Guys That Might Be Better For First-Base Than Garrett Atkins: Ryan Garko

The Seattle Mariners signed Ryan Garko yesterday to a one year deal for $0.55 M, that could go up to $1.075 M with incentives. The Orioles – you’ll recall – are going to be paying Garrett Atkins $4.5 M (or $5 M with incentives) in 2010. Both are right-handed batters who will be playing first-base for their respective clubs, though Garko is largely just a back-up (and might see some time at DH).

Let’s compare:

Atkins: .289/.354/.457 career line (all in the NL), .351 wOBA, 106 wRC+
Garko: .279/.351/.441 career (mostly in the AL), .347 wOBA, 113 wRC+

Atkins: .226/.308/.342 in 2009, .291 wOBA, 67 wRC+
Garko: .268/.344/.421 in 2009, .338 wOBA, 107 wRC+

Atkins: .257/.326/.410 for 2010 (from CHONE), .324 wOBA, 97 wRC+
Garko: .268/.343/.438 for 2010 (from CHONE), .344 wOBA, 110 wRC+

Garko never had a season like Atkins’ 2006 (.329/.409/.556), but otherwise he stacks up quite well; without the one terrible season to boot. Defensively at first, Garko has a -4.6 UZR/150 for his career while Atkins is at -6.3 UZR/150. Jeff Zimmerman has both guys projected at -3 UZR/150 for 2010. Garko has somewhat more extreme splits (.755 OPS vs. RHP, .887 OPS vs. LHP) than Atkins (.791 OPS vs. RHP, .870 OPS vs. LHP), but not tremendously so.

You could very easily make the argument that it would have made sense to sign Garko instead of Atkins for the same money, with Garko’s edge in offense (as well as having the cooler name) being made up for by Atkins’ versatility (being able to play third if need be). When you take into account that Atkins will be paid ~$4 M more than Garko, the comparison looks kind of absurd – it’s Garko in a landslide.

I’m sorry to keep beating a dead horse, but signing Atkins with the express purpose of having him be the first-baseman for the Orioles was just kind of dumb.