Garrett Atkins Non-Tendered
The Colorado Rockies have announced they will not be offering a contract to Garrett Atkins, making him a free agent.
Atkins had an absolutely awful 2009 campaign, hitting only .226 with 9 HR and a .650 OPS in 399 plate appearances. His salary was $7.05M and would have been well over $5M at minimum if he was offered arbitration, so the Rockies cut him loose.
Should the Mets be interested?
His breakout season came in 2006 when he hit .329 with 29 HR, 120 RBI, and a .409 OBP. He followed that up with a .301 / 25 / 111 / .367 in 2007 and .286 / 21 / 99 / .328 in 2008. The trend downward is puzzling — by the OBP numbers it would appear that he gradually expanded his strike zone.
His altered approach and downward spiral might also be explained by lack of protection in the lineup. In 2006 he spent most of the time batting either third or fourth, immediately ahead of Matt Holliday or Todd Helton. In 2007 he was most often in the fifth spot, behind Helton and ahead of Brad Hawpe. In 2008 he also most often hit fifth, ahead of Hawpe or Ian Stewart. Last year he was all over the lineup, when he was in it, and actually spent most of his time in the cleanup spot — usually with Hawpe batting fifth.
In his career, Atkins hits best in the three hole (.314 AVG / .398 OBP / .939 OPS) and the fifth spot (.298 AVG / .354 OBP / .834 OPS). Clearly he is not the type of hitter who can be “the guy”, but he has proven to hit well with good hitters around him.
For your information, he has played over 100 MLB games at first base, and another 180+ at the position in the minors. He has also appeared in the outfield but I don’t know if it’s a position he can handle.
To me, Atkins’ current situation is reminiscent to that of Jorge Cantu a few years back. Some of you may remember my obsession with Cantu when his career was similarly spiraling downward. Atkins turns 30 years old today (what a nice b-day present — losing your job!), and is still young enough to turn things around over the short term. It is reclamation projects like this that the Mets should be taking advantage of, rather than throwing millions at proven mediocrity such as Alex Cora, Elmer Dessens, Henry Blanco, etc.
What do you think? Is he worth a gamble at, say, $2.5M?