The position should improve this year, though losing Teixeira to Atlanta makes it look thinner at the moment. A healthy Overbay alone should improve matters. Currently, though, third base looks much stronger than first. Conventional wisdom used to tell us that there would be more 1B options than 3B for your final corner slot. That wisdom has been turned on its head the last two years. Don't be afraid to buy two 3B early if the opportunity presents itself.And this is what actually happened:
Top 10 A.L. First Basemen 2008
The position got stronger, but not without some help from an N.L. import (Teixeira), an undrafted rookie (Davis), a converted third baseman (Cabrera) and DH (Giambi).
Looking at it in terms of dollars, this group of 1B earned $2 more per player than the Top 10 from 2007 while only costing $1 more. In reality, though, the top ten players in your auction were even costlier than that; take out Teixeira and Davis and substitute Paul Konerko and Billy Butler - the ninth and 10th best first basemen who were purchased - and you paid $20 on average for $20 worth of production on average.
What strikes me most about this list of hitters is the consensus. Youkilis is a 29-year-old hitter entering his power prime in Fenway, yet Patton, Sports Weekly, and the panel of experts (Sportsline, LABR, Tout Wars) all give Youk a pay cut. Even more baffling is Kotchman, a 25-year-old who slugged .467 in 2007 and fit the profile of a rising star. Yet only Patton saw fit to give him a raise. The expert leagues said to hold the line, while Sports Weekly suggests a drastic pay cut.
Where does the money go?
Cabrera is the big beneficiary. At $42, the market was absolutely bullish. People were thinking Albert Pujols, since most non-SB hitters don't crack $40, and Cabrera doesn't run. What was really happening, I believe, was a return to Stage One. (For my newer readers, here's a link to a post explaining the stages).
There's not enough evidence, though, amongst the first basemen.
Ten Most Expensive A.L. First Basemen 2008
Konerko, Butler, and Barton replace Davis, Giambi, and Teixeira.
All of these other prices look more like Stage Three than Stage One. A $7 raise for Konerko might seem absurd looking at his 2007-2008 results only, but he earned $29 in 2006. Barton is a guy who was lights out late in 2007. In Stage One, he still would have went for single digits. Stage Two would have seen him go for $15-17 easy. In Stage Three, $11 sounds about right.
And Cabrera is where the consensus between the average salary and Alex and Sports Weekly's predictions melts away. A $3 difference one way or the other for Billy Butler and his 329 major league AB is understandable. A $6 and $9 gap between the predictions and the bids for an established player like Miguel Cabrera is baffling.
It's worth seeing how this plays out as I move across the diamond. Is there a pattern here, or was there something about Cabrera's profile that made him an exception. Did people see something in him last spring that made them think that Cabrera specifically was the next Pujols? Or is there a larger phenomenon occurring here?