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Non-tender tango: Garrett Atkins

Nov 29, 2009, 12:58 PM EDT

MLB_atkins.jpgDecember 12th is the deadline for teams to decide whether to
tender contracts to unsigned players on their 40-man roster. With that
in mind, this is the second in a series (
here’s the first one) regarding some of the most
likely non-tender candidates and where they may find new homes. Though
this assessment is based on some logic, it’s mostly intended to be a fun exercise.

Garrett Atkins – .226/.308/.342 with nine home runs and 48 RBI in 354 at-bats (126 games) in 2009



Why he’s a goner:



Atkins, who turns 30 in December, made $7.05 million in 2009 and
the Rockies simply won’t overpay him for a second straight year. Atkins
batted just .194/.270/.285 over the first two months last season,
losing his grip on the starting third base job to Ian Stewart. He
finished with a pathetic .199/.272/.287 slash-line against right-handed
pitching, continuing a disturbing tumble in overall production since
2006:




2006: .965 OPS (OPS+ 136)

2007: .853 OPS (OPS+ 113)

2008: .780 OPS (OPS+ 96)

2009: .650 OPS (OPS+ 66)



What’s
the cause of his precipitous decline? Well, general manager Dan O’Dowd
speculates that Atkins changed his approach at the plate after 2006
and has been unable to find his swing since:



“The way the game is set up, the
arbitration process pays for power and RBIs, for run production. Maybe
he felt this greater need to try to hit more home runs, because he was
naturally more of a line drive hitter, and tried to lift the ball and
do some different things.”




Perhaps
Atkins shouldn’t have spurned O’Dowd’s previous attempts at a
multi-year contract? Now that Atkins will reach free agency a year
sooner than originally thought, he won’t find a guaranteed starting job
waiting for him, but he does boast an .870 career OPS against
southpaws, including a respectable .790 OPS against left-handers in
2009. His best bet may be to find a platoon situation that could
blossom into a full-time gig.




Possible fits:



Orioles: We already know that team president
Andy MacPhail
doesn’t want prospects Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell to
start the 2010 season in the majors
. While they wait, the Orioles will
consider a group of one-year stopgaps, including Troy Glaus, Carlos
Delgado and Hank Blalock to address a corner infield spot. The Orioles
are rumored to have interest in Atkins, as well, but they’ll take their
chances on signing him once he’s cut loose by Colorado.




Rangers: Atkins has never been anything to write home about
defensively, so he could fit the bill as a designated hitter/backup
infielder-type from the right side of the plate in Texas. He’d be
worthwhile insurance for Michael Young, as well.




Mariners:
The Mariners are looking at in-house options of Matt Tuiasosopo, Bill
Hall, Jack Hannahan or possibly Jose Lopez at third base with Adrian
Beltre leaving via free agency.




Phillies: The Phillies could use some righty pop late off the
bench, so Atkins would give them a bit of a safety net. The Phillies
are expected to look at a group of more notable free agents like Mark
DeRosa, Adrian Beltre and Placido Polanco to be the starting third
baseman.




Indians: In Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer, Paul Hoynes writes that
the Indians are seeking a right-handed first baseman
that would allow
Matt LaPorta to play the outfield against left-handers. Again, Atkins
is nothing special with the glove, but he has played 105 games at first
base in his career. Though, with LaPorta as the primary first baseman,
playing time would be infrequent.




Where he should end up:



Of the teams mentioned above,
Baltimore represents Atkins’ best situation to resurrect his career as
an everyday player. If signed, he would likely be a given a real chance
at a starting job, at least for a little while, until either Snyder or
Bell are ready for a promotion. Likewise, the Orioles could use Atkins
as a trade chip once they fall out of contention. Signing Adrian Beltre
or Chone Figgins would be a nice statement to appease the fans, but
even the most die-hard will admit they aren’t close to
contention quite yet. Though it won’t sell many tickets, signing Atkins would be
a low-risk move that could reap benefits for both sides.

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