LYLE OVERBAY
FIRST BASEMAN
Age: 34
Born: January 28, 1977
Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 235
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Drafted: 18th Round, 538th Overall, 1999
How Acquired: Free Agent
Agent: Steve Hilliard

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

The Pirates signed Overbay to a $5M contract for 2011. He’s been a solid but unspectacular firstbaseman for a number of years, generally showing good plate discipline and more doubles than HR power. He usually has not hit LHPs well, with a career OPS against them of .709, including .700 in 2010. Overbay’s been a good defensive firstbaseman, although UZR sees him as slipping the last couple years until he was just average in 2010. The Fielding Bible’s +/- system sees him as still being one of the best at his position in the majors. He’s an extremely slow runner. 

1999-2003: Made very quick progress through the low minors, then stalled a bit in 2001-02 due to presence of Mark Grace at first in Arizona. Consistently hit for high averages with lots of doubles.

2004-05: Traded to Milwaukee in nine-player trade that had Richie Sexson going the other way; served as bridge between Sexson and Prince Fielder. Had strong season in 2004, then slipped a little next year.

2006-10: With Fielder in the majors, traded to Toronto. After good 2006 season, missed a month in 2007 with hand injury, then slumped after returning. Had bounce-back season in 2009, then slumped again in 2010. K% increased every year after 2006. Line drive % declined in 2009-10, from 22.6% to 20.2% to 16.0%. BB/K ratio hit career low of 0.51 in 2010. Platooned in 2009, probably accounting for the strong year, but played most of the time against LHPs in 2010. Got off to miserable start in 2010 and was hitting just 197/276/331 on May 29, then hit well rest of year.

The Pirates’ decision to sign Overbay is difficult to defend. He’ll be an upgrade defensively, but he’s probably not an upgrade from what the Pirates could have gotten out of some combination of Steve Pearce, John Bowker and Ryan Doumit. The 2011 ZiPS projections available at the Baseball Think Factory show Bowker and Pearce both posting rate stats virtually identical to Overbay’s 2010 numbers, and that’s without being platooned. Instead, the Pirates will try to trade Doumit, may send Pearce to the minors, as he has one option left, and may have to DFA Bowker, who has no options left.

The Overbay signing is strongly reminiscent of the directionless days of Dave Littlefield, when the team repeatedly sacrificed any effort to improve long-term in order to fill in holes with over-the-hill veterans in an effort to avoid losing 100 games. Littlefield continually made the mistake of thinking declining veterans entailed little or no risk, especially compared to younger players with limited or no major league experience. He was proven wrong time and again, and now the team is carrying out the same strategy with Overbay, ignoring the fact that he has no chance of helping the team long-term and a very good chance of not outperforming Bowker and Pearce even in the short term. Overbay had an OPS+ in 2010 of 107, which is very ordinary for a firstbaseman. Any slippage at all with leave Overbay as an aging, below average player for his position.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2011: $5,000,000 

4 Year/$24 M Contract (Signed in January 2007, avoided arbitration)

2010: $7,000,000
2009: $7,000,000
2008: $5,800,000
2007: $400,000

  • $3,800,000 signing bonus

2006: $2,525,000 (avoided arbitration)
2005: $446,000
2004: $326,000
2003: $300,000

PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 1999
MLB Debut: 9/19/2001
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2012
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 12/14/2010
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2001, 2002, 2003)
MLB Service Time: 8.026
TRANSACTIONS
June 2, 1999: Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 18th round, 538th overall.
June 8, 1999:
Signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks to a minor league contract.
December 1, 2003: Acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers from the Arizona Diamondbacks along with Junior Spivey, Craig Counsell, Chad Moeller, Chris Capuano, and Jorge De La Rosa in exchange for Richie Sexson, Shane Nance, and Gary Varner.
December 7, 2005: Acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays from the Milwaukee Brewers along with Ty Taubenheim in exchange for Dave Bush, Gabe Gross, and Zach Jackson.
December 14, 2010: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent.