11/03/10 11:45 AM EST
At first, plenty of slugging options available
Dunn, Konerko offer pop on free-agent market
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Carlos Pena, Lance Berkman and Derrek Lee are among the exceptionally deep crop of first basemen on the free-agent market this season. The group is much deeper than last year, when Aubrey Huff proved to be one of the biggest names looking for a home.
The Giants signed Huff to a one-year, $3 million contract last winter, and he proved to be a bargain after he hit .290 with 26 homers and 86 RBIs and helped the Giants win the World Series. Huff will be among those back on the market this year.
While Berkman and Lee -- both of whom were traded in midseason to teams that reached the playoffs -- appear to be on the downside of their careers, Dunn and Konerko are both coming off seasons in which they put up big-time power numbers.
With so many big names possibly ready to change addresses, first base will be a fascinating position to keep an eye on.
Looking to buy: There should be no shortage of teams looking for some impactful help at first base. The Orioles have a huge hole at first and could spend money more at that position than any other, especially after the unsuccessful Garrett Atkins deal last year.
The Rays are cutting payroll, so bringing back Carlos Pena after a bad season might not make sense. The D-backs figure to be a huge player at first after being left with Brandon Allen when they declined Adam LaRoche's contract option.
The Dodgers need a power hitter at first, but would have to deal James Loney to make room. The Pirates would like to make an addition at first with power potential. The White Sox want Paul Konerko back after his monster season and can pay him appropriately, but he might prefer to be closer to his home on the West Coast.
The Cubs are in the market for a first baseman, but are going to be more conservative paying for one. The Rockies need a corner infield bat, preferably right-handed. The Nationals may try to keep Adam Dunn or search for a better defender at the position. The Blue Jays and A's could also be sniffing for a first baseman.
Top Dogs: Dunn and Konerko were both among the top four in the Major Leagues in home runs this year, with Dunn hitting 38 and Konerko 39. Only Albert Pujols and Jose Bautista hit more. Dunn, who has hit at least 40 homers five times since 2004, is only 31 and is definitely more suited to play first base or designated hitter at this point in his career than he is the outfield. Konerko, 34, will be looking at his last contract, most likely, meaning he's probably due a three-year deal. He lives in Arizona, so he might prefer going to a West Coast team. The White Sox could keep Konerko and still add a left-handed bat such as Dunn, whom general manager Ken Williams has coveted for a while.
Best of the Rest: Huff was a steal at $3 million for the Giants last winter, and he is back on the market after an excellent season at the plate. Lee is a declining player who hit .260 with 19 homers and 80 RBIs last year, but could still start for someone. The same is true for Berkman, a switch-hitter who hit a combined .248 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs last year with the Astros and Yankees. LaRoche, who has hit 25 homers for three straight seasons and drove in 100 runs last year, could start for a lot of teams. Someone might take a flier on Pena, who had good power numbers but hit just .196.
Worth a Shot?: Atkins struggled mightily in Baltimore, but is still only 31 years old. The rest of the crop is made up largely of players in their mid-30s and beyond: Russell Branyan, Xavier Nady, Troy Glaus, Eric Hinske, Mark Kotsay, Melvin Mora, Ty Wigginton and Lyle Overbay. The Blue Jays might want Overbay back on a one-year deal after he hit 20 homers and drove in 67 runs.
Potential 2012 class: Next year's list of free agents is shaping up to be one of the most star-studded and exciting as any in recent memory. It's a list that includes possibly one of the biggest names to hit free agency in years: Pujols of the Cardinals. Sluggers Prince Fielder of the Brewers and Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres are also in line to be free agents and could be dealt at some point next year. Also up for free agency: Michael Cuddyer, Ross Gload, Casey Kotchman and Nick Swisher.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.