With his days as shortstop behind him, Miguel Tejada is set to begin this season as the Orioles primary third baseman:
Throughout two productive years with the Houston Astros, during which he hit .298 with 27 homers and 152 RBI, Tejada was twice selected to the National League All-Star team. He never lost his passion for winning or his ability to drive in runs, and when the six-year, $72 million deal he inked with Baltimore in 2003 expired, the Orioles’ need for a right-handed run-producer to man third base and Tejada’s desire to clean up some unfinished business intersected.
“I’m happy to…come back to the Orioles for the second time in my career,” the 35-year-old Tejada said at a press conference held Jan. 27. “It puts a lot of pressure on myself because this is a second chance to be a winner. The last time, I could not be a winner. But I think this time is the time to be a winner and I come back here for a reason.”
Andy MacPhail, Orioles president of baseball operations, patiently waited for the market to re-set itself after December’s free-agent flurry and was intrigued to find Tejada still seeking employment. Once the Orioles had signed free agent Garrett Atkins and inserted him at first base, the hot corner became the next spot needing to be filled. Tejada, who told his agent he was willing to move to third if he could play full-time, jumped at the opportunity.
As the article states, Tejada has continued to be a very productive player at the plate even as he gets older. Even though his power has diminished greatly from his MVP days, Tejada can still hold his own at the dish by hitting for a high average with a bunch of doubles and RBIs.
The move to third base was a good one for Tejada's future. While his offensive production has remained above average, his defensive ability took a sharp turn for the worse last season. As a result, Tejada was statistically one of the worst defensive third basemen in baseball.
Tejada, who will be a free agent at the end of the 2010 season, does have the opportunity to extend his career by moving to third base, assuming that he can play quality defense. The class of free agent third baseman next winter is quite weak (led by Jorge Cantu and Brandon Inge) and there's no doubt in my mind that it was in Tejada's best interest to move to third base and attempt to increase his value and performance this season.
As a soon-to-be 36-year-old, there's little to no chance that Tejada will land anything more than a short term deal next winter. The reality is that an aging shortstop with declining defensive skills and limited offensive power is not exactly what teams are looking for these days.
If Tejada can improve his defense at third base and match his offensive production of the past two seasons, I think we will see far more teams interested in his services next winter.