The idea was to run down each and every option for the first-base vacancy, and do it one at a time. Monday is AAAA slugger #1. Tuesday is AAAA slugger #2. Wednesday is over-the-hill and tubby defensive liability #24. On Thursday, I was planning to work Mike Ivie into the post in a way that seemed clever at first, but became less funny each time you reread it. And so forth. Careful you don't fall off the edge of your seat, there.
The idea was a bad one. Getting all of the marginal possibilities out of the way in one post would have been a better way to go, but that's been taken care of. There is already a ridiculously in-depth rundown here, and it's a good one. There was also a fine diary here on the subject, teaming with the subsequent comments to give a good sampling of the options available to Brian Sabean.
The options are covered. The endorsements are not. Enter the three official endorsements for the first base quandary:
Option 1 - Jim Thome (with the Phillies eating at least 40% of his salary)
Yes, this scenario is ridiculous. The Phillies are looking to move Thome, and are definitely aware no one is going to touch the three years of bloat left on the contract. But this just seems too convenient. Picking up a great player for pennies on the dollar, even acknowledging the awful 2005 and injury problems, would be too sweet. I look at Thome's age, physique, and recent injury history, and shudder at the thought of paying him tens of millions of dollars for the next three years. I look at his track record as a major leaguer, and I relish the idea of taking a chance on the guy for a few million per year. Thome returning to 4/5ths of his old self would improve the team dramatically.
As the monetary compensation from the Phillies goes up, so does the cost in talent to acquire him. As long as Matt Cain and Noah Lowry are kept for the shopkeeper's private stash, anyone else is fair game. Any of the troika of San Jose mashers. Merkin. The nation-state of Hennesorreia. Anyone. It might seem like a stiff price to pay for a player on the downside of his career, and it is. But I think the imbalance on the risk/reward scale is tipping toward the reward side on this one, so long as Thome's contract is pared down to have a minimal effect on the budget.
Option 2 - Roberto Petagine picked up as a platoon partner for Lance Niekro
This one comes with a caveat. This is a penny-pinching option, and it makes sense as long as the team is drastically upgraded in another area with the savings. Petagine is sort of a running gag of the internet baseball fan, having been trumpeted as the thrift-store solution for any first base opening for the past decade. After not getting a shot in MLB, he went to Japan and was a superstar. Winding down his career, he signed a minor-league deal with the Red Sox, and was a Pawtucket monster last year.
But he isn't that good at this point. He's acceptable, so long as the team trades Pedro Feliz for Pedro Martinez and David Wright. Or something. A Niekro/Petagine platoon would do fine in the sixth or seventh slot in the order, but it'd be nothing more than a pine tree-shaped air freshener to hang in the restroom of a rendering plant.
Option 3 - Carlos Pena
This is the happy medium between realistic and productive, and probably the one Sabean should put his energies toward. Pena's young enough to improve, good enough now, and cheap enough to satisfy ownership. His stats are depressed by Comerica Park and he is about to enter his arbitration years, so he might be deemed expendable by the Tigers. I should note this is not an original idea, but the yeoman's work of Irwin made me see the light on this one.
The rumblings are Eddy Martinez-Esteve should be traded to an AL team eventually. I wouldn't be opposed to the idea, but Pena doesn't seem quite the caliber of player to justify playing that card on quite yet. A Pena package would likely start with any of the relievers, either young or "proven", and work up from there. It would take less to get Pena than it would Adrian Gonzalez, and Pena stands a better chance of helping the Giants in 2006.
These options aren't necessarily in order, though the Thome idea is at the top of my list. If the Phillies are willing to eat the cash, I have stars in my eyes. But as the purple snorklewacker said to Binkley, "This is a nightmare; pipe dreams are down the hall." Comment starter: Your final first-base endorsements, of course.