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December 6, 2010

Orioles' first base options: Willingham?

Mark Reynolds is the Orioles' new third baseman, but there’s still a sizable hole at first base.

Who fills it?

The candidates can get in line.

Here’s a name for you: Josh Willingham, whom the Washington Nationals would consider moving. The Orioles have had internal discussions about the 31-year-old outfielder. He has played three games in his career at first base, so it’s not like he’s never done it.

He also would be a potential fit in left field if the Orioles did something with penciled-in incumbents Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold.

The Orioles would prefer to have an above-average defender at first base.

Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee and Adam LaRoche have had that reputation in the past -- if not now -- but Lee doesn’t appear to be overwhelmed with playing for a last-place team in the East and Pena looks to have several options, if you believe the rumors swirling.

Another option is bringing back Ty Wigginton and letting him play some first. Many of you want to know whether Wigginton will return, and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail was asked about that possibility now that Reynolds is in the fold.

“I wouldn’t say that eliminates him,” MacPhail said about Wigginton. “Less playing time at third is a likely possibility but it certainly doesn’t eliminate him.”

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Posted by Dan Connolly at 5:08 PM | | Comments (44)


You can't argue Willingham's ability. An .845 OPS over the past five years ain't bad.

I wouldn't pencil him in at first base though - LaRoche should be the guy there at this point. If a Willingham trade happens, I'd rather bring him in as an outfielder and split his time between left and DH to keep him healthy.

And even if we got Willingham, considering his injury history, I would hang on to Pie and Reimold, unless you can get something worthwhile for either of them.

Dan, any clue on what the Nats are looking for? Willingham would be a solid grab.

He has played three games in his career at first base, so it’s not like he’s never done it.

Dan C, are you serious? I know you have that tongue in cheek, dry humor. But this is a bit much. What the Orioles need is a good guy, who's willing to give us a chance! I want a true blue 1st Baseman. Anything short of that would be a disappointment.

Other free agents, I would consider signing.
1.) Scott Podsednik
2.) Ronnie Belliard
3.) Jim Thome
4.) Grant Balfour
I would love to have Jim Thome!

I thought of WIllingham when I first heard he was available. I'm all for that move (depending on who we have to give up)

According to, Willingham has played EVERY position (except pitcher) in his professional baseball career. He must be a very good athlete to offer that type of flexibility.

I say Chris Tillman & Robert Andino for Willingham

I'd love Willingham as our LF. But not as our 1B. Looks like Nats are zeroing in on LaRoche and Pena for 1B.

Is there a particular reason the O's won't get bold and pursue a deal for Fielder? I don't know what the Brewers would be looking for, but we could put an attractive package of say Tillman, Reimold, Snyder and maybe one other player together. Our team would still be intact, but now you have a legit clean up hitter, with protection from Jones, Scott and now Reynolds, not to mention Markakis. This is the type of move the fanbase is looking for. Does the warehouse really think we care if they sign the geriatric Lee or LaRoche??? Do they really not understand what the faithful want? How is that possible?

Its because Fielder will be a free agent next year and having Scott Boras as his agent almost guarantees he will test out the market next year. it'd be nice if the O's could have a negotiating window before the trade goes through (there is no reason to give up young talent for 1 year of Fielder) but all indications is that he'll hit the open market. Think what Jayson Werth just got with Boras at his side. The team might be better off grabbing a LaRoche or Lee for this season and throw the bank at Fielder next year

I'm I missing something, when did we have to start worrying about being outbid by the Nationals? Is Washington that much more
appealing for players than B-more.

We need a legit first baseman, not someone who has played 3 games there.

Go out and sign Pena, at least with him
and Reynolds it would be all or nothing when they came to the plate.

Adam -

Tillman, Reimold, Snyder and maybe one other player together for Fielder wouldn't work unless that one other player was Brian Matusz. And Reimold and Snyder were replaced with much better prospects.

Another reason a Fielder trade isn't happening for the O's, or for any team for that matter, is that he's a Scott Boras client, so there's no chance to work in a negotiating window with the trade. Not many teams are going to be willing to give up what it will take to get Fielder if they're going to have to worry about the guy leaving via free agency after the season.

Maybe a team that's a bat away from contending, like the A's or the Blue Jays, would swing that deal, but even for teams like that, it may no make sense if Milwaukee is asking for too much.

In short, the Orioles don't have enough to trade for Fielder without giving up Matusz. And since there's no chance that they'll resign him after the season and maybe just a one in a billion chance that they make the playoffs with Fielder (and without Matusz), why give up Matusz?

Don't see any value of obtaining Willingham if it means we have to give up any more of our young and developing talent. LsRoche would be a great acquisition. He gets on base, has speed on the bases, hits for average, has some power, and fields his position well. As the Orioles, I believe, will be a situational hitting club this year, we'll need people on base to move up or drive in. Adam LaRoche seems to fill that position nicely.

Hey Brooks .. Haven't you had enough of losing the past 13 years?? Getting Fielder would inject some much needed life in this franchise even for one season. Would I pay top dollar? (Matusz? Of course not but Milwaukee knows that as well. I think Tillman and Reimold would be a good starting point. Toss in Ricky Weeks and we could expand with prospects

Is this what we're really down to for 1B--Willingham? Wigginton? LaRoche? Yeesh. We all know Fielder ain't happenin'. Better ante up for Konerko or hang it up.


Any word if the O's have contacted the Cards about what it would take to get Brendan Ryan?

Jeff Z's reply: I haven't heard his name mentioned.

The Dodgers are starting the Fielder trade talks with Loney - enough said.

Austin, Tillman in a deal Willingham? I don't think so.

Not Brooks, I can live with LaRoche, but that's a lot of K's from your corner infielders. It's a risk, but Lee is a year removed from a big year and he's had surgery on a wrist injury that bothered him all year. Could be a low cost high upside 2 year solution?

That said, I think it will be LaRoche.

Steve, I hear you about Fielder injecting life into the fanbase and I agree that he would. Problem is I don't agree with you when you say,

"I think Tillman and Reimold would be a good starting point. Toss in Ricky Weeks and we could expand with prospects."

What in the world makes you think Milwaukee would except Tillman and Reimold as the starting point. The market for Fielder will be fierce soon and without Matusz, Milwaukee won't even engage in dialogue with the O's.

3 games at first base! Wow....that many huh! Are you kidding me. We don't want him. First he is the same age as Adam LaRoche and 2 years younger than Carlos Pena. Looking at the stats of all three over the past 3 years and Willingham is a distant third. Pena averages 32 HR a year, LaRoche 24 and Willingham 15. Pena's avg. is .223, LaRoche's .272 and Willingham .260. Pena averages 95 rbi's, LaRoche 89 and Willingham 56. The only stat that Willingham leads in is his strikeouts per year which is 56 compared to Pena's 95 and LaRoche's 89. While I do appreciate that stat, we need more thump whether you play him at 1st or outfield. Additionally, Ty Wigginton averages 18 homeruns a year, hits .269, drives in 58 and strikes out 80 times in a season. He's played a few more games at 1st base as well so we really gain nothing by getting Josh Willingham. And, we would have to give something away. Felix Pie's name has come up and I'm not ready to give up on him just yet, especially to get Willingham. Now if you're talking Carlos Pena, and maybe even Adam LaRoche, then I'm open to that discussion. At this point, if you can't get Pena or LaRoche then go with Ty Wigginton again next year and like someone else said in the blog, go after a guy like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols next year. The good thing with that is the Spankees won't be in on the bidding war and probably not the Redsox either, depending on what they do this winter. I know the O's would like to have a right handed bat at 1st base but you also have to look at production. I'm not sure about Pena but I think LaRoche has a decent history against left handed pitching.

Sign Willingham! Pure power and great athlete. Hopefully DH'ing and some LF will keep him healthy, but this would pull the plug on Wiggie. This too must pass, like yesterday's meal, someone once said. Seriously though, this team will have REAL POP and it sounds like Reimold might be leaving soon in the Bartlett trade anyway. Not a bad replacement for Nolan.

I disagree with you guys about what it would take to get Fielder. The Brewers have zero leverage. They ALSO know Fielder won't be there past this year and want something for him before he leaves in free agency. Right now, the Dodgers are talking with them about a deal that would give them Loney and Broxton, a solid glove and average major league 1B with no power and a slightly better than average closer. A third player will be included from their farm system. That's it! Tillman, Reimold and Snyder along with one or two others is certainly on par with that. Also, think about Fielder's free agency. He'll be expensive, but where can he go? Yanks have Tex, Boston now has Gonzalez, White Sox will still have Konerko, Detroit just signed Martinez AND they have Cabrera also. Phillies have Howard. Most of the big money teams can't pursue him leaving the market pretty bare for him and obviously, I wouldn't pull the trigger on the deal without working out an extension. We should be making a play for him. Do you all really think Derrek Lee, Adam LaRoche, Brandon Snyder or any of these other guys changes the fortunes of this franchise? Only bold action will make a difference.

What about a package deal with Willingham and Ian Desmond?

What's the difference between Willingham and Wigginton? .265 vs .267 BA, .475 slg vs .450? 2 year age difference, but really, why do this deal? Re-sign Wigginton and keep the prospects... makes no sense for us to even be talking about it.

Trade for Desmond, if they'll listen.

I read somewhere that the Orioles should trade for a top minor league prospect at 1B. The free agent options aren't that attractive to me and it would be nice to see a young guy get a crack at it.

Willingham? Are you kidding?


He is a below average fielding OF and he hits below his career average in clutch situations.

He has been in all of 3 games at 1B and we are going to make him our starter???

But, hey! He has caught 500 times more games than he played at 1B - lets trade Wieters and start him behind the plate!!!!

Oh, wait!!!!

Dan, you are such a kidder. For a moment I thought you were actually being serious.

Hey steveinboston, so you're willing to give up young arms and Reimold for a one year rental? Makes zero sense to me. Zero.

It saddens me to say I'd take Wigginton over the rest of those guys. Wiggy provides insurance at 3rd and 2nd in case Reynolds or Roberts get injured. He also provides comparable power to some of the other options listed, if not more, at first base. Ideally, I'd like to see MacPhail offering to overspend for Konerko. Make him an offer that blows away the one the White Sox are talking to him about. But alas, that would never happen.

Not that there's any real point in talking about Fielder, but everyone that thinks we need to give up Matusz to even get Milwaukee interested is probably wrong. Using the Adrian Gonzalez deal as a baseline and downgrading a bit to allow for Milwaukee's lack of leverage and the fact that Gonzalez is the better player, Tillman, Mahoney/Bell and someone else (but not a top prospect) could get it done. We can validly debate the merits of trading Tillman for what might well be a one-year rental, but I honestly think Tillman might be a 4-A player and his value will only get lower. When it comes time to sign Fielder, whether AM does the unthinkable and trades for him or he hits the FA market, I agree with whoever said "throw the bank at him."

Isn't fun to talk like we have a legitimate organization?

Jeff Z's reply: The Brewers' accusation of Marcum for their top prospect is probably the latest proof that they are making a run this season. So that would obviously eliminate trading Prince. But that offer still doesn't get it done. Tillman's status very down right now.

Josh Willingham would be a nice addition whether he plays a little at 1B, LF or DH. It would also make sense if the Rays wanted Pie for Bartlett. In my book, 3B, LF and SS would be upgraded with only 1B needing to be addressed.

I really don't want Wiggy back. He did nothing after the All Star break. Scott Podsednik would be interesting in LF with Willingham at 1B.

Seems like there are some options that could be interesting and potentially turn the O's into a more potent offense.

I wonder if Bell will be used as bait to get a veteran starting pitcher?

Jeff Z's reply: O's say no on Bell being used as bait, but I've heard other people say differently.

MLB.TV reported last night that the Dodgers have offered the Brewers their closer, Jonathan Broxton, and starting first baseman, James Loney, for the Prince. The proviso being that they renegotiate Fielders contract.

Cantu is looking like our future 1st baseman. JJ Hardy , Uehara , Matt Cain , and an innings eater should call it a day.
They're will be fillers to start the year that we don't need to worry about now.

Jeff Z's reply: Matt Cain is available?

As for Josh Bell being bait or not I prefer the bait thing. I generally prefer worms for Potomac River fishing, but I've never witnessed any bait that can create as many "strikes" as Josh Bell.

Throw your money at Beltrie and make it impossible for him not to sign. Move Reynolds to 1B.

Sign Wigginton as your utility guy and right handed DH. Sign Izturis.


1. Roberts
2. Markakis
3. Reynolds
4. Scott
5. Beltrie
6. Jones
7. Weiters
8. Pie
9. Izturis

Willingham makes no sense at all. Reimold could give you the same production if you stuck him out there and let him play every day. trade Pie instead.and sign patterson as the 4th Of

Trade Scott and Gonzales for Willingham, Morse and Desmond!

On Fielder:

I would definately be open to beginning with Matusz IF we sign him to an extension. The extension 7/150 [and hopefully a weight clause!].

Matusz, Machado, Simon would be my initial offer: A legit future no. 2 or no. 1 starter, a SS aterd a can't miss "prospect: and Simon--close to 20 saves last year. This will grab their attention. Would hate to deal Matusz, but...

Jeff Z's reply: Just as an FYI, you cannot trade Machado yet per MLB rules.

I wonder if any team in the NL West is going to score more than 600 runs...
Only in that division could you trade your best bat and get away with it

Come on. Let's get serious and overpay for a top flight player: Carl Crawford. $20MM for 7 years. 1. We can afford it. 2. It would keep him off the Yankees or RedSox. 3. We NEED him in Left Field (Wiggy at 1st). 4. Sends a statement to everyone that the Orioles are back in contending mode. 5. We will NEVER attract ANY good players unless we do something radical like this. WELL DONE, Nationals. Hate the cost, but you woke everyone up in the National League East. COME ON, Mr. Angelos, DO THE SAME THING!!!

According to MLBTR, the Astros are making Jeff Keppinger available. He would be a nice offensive upgrade at SS (at least average and OPB-wise), without losing significant defensive value. As a plus, he also plays 2B pretty well in case of another Roberts injury. I wonder if the O's have any interest, and what Houston would be looking for in return.

Interesting thought:

Would you trade Matusz for Strasburg? I am not saying this is even a thought other than the question I am raising--

Would you do it?

Although I too would like Fielder, I agree w/Joey Ice and Not Brooks: in that we would have to give up a lot and then HOPE to re-sign him- esp since he is Boras agent. Make a splash next year when he hits open market. Bring back Wiggy and sign LaRoche or Lee in the meantime. And regarding Lee, I wasn't too excited about that possibility initially, but in looking at his numbers, his avg picked up after being traded to Atlanta, plus he's only one year removed from a great season in '09. Yes, 35 years old, but perhaps a good fit short-term- and likely a lot cheaper than Konerko who's not much younger.

I say take a pass on all of those guys mentioned here for first base. The FA's don't help in the long run and will slow down progress for prospects.

I'd move Josh Bell to first and give him a chance. He will hit 30 HR's one day and a lot of people outside the O's think so as well.

Forget Feilder, the trade requires giving up too much and with Boras you won't be able to sign him long term, plus I think him being way overweight is going to come back to haunt him in his later years. He wants a very long term expensive contract and I don't see him as being worth it.

If you guy want to trade our prospects for a big deal first baseman I would suggest we make a deal with the Cardinals for Pujols and throw a truck load of money at him for a long term deal.

If you are going to spend a lot, make sure you get a lot in return.

Are you guys out of your mind ?
MATUSZ for fat slob Fielder ?

Matusz is our first chance in 30 years to develop another McNally.
Arietta is our first chance in 30 years to develop another Palmer.
Neither of these guys should be touched.

Prince Fielder is a lousy specimen of an athlete..... just as Sabathia is.
These guys' major league careers will both be cut short because they can't back away from the dinner table.
Paying either one big bucks long term is insanity.

As for Willingham..... same question.... are you out of your mind ?
The guy isn't even a first-baseman.... and we certainly do not need any more outfielders.
Hell..... I'd rather have Luke Scott on 1B than Infirmaryham.

Please do not get Pena. Between him and Reynolds they might hit 100 HR but will K 500 times and hit 200-230 combined at the corners.... No thanks

I like Willingham at 1B. Reimold can still get some games to work in there so 1b,LF and DH are all platoon unless we made a move to Thome but I think I saw he would prefer to stay a Twin. But if that’s wrong I would take him at DH. Please though no Pena we need some guys who can hit for avg. Send Scott, and a P for him.

Offer Konerko $72 mil over 4 years. If he turns that down, well at least the Os gave it their best. He's the best option available. Good hitter with power, better than average fielder, great club house guy. He looks to be the kind of player who could productive in his later years. He's also a right handed hitter which the Os desperatelu need. They're going to have to pay big money to get him, especially after the deal Worth got from the Nats. I know Werth is younget but Konerko is a better hitter and at his age a 4 year deal should do it.

Brandon Snyder... I think he is the fit. You are not going to acquire an All Star first baseman without giving up the future. Snyder hit well in his coffee cup stint and with a little grooming he will certainly fill the void.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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