Spring training has not been kind to our 3rd base options so far.
1st it was Nomar - we quietly rejoiced
2nd it was LaRoche - we sweared loudly
3rd it was Abreu - it was expected
I was running around the 3rd base situation and most names have been mentioned by all the blogs except for one.
Mark Teahen was moved off of 3rd base not because of his fielding ability but because of Alex Gordon. KC is stockpiling young pitching and they might be willing to part with Teahen for something like D Young and some pitching prospects. He isn't as good as he hit in the 2nd half of 2006 but I think he's much better then he hit in 2007. For 2008 we need a real solution not a stop gap.
Nomar will not be healthy. LaRoche could easily have problems with that thumb all year long. Abreu even if healthy couldn't possibly hit enough for us to carry him as a regular 3rd baseman. DeWitt simply is not ready. Hu could be the guy but again I don't think he will hit enough and I think he will be needed at 2nd base quite a bit this year since Abreu doesn't seem up to it.
Morgan Ensberg - He made the Yankee roster but his hold is tenous. Shouldn't take much to acquire him. Can only play 3rd base but shouldn't block LaRoche if Andy can come back from the thumb injury.
Willie Aybar - Abreu will hit for average but never walk. Willie will walk a decent amount while posting a decent average. I think Aybar has a bit more pop and would be a decent short term solution. Shouldn't take much to pry him from the Rays since Longoria should be starting at 3rd base anyway.
Estaban German - I think he is essentially Willie Aybar except he's faster and without the personal baggage. He will also cost more but KC does not need him with Callapso ready to fill his role.
Wilson Betemit - funny that two guys that Ned found wanting are on this list and both of them were traded for each other. Betemit seems to be more of a spare part then ever with Arod entrenched for 10 more years. I think he'd be a great short term solution but then I thought we never should have traded him away in the 1st place.
Ryan Freel - Signed thru 2009 for about 3.5 Million. Utility player who can play everywhere but SS and 1st base. Has a hard time staying healthy but he might make a decent option. No power but had 3 straight years from 2004-2006 with an OB% above 360, twice topping 370. When LaRoche returns he'd make an excellent utility player.
Russ Branyan - Dunn Lite as a 3rd baseman. Should never be allowed to face LHP and his fielding is Kent like. He'll hit a home run now and then and walk now and then in between his gazillion strikeouts.
Wes Helms - Think Short term and it won't hurt as much to picture him as your 3rd baseman
Joe Crede - Last year of his deal and he's only making 5 million. He wouldn't be blocking LaRoche for the future. Solid defense with decent power, terrible OB skills. He is the AL version of Feliz, however his peripherals in 2006 were the highest in his career. If the cost is neglible, I'm not adverse to having Joe Crede play 3rd base for us in 2008.
Hank Blalock - He was once the top young 3rd baseman in the AL at age 22/23 but had regressed for several years until having major surgery to remove a rib. Returned in late 2007 and hit as well as he did when he was 23. He is in the last year of a 5 year deal with a club option for 2009 of 6.2 Million. Texas has stockpiled pitchers and catchers. They have a decent enough prospect in Chris Davis so LaRoche may not be their target. Outfield is full of high ceiling injury prone players with Hamilton, Milton, and Byrd. It is possible a straight deal of Ethier for Blalock would get it done.
Melvin Mora - Still owed 16 million through 2009. Several years ago he'd have been a decent solution. He could play 3rd for us and then became an expensive utility player in 2009. I don't see a fit between the teams since I would not trade LaRoche for him. At best I'd offer Meloan but I can't see Ned taking on his contract with Nomar on the books.
Mark Teahen - Signed a 2.3 Mill deal for 2008. Has 2.155 years of service time. Good left handed stroke with just enough power to be a plus at 3rd base. Can play all 3 outfield position as well. I saw him play CF a few times in spring of 2007 and he handled it about as well as Etheir probably would. As an extra bonus Joey Ponanski feels Teahen is one of the best base runners he's ever watched. I think the cost would be something along the lines of two prospects from the 5-10 group and Delywn Young. Maybe James McDonald, Ramon Troncoso, D Young. It is possible they would trade him straight up for Ethier and since their offensive ceilings are about the same, you get the bonus of Teahen being able to play 3rd base.
Brandon Inge - Has a contract that extends into 2010. I don't see a match unless they took Pierre in return. He is a premier defender with okay power. OB will kill you. His OPS+ has regressed 4 straight years.
Out of the Box Solutions
Alex Gordon - Trade Kemp straight up for Gordon. Kemp moves to RF, Guillen to LF, and Teahen back to 3rd base. Etheir moves to RF and Pierre becomes the LF. As a betting man I'd bet that Gordon has the better career then Kemp even though Kemp excelled in 2007 and Gordon struggled.
Brandon Wood - Lost alot of the shine from his historic 2005 minor league season when he accumulated over 100 extra base hits. Had over 100 career minor league home runs by the age of 22. Has been moved from SS to 3rd base and has plenty of glove for the position. He will strike out a ton but it is possible he could blossom if just given a spot in the lineup. Angel pitching is dropping right and left. Escobar is out for the season. Shields is starting the year on the DL. FRod is in the final year of his deal. What would it take to get Wood? Meloan and what ??? If he was to pan out would an infield in 2009 of Loney, Hu, Wood, LaRoche be something you could smile about.
After all is said and done, none of these solutions are better then an outfield of Kemp/Jones/Ethier with a healthy LaRoche playing 3rd base. However if the lineup is Kemp/Jones/Pierre with Ethier on the bench and LaRoche struggling, then I would look harder at moving Ethier for someone who will help now at 3rd base.