11/16/10 12:45 PM EST
Inbox: Who will Cubs trust at first base?
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat responds to fans' questions
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Is Tyler Colvin a legitimate possibility for first base? If so, why did the Cubs not see what he could do there after they traded Derrek Lee?
-- Jim W., Oak Park, Ill.
Colvin hasn't been totally ruled out to play first. It would be in his interest to dust off his glove and take some grounders there when he's working out this offseason in Mesa, Ariz., at "Camp Colvin." There are several people in the Cubs organization who think he can make the switch.
The last time Colvin played there was early in college, and that was part-time. After Lee left, the Cubs didn't want to put Colvin into a game until he was truly comfortable there. It's better to have him make mistakes at Fitch Park in Mesa than in front of 40,000 at Wrigley Field. But if general manager Jim Hendry can move an outfielder -- Kosuke Fukudome, for example -- then Colvin would stay in the outfield and the Cubs would try to add a first baseman.
What do you think about the possibility of signing Paul Konerko to be the power-hitting first baseman the Cubs need to replace Lee? Konerko is also a good fielding first sacker.
-- Rich S., Cantonment, Fla.
That would certainly add some interest to the Cubs-White Sox Interleague games. However, the Cubs would prefer a left-handed-hitting first baseman. Konerko does have a career .308 average at Wrigley Field. Konerko, who will turn 35 in March, also doesn't seem to be a good fit for the Cubs' budget after being paid $12 million this past season.
I've heard much talk and reports about Adam Dunn to play first base, but I've heard little regarding veteran Lyle Overbay and nothing about a younger option in Adam LaRoche. I don't think the Cubs should throw money at the problem, and it seems these two veterans could be great in that role. What do you think?
-- Brian M., Texarkana, Ark.
Overbay and LaRoche are more viable options. Overbay, 33, hit 37 doubles and 20 homers with 67 RBIs in 2010, batting .243. He's averaging nearly 17 homers a season over the last seven years. There's a stat to be considered with defensive players called zone rating. It's the percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive "zone." Overbay ranked fifth among Major League first basemen with a ZR of .894 in 2010 and handled 150 double plays. The ZR leaders at first were Ike Davis, Daric Barton, Adrian Gonzalez and James Loney. LaRoche ranked 11th (.872), Lee 12th (.865), Dunn 21st (.822) and Konerko 22nd (.778). LaRoche isn't that much younger than Overbay. Read on.
Why has LaRoche's name not been mentioned in the first-base derby? He had excellent production last year for the D-backs.
-- Jack W., Chicago
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LaRoche, 31, did hit 25 homers, 37 doubles and drove in 100 runs for the D-backs, but he batted a less-than-excellent .261 and struck out a career-high 172 times. Earlier this month, Arizona declined its half of the $7.5 million mutual option and paid him a $1.5 million buyout. If Arizona offers LaRoche arbitration and he rejects it to sign elsewhere, the D-backs will receive a sandwich-round pick in next year's First-Year Player Draft because he's a Type B free agent.
When Victor Martinez was in Cleveland, he played both catcher and first base. Is there any chance the Cubs look at Martinez for first base? I know he's going on 32, but he's averaged over 20 homers and had a .300 average throughout his career and has a .994 fielding percentage at first.
-- Brian L., Mt. Prospect, Ill.
The Red Sox reportedly want Martinez back. The Tigers are reported to be targeting him as well, and they would have him share catching duties, start at first and be a designated hitter. Martinez is a Type A free agent, he'll cost a top Draft pick and be expensive.
Why not consider Lance Berkman at first?
-- Mike B., Adairsville, Ga.
Berkman, who wants to play first on a regular basis, has seen his power numbers slip. The switch-hitter, who will turn 35 in February, spent 41 days on the disabled list in 2010 because of knee and ankle injuries. He also hit .171 against left-handers. Berkman appears to be a better fit for an American League team that can use him as a designated hitter.
There is an outstanding defensive first baseman who had 111 RBIs in 2009 and is coming off a down year and may be available for less than market value. Are the Cubs even considering signing Lee?
-- Bill R., Mesa, Ariz.
Sorry, but no. Lee, 35, is a stellar defensive first baseman. But he'll be coming back from offseason thumb surgery, he hit .233 in the first half of 2010 and batted .234 with runners on base for the season. It's time to move on.
Who have we missed? Aubrey Huff, who turns 34 in December, is a free agent. In his last seven seasons, Huff has played for five different teams, including the defending World Series champion Giants. Who could've predicted 26 homers, 86 RBIs, an .891 OPS and a ring -- for $3 million?
It seems the Cubs have a good first-base prospect in Micah Hoffpauir. Given the opportunity to play every day, he may be a good fit at first. He's left-handed and can hit for power. He's shined in the Minors and should hit better in the Majors, given the chance to play regularly. Do you think the Cubs will take a chance or look elsewhere?
-- Jim J., Tuckerton, N.J.
Hoffpauir has been a star at Triple-A Iowa (.294 career average, .866 OPS), but he has now played 162 big league games over three seasons and has a .251 average, including .173 (9-for-52) this past season in 24 contests. In 2009, with regular at-bats, he hit .239.