What We Have

Blake DeWitt – Acquired in the deal that sent Ted Lilly to the Dodgers, Dewitt played better in LA than he did in Chicago. We didn’t see much from him once the calendar rolled over to September. Once that happened, he hit to the tune of .220 / .294 / .341, which is not acceptable at all for a starter. The question going forward is which guy did we get. Did we get the one that was a pleasant surprise when he first came over or the guy that finished the year? I’m not sure why, but I believe in him enough to give him first crack at the starting job. I have no stats or logical reason to feel that way other than a hunch. He was considered one of the top prospects in the system coming through the LA organization and it’s a team that usually does a good job at developing and scouting young talent. For 2011 he’s scheduled for auto-renewal on his contract, so his price tag is dirt cheap.

Jeff Baker – He signed a one year deal to avoid arbitration this past year at a price of just under a million. He’ll be eligible for arbitration again, so we’ll need to make a decision on if we’re going to offer or just cut him loose. I tend to think he’s a guy worth keeping around because of his ability to play multiple positions, similar to the role that was filled by Mark DeRosa a few years ago. He’s not as productive as DeRosa, but a guy with that ability to move around is a valuable piece to the puzzle.

Darwin Barney – Man, he came on an made a difference down the stretch, right? That was what I would see being saying all throughout comments and other blogs. The fact is, Barney wasn’t very good at all. His 54 OPS+ was 56% worse than league average. He’s never been considered a top guy in our system so to count on him because of a few flashes last year would be a mistake. Give him a look in spring training, but there should be the understanding that he’s probably going to be headed to AAA to start the year.

What is on the Horizon

Tony Thomas – I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know what we have in Thomas. He was picked in the 3rd round of the 2007 draft class. It’s a class that has…how should we say…underperformed. The first round selections (Josh Vitters and Josh Donaldson) have not done anything. The only names out of the class that have made any kind of impact are Darwin Barney (if you wanna count his play as impactful) and James Russell. I dubbed 2010 a year for him to put up for shut up. He didn’t overwhelm, but he did do just enough to remain relevant. He’s got to start excelling, expecially if he starts the year in AA for the third time, or he’ll be out of the picture.

Ryan Flaherty – Boy, I felt like this guy was on the cusp of being a player for the Cubs. He completely bombed out in 2010, leaving me at a loss as to where we go from here. At this point all we can hope for from Flaherty is some sort of rebound from him in 2011 or he may be in danger of being cut because of his age.

DJ MaHieu - A 2nd round pick in 2009, he’s quickly becoming one of the top infield prospects in the system. He’ll probably begin the 2011 in AA. He’s hit at every level he’s been at since being drafted, so AA shouldn’t be an exception. He’s a college guy so if he hits, he’ll move through the system quickly.

Notable Names Available via Free Agency

David Eckstein – Older than dirt and really not all that good. For some reason this guy has been overrated for years in people’s minds. I see one year in his career (2002) where he was really good. Other than that, marginal at best.

Mark Ellis – My guess is that a lot of people don’t know a thing about him because of where he’s played for his career. Guys out west just don’t get noticed. I don’t know that I consider him a reliable everyday second baseman.

Orlando Hudson - For some reason this guy can’t stick with a club very long. Minnesota signed him for a one year deal and didn’t really get what they had hoped out of him.

Akinori Iwamura - Came over from Japan to sign with the Rays in 2007. Since leaving Tampa, he’s not performed the way many had hoped. In fact, he’s been downright awful at the plate. He’s got a tremendous glove and has shown he can hit ML pitching in the past.

Julio Lugo -The Rays sold high on him in 2005 and haven’t looked foolish for doing so. He doesn’t steal bases like he used to, which takes away a significant portion of his value.

Joe’s Best Course of Action

Blake DeWitt is my starter right now going into the season. With him locked in, I look to bring back Jeff Baker on another one year deal to avoid arbitration to platoon all over the field when guys need rest. He can be used to back up the corner outfield spots, second base, first base, and third base. Darwin Barney also makes my roster for the simple fact that he can play SS in the event that Starlin Castro needs a day off, which I don’t anticipate to be often, as well as third base and second base. The more versatility the better.

Where my plan takes a weird turn is in the one free agent on the list I’d like to see Jim Hendry make a serious play for, and that’s Aki Iwamura. I watched him play in Tampa when I was blogging about the Rays and this guy can play. I don’t believe that 2010 was evidence of the player he is. I believe in him. He should be able to be signed for relatively nothing considering the year he had in 2010. If it doesn’t work out, fine. If it does, he could either replace Ramirez at third after this year or at the very least be yet another versatile guy in the field with the ability to play third and second. It’s a risk worth taking at this point given the amount he’d require to sign.

Three Questions for Discussion

1. What were your impressions of Blake DeWitt last year? Is he a guy we should be looking at to be the starting 2B?

2. Do you see Jeff Baker the way I see him, as a poor man’s Mark DeRosa, or am I way off base?

3. How would you tackle the 2b position this off-season?

Joe’s Roster So Far

C – Geovany Soto /  Robinson Chirinos

1b – Adam Dunn / Micah Hoffpauir

2b – Blake DeWitt / Jeff Baker / Darwin Barney / Akinori Iwamura

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the SS position.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail