lugo trade, then we could work in an AK for Willis deal as part of the package.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 21, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

One more - on the list of plan Bs, we might actually match up OK with SD. 1st, Milledge is a heck of chip, as we can tell by all the NOOOOOs! when his name is mentioned here. Also, a 2d baseman (the ex-Attorney General or Hernandez). Toss in an arm or two, too. For Gonzalez, I'd offer my arm as well.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 21, 2008 4:53 PM | Report abuse

If you give him a nice offer on a 3 or 4 year contract, won't Dunn move to 1B? Seems to me he's the next best lefty power option after Texy, he's a below average fielder, if you give him the money and he gets to bat 4 or 5 every day seems to me that's a decent Option B.
Or is a position move harder to make happen than I'm assuming?

Posted by: ajtrue78 | November 21, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Sign Adam Dunn, he can play 1b, or either corner OF position. It gives the team flexibility, and the chance for Nick Johnson to play some by using Dunn some in left and right.

There really is no other option IMO.

Posted by: raymitten | November 22, 2008 12:11 AM | Report abuse

It's just not realistic to think the Nats will land any of these top first basemen, even through a trade. I had hoped we'd try to get Nick Swisher (and the fact that the Yanks got him tends to reinforce my belief that he would have been a good addition.) Now I'd target Eric Hinske -- his career number as a regular are decent, and he's not that old. And I still think Nick Johnson can come back strong. His injuries have been from very bad luck and playing hard, not bad habits or cronic problems with muscle pulls and such. It would be wrong to give up mulitple prospects for one guy, because we're more than one guy away.

Posted by: nats24 | November 22, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

This won't happen, but...

Nomar. No, hear me out. Yes, he's made of glass. But when healthy (which yes, is never) he can hit. For certain he can hit left-handed pitching still, even with body parts falling off. He's right handed, Nick J is left handed. Platoon them - think of it as two brittle guys making up one really good guy. Nomar still has star power, so he might pull a few more people into the seats. He's also a better defender than most of the guys listed above - certainly better than Dunn, Millar or Dmitri.

Why won't it happen? Nomar's not coming over to the opposite coast from his family to play on the team that lost the most games in baseball last year, in a mostly bench role - yes, keep Nick J as the starter. (Until he gets hurt again.) And I suspect that Kasten would laugh "Yeah, just what we need - another brittle first baseman." But I think it would be a good match, if the parties could be talked into it. (If Nomar decides he wants to play still, if Bowden wants a counterpart to Nick J, if Dmitri isn't coming back soon, if if if...)

Or realistically speaking, let's hope Nick stays healthy this year. Why would Dunn come here? Surely someone else would pay him as much, with a better post-season chance? But maybe I overestimate the demand for him. What we don't want is...any of the other vets above, except maybe Hinske. Tony Clark is awful, Sexson might be worse (which is hard,) Sean Casey's a great guy but moves about as well as Dmitri does, Rich Aurilla...yeah.

Posted by: Deb49 | November 22, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

If Nick Johnson were a free agent or trade bait from another organization, he'd be exactly the kind of player Bowden looks to take a chance on -- solid skills (lifetime .852 OPS, plus defensive skills), a series of "bad luck" injuries like a broken leg, and a good clubhouse presence.

The Nats are not just one player away and they need to upgrade in many positions much more than at first base. Plus, you already have a backup first baseman in Josh Willingham, if the injuries start again.

I'll be very disappointed if Bowden decides to give away prospects or even a second round draft choice (required to get a Class A free agent like Dunn or Teixeira) to sign a first baseman. Go for a second baseman (Orlando Hudson, maybe) or, if you're going to dream big, a solid pitcher like Derek Lowe or, more realistically, Brad Penny.

Posted by: DougHerbert | November 22, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

DEb - now if Mia wanted to come back and play for the new Washington women's soccer team, then maybe Nomar would come back east.

Also, because the topic of Red Sox "pink hat" fans has come up before, the first person I ever saw on TV wearing pink hat with a B was the future Mrs. Garciaparra back around '03 or '04. I'll never criticize Mia.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 23, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

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