Fans of The Steve Miller Band’s classic “Swingtown” may have a reason to celebrate come opening day. Lyle Overbay has signed a minor league deal to potentially return to Milwaukee for the 2014 season. The soon-to-be 37 year-old will head to camp to compete in an increasingly crowded group of corner infielders. That list includes third basemen Aramis Ramirez, the pair of Mark Reynolds and Juan Francisco who can, at least theoretically, play both positions, and some younger first-base-only types in Hunter Morris and Sean Halton.
Overbay spent all of last year with the New York Yankees, where he got perhaps more playing time that most expected, but struggled in posting a .240/.295/.393 line overall, despite the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium. His last season with an above average OPS+ and at least 200 plate appearances came all the way back in 2010.
That being said, Overbay did struggle mightily in 125 pretty inexplicable plate appearances against left-handed pitchers last year. Remove those, and he hit a more robust .258/.317/.432. That compares pretty favorably with Francisco’s .234/.305/.443 against right-handed pitching last year. If manager Ron Roenicke and the coaching staff can figure out ways to minimize the number of lefties seen by either Francisco or Overbay, they can probably squeeze something like an above replacement level performance out of first base for almost no money, which is fine.
In the big picture, this seems like a pretty clear indication that the Brewers are indeed willing to run a platoon at first if the need should arise. There is also a chance that they end up with at least a soft platoon at either second or left by the time the season is over. That’s not a bad thing, as I discussed here with Steve Garczynski. It should be fascinating to see how it all plays out in spring training and over the first part of the season.