Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Slowly Focusing On What We've Learned Today

With about two weeks left, things are starting to take shape with the end of the roster, and some of those questions I asked at the beginning of spring training, are being answered.

What've we learned?

  1. It's increasingly likely that Zach Day is headed north as the team's fifth starter. Given his performance over the last two years, he'll more than capably fill that role.

  2. Day in the rotation means that Los Dos Juans (Jon Rauch and John Patterson), barring a trade, start the year in the bullpen as two of the tallest long relievers in the game.

    Both players are out of options (SEE UPDATE BELOW), meaning they would have to pass through waivers to be assigned to the minors. And, that ain't happening. If the Mets were willing to give up anything more substantial than a 25-year old A-ball pitcher for Kaz Ishii, Rauch and Patterson stand no chance of clearing waivers. Patterson's recent hip problems, which apparently are minor, may allow them to disable him to start the season. He could come up after the 15th, which is the earliest they would need to move to a 12-man pitching staff.

  3. Inning-Endy Chavez sucks. Wait, scratch that. We already knew that. But, he's doing a great job of confirming that. In 23 execrable atbats, he's hitting .174 and slugging .174. Well, what's his on-base percentage, you might ask, since that's what everyone, Frank Robinson on down, has been focusing on? Well *sheepishly* I have no idea, because MLB inexplicably doesn't include walks!? on their spring training stats site. I know he doesn't have more than 3 or 4 though, because Barry's been good about noting them. Regardless, he's failed in what he attempted to do.

    And, unfortunately, we still don't know what the end result is. Is Endy starting on opening day? *shudder* If he does, can he play himself out of a job by the time the Home Opener rolls around? PLEASE!

  4. The outfield reserves are finally taking shape.

    4A. The Nationals shipped Aaron Wideman an 11th round pick in the 2003 draft to Toronto for the rights to retain Tyrell Godwin, whom they acquired via the Rule 5 draft. This trade allows the Nats to send Godwin to the minors. They now permanently own his rights, well for as long as any team owns any player's rights, that is.

    Wideman put up some impressive numbers in the minors: 81 innings, 1.91 ERA, 75 Ks, 20 BBs and just 1 HR allowed. Oh, and he's left handed. But, he's really young. And hasn't pitched above A-ball.

    I wouldn't have done it, but then, we knew that Jim Bowden was jonesing. Godwin doesn't add anything that isn't readily available in any number of minor trades. And it's not like this team needs outfielders! Now, if Godwin could play shortstop.... (Most of our friends to the north at Batters Box are excited about the deal)

    4B. Jeffrey Hammonds has agreed to go to the minors. I hope he enjoys the alligator gumbo. mmm!

    4C. Alex Escobar has done nothing to distinguish himself this spring. By all accounts, no one's particular impressed by his approach, nor his mediocre results. (.133/ ???/ .203) He, like the pitchers, is out of options, meaning he comes north or they lose him. He's had some injury problems over the last few weeks. If they persist, they could start him out on the DL, but that would only serve in delaying the tough roster decisions.

    4D. JJ Davis, who's alse out of options has apparently played his way onto the team. A .435/ ???/ .783 line tends to do that. The various projection systems love him, in part because of the .631 slugging average he put up in AAA last year. So far, his minor league perforance hasn't translated into major league results. We'll see if that changes this year.

    4E. Ryan Church hasn't been heard from a whole lot, hitting .258/ ???/ .484. His minor league performance shows he deserves a spot. He's just caugh in the roster crunch and he possesses something most players on this team lack: options. He'll be alongside Jeffrey Hammonds, backing up all the balls he misplays in the outfield.

    4F. Terrmel "Toxic Bat" Sledge deserves to play. He had a strong start to spring, but has faded recently, and is down to .250/ ???/ .357. He'll be the 4th outfielder.

    Ideally, Frank Robinson would talk to his old manager and pick up some tips on how to construct an offensive/defensive platoon. I'm not holding my breath though.

  5. The team still needs a back-up infielder. Jamey Carroll is it, so far. Wil Cordero, when not allegedly beating his wife, can only fill in at first and in the outfield. American-turned-Japanese import George Arias has already been sent to the minors, and Henry Mateo (the Endy Chavez of the infield) was disabled.

    That leaves Carlos Baerga. *shudder* Carlos is a lot of things, but a middle infielder ain't one of them, despite his previous life. Bowden's been sniffing around the underbelly of the league: Pokey Reese (apparently SEA thinks he's untradable, just like Bowden used to!) and Wilson Betemit, for example.

    Something will shake out before too long.

As it was at the beginning, Endy Chavez remains the biggest question.

I'm gonna make a wild guess here. Bowden is not afraid to make big moves late in spring training and, just so that I can claim later what an amazing genius I am later, I'll say that Endy's not on the team on April 4. Whether they trade him or cut him, I don't know. But he's failed in most every task they've set out for him.

Dumping him allows them to keep Escobar and Davis easily as the 4th and 5th outfielders. The team is downgraded defensively, but the huge offensive upgrade (500 ABs of Endy v. 500 ABs from Sledge/Escobar/Davis) will likely more than make up for it. And if it doesn't happen, I'll have about the same accuracy rate as Peter Gammons! ;)

UPDATE: Im a dolt. Rauch does have one year of options left, which means that he's likely headed to New Orleans to start the year. See the comments here for an explanation.


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