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Poor James Loney

Ned Colletti has ensured that Nomar Garciaparra will remain a Dodger until 2009. Nomar was inked to a two year deal worth 18.5 million. He will make $7.5 million in 2007, $8.5 million in 2008 his $2.5 million signing bonus will be deferred until 2009 and 2010. Is this the worst signing in the world? Nope. Is it a signing that I particularly like? No

One day after the Cubs signed Alfonso Soriano to quite possibly the worst contract in history, the Dodgers got Nomar for what is a comparably reasonable amount of money. Nomar was a slightly above average first baseman this year (approximate MLB average was .285/.362/.487 vs. Nomar's .303/.367/.505), and if Soriano's contract is any indication, nine million dollars for a very slightly above average first baseman might turn out to be a bargain in the long run.  As a benchmark, no first baseman eligible for free agency, except Nick Johnson, who out OPSed Nomar will make less than he will. Conversely, no first baseman eligible for free agency, except Richie Sexson, that Nomar out produced will make more than he will. This tells me that Nomar is being fairly compensated.

Now, the problems. Barring some unforeseen moves, the only position that Nomar is able to play is first base. Perhaps Nomar could play third against lefties, but other than that, Nomar is rooted at first base. The first question this brings up is what do we do with James Loney? Three options: move him to right field, which insures that the Dodgers will hit even less home runs than they did last year you can sit him on the bench, which probably isn't great for the development of a 23 year old, or you can send him back to AAA, which seems pointless since he has nothing left to prove there. There is also the fourth option of trading him. His sudden development of chronic knee problems seems similar to the "you won't miss Joel Guzman" propaganda that started appearing a couple months before he was traded. And of course, there is that fact that Nomar costs 2250 percent more than Loney, and likely wouldn't out produce him by that much.

The second problem that Nomar creates at first base is it limits the playtime that Olmedo Saenz would get. A team as power starved as the Dodgers should be trying to work Saenz into the lineup every time they face a lefty, but since Nomar played as much as possible last year, I doubt he'd see time. Again, you can alleviate this by moving Nomar to third against lefties, but I don't know if the Dodgers are willing to do that.

The final problem I have is the gamble that Nomar represents. I have no problem with signing injury prone guys with extreme upside, like J.D. Drew. However, I don't think Nomar has that upside. If Nomar is healthy, assuming he doesn't decline, he'll give you an .860 or so OPS, for nine million dollars. Like I said above, that seems like a reasonable contract. However, that's just the upside, the downside is that he gets hurt, and you get next to nothing. While that would solve the James Loney problem, it's not exactly an intelligent distribution of resources. When you take a risk with a guy, you should get some sort of bargain if he's healthy. I don't see that kind of bargain in Nomar if he doesn't go back to the type of production he had back in 2000, a highly unlikely occurrence.

In every version of my off-season plans, I kept getting foiled because I ran out of money. Unless the Dodgers are planning another big jump in payroll, spending 7.5 million on Garciaparra when James Loney can provide similar production for far less doesn't seem like the best plan. This is far from a crippling deal; it just doesn't seem like the best way to solve the problems the Dodgers have.