Saturday, July 24, 2010

Has Lyle Overbay's Recent Play Made Him a Trade Target For Teams?

The man at first base for the 2010 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays is Lyle Overbay. He’s been with the team since his trade from Milwaukee in December of 2005. Compared to John Olerud, Jays fans were gung ho for Overbay from the start hoping he could replicate some of the numbers the 1993 AL batting champion put up.

He immediately produced for the Jays, putting up the best season of his career in 2006 by posting numbers of .312/.372/.508. Add to that his 46 doubles, 22 homers and 92 RBI and he definitely seemed worthy of the 4-year $24-million extension he signed that off-season. Since signing that extension, Overbay has left a lot to be desired.

From 2007 to 2010, Overbay has put up a slash line of .258/.346/.422 while hitting only 118 doubles and 51 home runs through three and a half seasons. Granted, he spent parts of 2007 and 2009 on the disabled list, but that slash line is below average for a first baseman.

Of all the knocks on Overbay, one thing you can’t knock is his defence. He has a career fielding percentage of .995 at his position, and has been known to make outstanding diving catches.

This season, Overbay is hitting .251/.329/.413 which seems to be well in line with his averages over the past few seasons. However, what many people should notice is how he has been playing lately.

Through the month of April, Overbay posted a slash line of .171/.281/.329. This was well below average and fans were calling for him to be benched. Overbay improved in the month of May while hitting .243/.296/.430. He improved offensively, but still not enough for many fans as they only saw his overall numbers to that point.

June was a turning point for Overbay as he posted a line of .282/.378/.376, well above his career averages with the Jays. Despite the fact that Overbay was becoming more effective at the plate, fans still sought to rid themselves of a man they have dubbed Lyle Overpaid in favour of young prospect Brett Wallace.

Through July, Overbay has worked to silence his critics with a line of .323/.380/.538 so far. These are Olerud-worthy numbers to say the least, and Overbay has certainly earned his salary this month.

The issue the Blue Jays face right now is whether or not they can capitalize on this and trade Overbay for prospects or whether they should hold onto him and hope he gains Type A or B status as a free agent this off-season.

The aforementioned Wallace is doing quite well at Triple-A this season. He is hitting .296/.359/.497 with 16 home runs through 89 games as the team’s primary first baseman and many Toronto fans would love to see what he can do at the Major League level.

The question now becomes: do other teams want Lyle Overbay? It’s clear that his defence is superior to many other first basemen, so my inclination is to say ‘yes’. However, that $7-million salary he earns this season is somewhat of a hindrance when combined with his limited no-trade clause that many of us learned of today courtesy of Jon Paul Morosi at Fox Sports.

When you look at Overbay’s numbers over the past few months, you have to think that some teams would want him. The Angels, for example, after having lost Kendry Morales for the season are in need of a first baseman. Mike Napoli has done an admirable job in Morales’ absence, but Jeff Mathis does not provide much offence behind the plate so a trade that could see Napoli move back there would benefit the entire team seeing as how Napoli has thrown out 29% of potential base stealers this season compared to Mathis’ 21%.

The Rangers are another team that could be looking for a first baseman with Chris Davis struggling at the plate.

It is unclear at the moment as to which teams are on Overbay’s no trade list, but it has been claimed that none of the teams currently looking for first basemen are on it. It also remains to be seen whether the Blue Jays will trade him or not. He does not project to be a Type A or B free agent this off-season, so it could be in the best interest of the team to deal him for something at the deadline. However, if he keeps playing like he has through June and July, he may be able to just sneak into Type B territory.

Whatever happens, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see Overbay’s named mentioned in rumours over the next week. He may be on a hot streak now, but the Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos may be able to capitalize on that much like he did when he sent Alex Gonzalez to Atlanta for Yunel Escobar.