Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Campaign '06: Middle Infield

The Incumbents, Jose Vidro and Cristian Guzman

As bad as Cristian Guzman was, was he really a bigger disappointment than Jose Vidro?

We know how much Guzman stinks. He ended up with a 55 OPS+, meaning he was literally almost 50 percent worse than an average batter. His .219/ .260/ .314 line looks like a pretty good season for a pitcher. He had the same effectiveness at the plate as the average left-handed batter did during Randy Johnson's prime.

Defensively, he was less than stellar. While not a disaster, he got to many fewer balls per game than the average short stop and made more errors than the average one too.

It was a lost season.

Jose Vidro's wasn't much better. He played in just 87 games, a number that would embarass even Nick Johnson. After knee surgery last season, he showed up to spring training out of shape, never got into shape, then broke down repeatedly. All the while, the hitting stroke that had made him a legitimate three-time All-Star disappeared.

A .275/ .339/ .424 isn't horrible. (It's above league average, 105 OPS+), but it's a far cry from the .300/ 375/ 490 the once-mechanical man put up.

Defensively, he was brutal, having the range a slightly bulky, thrice knee-surgeried, 30 year-old second baseman would be expected to have. His range factors were below average, getting to half a ball less than average per game. That might not seem like a lot, but it adds up.

It, too, was a lost season.

Both players are under contract for next season. Guzman will make $4.2 million in the second year of a four-year contract. Jose Vidro will make an ungodly $7 million. He'll be paid a combined $23 million over the next three years. Ouch.

Ordinarily the team would be looking for alternatives, but their relatively large contracts give them the advantage of incumbency. They'll both cruise to an easy and unfortunate election victory.

The Issues:
With Vidro's injuries, and Guzman's lost season, the team needs some insurance. The lack of insurance (combined with Frank's pettiness) led the team to trade a capable 3/4 starter for a backup when Vidro broke himself again.

Guzman needs someone to challenge him. While I'm optimistic that he can rebound to mediocrity (as opposed to wretchedness), if he starts off poorly next year, they need an alternative in place.

All of which is a long way of saying, "Depth, depth, depth."

The Contenders:
Bowden's like an old prospector. He hauls up piles of rocks, hoping that one of them will have a fleck of gold in it. To that end, he's given the franchise a little depth with his recent moves.

Damian Jackson:He's a jack of all trades, and able to play most positions (even if his SS defense is scary). He won't win a Silver Slugger, but he'll be useful for his speed and his versatility. Unfortunately, he's the kind of player that Frank would give too much playing time to.
Bernie Castro:He gets on base, a little. Plays defense, a little. Slugs, very little. He runs, a lot.
Jamey Carroll:We love the li'l scamp. He gets on base at a decent clip, but has less power than [witty analogy]. Soon to be 32, his is an interesting case. He's up for arbitration, and will be due a raise, probably the $600K range. I love the guy, but is he worth that much? I'm not sure.
Junior Spivey: We hardly knew ye. He'd be excellent depth, but his desire for a starting job, and salary demands (He made over $2 million last year) preclude him from a job here.
Deivi Cruz: The team has turned their back on Deivi. After his uninspiring performance here, it's not hard to see why. Doesn't walk. Doesn't strike out. But he hits doubles. I really wouldn't mind seeing him come back, but the team doesn't seem interested in re-signing him.

Neither Rick Short nor Carlos Baerga are capable of playing second regularly, especially after the shoulder injury Short suffered. If he's able to come back, it'd have to be as a corner man.

There isn't a lot available on the free agency market. And we don't have a lot of money to spend, especially if we do bring Carroll back. (That'd mean almost $1.5 million on Carroll and Jackson alone.)

The best of a bad lot (considering probably price and willingness to be a back up) include:
Mark Bellhorn -- the classic old player's skills player may have fallen off the table last year.
Tony Graffanino -- Not much of a hitter, and Boston will probably overpay to keep him anyway.
Frank Menechino -- Another old player's skills player. Gets on base. Plays so-so defense. Reportedly has had attitude problems.

Yeah, not much, huh?

The Dark Horse:
Trading Jose Vidro makes so much sense, it isn't funny. Second basemen rarely age well, probably due to their typical body size/shape and the physical demands of their position; they break down earlier than any position other than catcher. And Vidro's well on his way towards being another data point in favor of that argument.

I really don't like the idea of paying him $8.5 million to hobble around the infield in 2008. Now would be the time to trade him, when he still has some value. He'll probably have to move to third (Zimmerman says HI!) or to first, where his bat will be below average for the position.

What could the team do with $7 million in savings? Esteban Loaiza would be happy to take it.

The Trilateral Commission Recommends:
Trading for Alfonso Soriano. The kids tell the Trilateral Commission that he has skillz.

What About My Vote?
I'd stick with Guzman at short. He had a few brief stretches of offensive competence. If the team really does jettison Tom McCraw, Guzman will be better served. He's never going to be anything more than an 8th place hitter, but there's no reason he can't approach his career averages. If he does that, he's not nearly the drain he was.

I really would try to trade Vidro. Realizing that that's not much of a possibility, I'd suck it up. Jackson is probably a good backup, with Castro in New Orleans for depth.

But if he comes back, it's not the absolute worst thing in the world.

Look at it this way. Do you REALLY think that the two of them could be as bad as they were last season? The team will get better because they'll both rebound, even if only marginally.

Vidro is reportedly working on his conditioning, which wasn't great coming into the season. If he's in better shape, and he comes back with stronger legs, the consistency of his health should help the consistency of his offensive performance.

Or so I hope.

They were a black hole last year. Next year will be an escape. Right? Right? Bueller?


  • Dude! I'm right here! Hey! Look at me!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/02/2005 1:50 PM  

  • He's dead to me. (and Frank. And Bowden)

    While he'd be a good alternative, his future, given the team's wariness about his defense, is probably at third base.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/02/2005 2:33 PM  

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