The biggest story for the Brewers going into the Winter Meetings, which start today, is obviously the first base situation.
Lyle Overbay has, for the past two seasons, been a solid first baseman. His defense has been excellent, and definitely underrated. Overbay is one of the reasons I'm convinced that none of the defensive statistics are quite right yet. He has great range, but a low zone rating and range factor.
He's going to post .800+ OPS for the next three years. That you can take to the bank. After the top-tier first baseman, Overbay really is the best bat/glove playing first base. The other thing with Overbay is that he hits so many ground balls, he's just a couple adjustments away from hitting 35+ HRs. His doubles are a direct result of his power. A lot of his doubles (87 in last 2 years) are line drives that with a little higher trajectory are easy HRs.
Meanwhile, Fielder has the potential to be a top-tier first baseman. Has serious potential to one day hit 50+ HRs a year. At 21 years old in AAA Fielder hit 27 HRs in 374 at bats.
From the little we've seen of him in the batter's box at the major league level, his patience and concentration give one little doubt that at 22 next year he will be major league ready and able to take over the job full time. With Weeks, and Hardy in the infield already and Braun on the way (hopefully not too far behind) throwing Fielder into the mix and allowing 2006 to be a chemistry building, experience building year could do wonders for the immediate and long term future of this franchise. It's win-win to throw Fielder onto the field as full time first baseman.
It seems like an easy decision at first. Overbay, an above average first baseman would be an upgrade for most teams, and a huge upgrade for another handful of teams. A trade would be good (ideally) for the Brewers, Overbay and the lucky franchise to acquire his services.
But what if nobody's buying? What if it's a Delgado or bust type situation this winter? You'd have to be a GM living under a rock, or Jim Hendry, to think that John Olerud or Travis Lee are better values than Overbay will be. But as we see year in and year out a lot of GMs are actually living under rocks, which causes a deficiency in the system that allows the small market teams, and GMs like Melvin, to put together franchises that can compete for a fraction of the money that the evil empires spend.
There are, of course those GMs that would take a HR over 4 doubles. And even though Overbay is an above average run producer, clubs may not bite given his "only" 19 HRs last season. He's the perfect fit, and long term fit, for a savvy franchise without a Delgado or Pujols on stage or in the wings.
Well, according to Melvin, Overbay will be back in that scenario.
My bet is the Brewers, not finding what they are looking for, will hold onto Overbay, being one of the few clubs that recognize his value, that no other big moves are made, and the 2006 opening day lineup is the same as the final day of the 2005 season.
And that's a good thing.