This week, six-time All Star shortstop Miguel Tejada and the Baltimore Orioles agreed on a one-year $6 million contract, pending a physical. However, heading toward this reunion, Tejada will play third base instead of his familiar shortstop position. The 35 year-old became a free agent after the Houston Astros declined to offer him arbitration last month. Tejada did put up some numbers for Houston last year, hitting .313 with 14 home runs and 86 RBI in 158 games, ranking second in the National League in hits with 199.
Switching from shortstop to third base will be no easy task for the 13-year major league veteran. The only time he has played the position in games of any significance was in last year's World Baseball Classic, when Dominican teammates Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes pushed Tejada to the hot corner. It has been done successfully before; Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. went from shortstop to third in the latter stage of his career and played the position well. More recently, Alex Rodriguez made the move after signing with the New York Yankees. Rodriguez has become a solid third baseman, but even one of the most gifted players in the game struggled making the transition. It will be a process, and it will start next month in Sarasota, Florida when Tejada, reports to spring training.
Tejada proved last season that, despite his diminished power, he can still hit the ball well. After smacking 199 hits last year, Tejada figures to fit nicely into a lineup that includes up-and-coming young stars Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters; in addition to veteran talents such as Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, and the recently-signed Garrett Atkins (who will play first base). Tejada figures to hit fifth or sixth in the lineup and can put up decent numbers in this role.
From a fantasy perspective, Tejada's batting average should remain steady at around .300. He can gather 180 hits and 85 RBI, decent numbers that would project him to be in the top ten shortstops for 2010, but only the top fifteen third basemen. He falls short on power and stolen bases.
By comparison, Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew projects higher than Tejada for the 2010 season. He is slated for fewer hits (155) and RBI (75), but more power with 15 home runs. As far as a third base comparison, Texas' Michael Young is projected for fewer hits (169) and RBI (75) but again more power, with 16 home runs estimated for him this coming year. Lastly, consider the change from the NL Central to the AL East, where much tougher competition on a regular basis may also hinder Tejada's production.