Orioles Sign Garrett Atkins To Play Third-Base

I just wrote about the potential move a couple of days ago, but I didn’t expect Andy MacPhail to act so quickly. It’s probably easiest to just quote myself:

“Atkins has gone from great (.410 wOBA) to very good (.368) to OK (.337) to bad (.291) with the bat, though that last one is largely the result of a .247 BABIP. His strike-out rate is up a little and his contact rate is falling. I don’t know if the drop in power is partially a fluke, but his HR/FB has been going down quickly as well (13.2% to 10.9% to 9.9% to 7.3%). The projections for Atkins currently range from around .275/.345/.450 (FanGraphs fans, Bill James) to .258/.329/.410 (CHONE, already taking into account leaving Coors). Splitting the difference-ish (while acknowledging that moving from the NL to the AL is tougher), you get something like .265/.335/.425, which would make Atkins about an average hitter.

Defensively Atkins posted a -0.7 UZR/150 at third last year but marks of -8.6 and -14.6 in the two years previous. The Fan Scouting report, which is kind of corroborated by the UZR breakdown, has him as not rangy at all but with OK hands and a fine arm. You’re probably looking at something along the lines of -5 to -7 with the glove next year.

Put that together – in, say, 550 PA – and you’ve got a a fairly solid 1.5 Win player (worth ~$6.8 M). Despite my earlier claim that I wouldn’t go much over a million bucks on him – just looking at the trend-line scared me off – Atkins would probably be worth a flyer at $3-4 M. There are a lot of risks there though, so I’m still leery.”

Given that the Orioles signed him for one year and $4.5 M ($4 M in 2010 with an $8.5 M option for 2011 and a $0.5 M buyout – plus $0.5 M in PA incentives), I’m less than thrilled with the deal. Before the signing – which I thought would come in at $5 M (which is likely what Atkins will end up receiveing) – I said under $4 M would be fine, $4-6 M I could live with but wouldn’t be happy about, and over $6 M would be bad. Well, the O’s came in right in that middle area, where it seems they’ve lived this off-season. The move isn’t terrible, and I think there’s a fair chance that Atkins will be slightly underpaid, but it’s not without downside risk and isn’t a straight bargain.

On the other hand, it’s certainly better than giving up a couple prospects for Dan Uggla, and at least Atkins should be able to play third-base until Josh Bell is ready (and no longer). If it turns out that Troy Glaus can still play third, or Joe Crede signs for $1-2 M, then I’ll be disappointed. In general though, the O’s needed a stop-gap at the position and that’s what they got.

How do you all think Garrett Atkins and his new teammates will do next season? 2010 Projection