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The Joy of Sexson, or, a 2008 1B Possibility

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Derek Zumsteg thinks the Mariners are going to try to dump Richie Sexson this offseason. Zumsteg suggests that the organization wants Adam Jones to be an everyday player in 2008, and to accomplish that, they'd have to make room for Jones. Moving Sexson would allow an outfield of Jones, Ichiro and Guillen (which would be scary-good, defensively), with either Vidro or Ibanez playing 1B, and the other being the DH.

That makes sense, as Sexson is expensive, has one year left on his deal, and appears to definitely be out of favor with the fans.

Which gets me wondering...wouldn't it make sense for the Rangers to at least kick the tires on Sexson?

Let's assume that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the regular catcher next year (which, I think, is the way the organization is leaning). Jason Botts seems to have the inside track on the 2008 DH job, and Ron Washington spoke of a Frank Catalanotto/Marlon Byrd platoon in LF, which I think is probably the best way to utilize those two guys.

The team is going to go hard after someone to play CF next year, be it Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand, Mike Cameron, or whomever.

That leaves right field and first base. The options in the free agent market at both positions are pretty weak, and at this point, I wouldn't be surprised if David Murphy ends up starting in right field next year (or a Murphy/Nelson Cruz platoon).

Which leaves first base. Brad Wilkerson has been talked about as a solution, but he seems more of a part-time player at this point, a guy who you could bring back to split time at first base with Saltalamacchia if you want to have Gerald Laird be the regular catcher while Salt E is the backup, or maybe sharing time in the outfield.

And the free agent options are poor...plus, you have to think Chris Davis is going to be knocking on the door at the end of 2008, so you don't necessarily want to be tied long-term to a middling first baseman.

Sexson is owed $14 million for 2008. That's a lot of money. Particularly for a guy who has hit as poorly as he has this year.

Sexson is hitting .205/.295/.399 this year, good for a .238 EQA. And it isn't just that Safeco sucks for hitters...he's hitting .225/.312/.394 on the road this year.

But...he's just 32 years old. He's not ancient. He was a .264/.338/.504 guy last year, with a .279 EQA, and had a .308 EQA the year before. Will Carroll says there's no telling how much his hamstring problems contributed to his hitting problems this year, and this could just be another case of a guy with old player skills falling off the cliff in his early 30s.

Still...if you use line drive percentage plus .120 as an estimate of what a batter's expected BABIP should be, you can argue that Sexson has been unusually unlucky...he has a 14.9% LD%, but a .217 BABIP, over 50 points worse than would be expected. If you look at his historical stats, the only time he's deviated so sharply from his expected BABIP is in 2004, when he had a 15.9% LD% and a .200 BABIP.

And of course, he followed up his extremely disappointing 2004 season with a very good 2005 season.

His pitch data shows that he's seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance than he has historically, but his contact rate when he swings is actually up a little...unlike, say, Brad Wilkerson, who has since his swing-and-miss percentage go up the last couple of years, Sexson is making contact as consistently as ever.

How has Sexson hit, historically, in TBIA? Not too good....260/.358/.449, about 50 OPS points below his career averages.

But here's what interesting to me...Sexson, despite being a righthanded hitter, looks like a pretty good fit for TBIA. Check out his BIP chart for the last few years (choose Safeco Field, since that's obviously where he'll have the most BIP data). Quite a few homers to right and right-center, and quite a few deep fly outs to right-center. Those are the types of balls that, in the hot summers at TBIA, can get up in the jetstream and end up in the Ranger bullpen.

Looking at his BIP data from 2003-2006, Sexson never had as much as 20% of his fly balls go to left field in a single year (ranging from 14.6% to 19.5%), while the average righty has 22.3% of his fly balls go to left field. And Sexson hits an above-average percentage of balls in the air, which helps, as well.

Looking at all this, Sexson is someone who seems like he could be a decent value pick, someone who you could pick up for nothing more than taking his contract (even though Zumsteg says Detroit claimed Sexson on waivers this summer, and Seattle pulled him back).

Could the Rangers afford it? Absolutely. They aren't signing any free agent pitchers. ARod is likely opting out, saving $7 million. The Michael Young contract extension doesn't kick in until after 2008. The Rangers could easily afford to moneywhip Torii Hunter or Aaron Rowand and still add all of Sexson's salary, even if the M's didn't want to pick any of it up.

Why would Texas do that? It fills a gaping hole in next year's lineup. It gives you a pretty decent candidate for a bounceback year who could hit cleanup and balance out a fairly lefty-heavy lineup. And if Sexson does bounce back, he could be a pretty valuable trade chip if you aren't in contention come July, 2008.

This is just speculation on my part, and Zumsteg could be wrong, and the M's could be dead set on having Richie Sexson as their 2008 first baseman. Or it could be that a contender sees Sexson as having value, and is willing to give up a nice prospect for him (since I don't think the Rangers would give up anything more than an organizational depth guy to get him).

But this is the type of deal that I could see the Rangers making, and that I'd hope they'd be in on, should Sexson be available.