Rockies manager Jim Tracy indicated that both Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco would be in the lineup most of the time the rest of the season, sending veterans Chris Iannetta and Kevin Kouzmanoff to the bench.
Iannetta has a right to be upset by the arrangement. Among regular catchers, only Alex Avila (.391) and Carlos Ruiz (.371) have higher OBPs that Iannetta’s .370 mark this season. Only Avila (.907), Brian McCann (.843), Miguel Montero (.804) and Nick Hundley (.801) top him in OPS (Iannetta is at .779).
Rosario, in comparison, hit .249/.284/.457 in Double-A this year. He’s just 22 and he has the tools to excel defensively, but he’s likely a big downgrade from Iannetta right now and it’s doubtful he’ll overtake him at any point within the next year or two.
But Rosario is at least a prospect. Pacheco, 25, hit .278/.343/.377 as the catcher for Triple-A Colorado Springs this year. He was originally a middle infielder before converting, and the Rockies intend to give him most of his playing time at third base for now. At best, his versatility could make him a fringe major leaguer.
The Pacheco plan could be taken as a strong indication that the Rockies don’t like what they’ve seen from Kouzmanoff since grabbing him from the A’s earlier this month. Auditioning for a spot in the 2012 lineup, Kouzmanoff has hit .244/.306/.289 with no homers, one walk and 10 strikeouts in 45 at-bats. The Rockies will probably end up releasing him, trading Ian Stewart and going outside of the organization for a new third base solution for next year.
For what it’s worth, the Rockies are also going a bit younger at shortstop tonight, with Chris Nelson getting the start in place of Troy Tulowitzki. That’s likely a one-day thing, though, as Tulo is getting a night off to deal with a sore hip.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.