Jason Bourgeois, Jordan Schafer, Brian Bogusevic

MLB’s worst position situations: 2012 edition

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After declaring the Houston Astros in position of the game’s worst rotation earlier today, I thought it’d be fun to look at the rest of the worst. So here are MLB’s most gruesome position situations heading into the 2012 season:

Catcher: Dodgers – A.J. Ellis, Matt Treanor, Tim Federowicz

The Dodgers let the slugging-heavy Rod Barajas walk with the intention of replacing him with someone who will do little but walk. Ellis. who turns 31 in April, has hit .262/.360/.330 in 206 major league at-bats. That’s not too shabby, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to keep his OBP up once right-handed pitchers figure out he’s barely a threat to get the ball out of the infield. He’s also average at best defensively. That the Dodgers didn’t bring in anyone better than Treanor as an insurance policy was quite a disappointment.

Dishonorable mention: Rays, Astros, Blue Jays

I might have gone with the Astros over the Dodgers before they signed Chris Snyder. There’s still some hope that young Jason Castro will be pretty good anyway. The Rays are banking a lot on Jose Molina’s defense, but even if he’s as good as they think, turning him into a regular for the first time at age 36 figures to result in DL stints.

First base: Orioles – Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit

The Orioles top this list because they’re stubbornly refusing to put Mark Reynolds at first, even though Reynolds was maybe the game’s worst defender at third base last season. Davis offers a superior glove at third and his bat would play better there. I have him projected with a worse OPS than other replaceable first basemen like Matt LaPorta, Daric Barton and Mat Gamel. Betemit is currently penciled in as the DH.

Dishonorable mention: Indians, Pirates, Athletics, Brewers, Cubs

Two of these teams are going to upgrade to Derrek Lee and Casey Kotchman, taking them off the list. I imagine the Indians will be one of them, leaving LaPorta out of a job.

Second base: Mets – Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Ronny Cedeno

There aren’t any particularly bad second base situations out there, though the Mets’ could quickly turn into one if Murphy struggles to recover his mobility. He sustained season-ending injuries to his right knee in 2010 and his left knee last year. Murphy can hit enough to make up for below average defense, but he’s just not likely to hold up physically while playing second base.

Dishonorable mentions: Orioles, Tigers, Cardinals, Cubs

The Orioles will go back to Robert Andino at second if Brian Roberts can’t overcome a nasty case of post-concussion syndrome. The Tigers can set up an offense-defense platoon of Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago, but Raburn probably isn’t good enough offensively to make it worth it.

Third base: Dodgers – Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr., Adam Kennedy

Uribe kicked off a three-year, $21 million contract by hitting .204/.264/.293 in 270 at-bats for the Dodgers last season. He can’t be that bad again, but he still gets a worst offensive projection than Ian Stewart, Danny Valencia and some of the other contenders here and I’m not sure his glove will allow him to overcome it.

Dishonorable mention: Cubs, Pirates, Twins, Rockies, Mariners

I’m of the belief that the Pirates need to send down Pedro Alvarez and use Casey McGehee as a stopgap third baseman. Alvarez belongs at first base anyway. The Mariners make an appearance even though I’m somewhat optimistic about Kyle Seager. He should start against righties.

Shortstop: Giants – Brandon Crawford, Mike Fontenot, Ryan Theriot

Crawford hit .224/.282/.318 in 107 at-bats in Triple-A and .204/.288/.296 in 196 at-bats in the majors last season, so his glove will have to be awfully good to make him serviceable. For what it’s worth, I have him projected at .222/.300/.303 for this year. The Giants will have a couple of weak defenders backing him up.

Dishonorable mention: Braves, Red Sox, Twins

I see Atlanta’s Tyler Pastornicky outhitting Crawford, though I expect he’ll be a bit weaker defensively. That the Giants claimed the top spot here came down to the backups; Jack Wilson is the better insurance policy. The Red Sox will try to get by with Nick Punto and Mike Aviles, at least for a few months. The Twins also make the list: I know Jamey Carroll’s defensive numbers have been pretty good, but at age 38, range is certainly an issue.

Left field: Blue Jays – Eric Thames, Travis Snider, Ben Francisco, Rajai Davis

What the Jays lack in quality, they do make up for in quantity. Still, manager John Farrell is likely to have a difficult time figuring out the best arrangement here. Thames looks like the early favorite for playing time, but he’s also the worst defender of the bunch. Snider is just 24, so there’s still plenty of promise in his bat. He’s the one in the group capable of making me look silly here in a few months.

Dishonorable mention: White Sox, Dodgers, Mariners, Twins, Astros, Pirates

I’m not optimistic about Alejandro De Aza for the White Sox or Ben Revere for the Twins, but both should be excellent defensively, making up for OPSs in the 700 range.

Center field: Astros – Jordan Schafer, Jason Bourgeois, J.B. Shuck

The Astros are banking on Schafer after picking him up from the Braves in the Michael Bourn trade. I have him projected at .252/.326/.353, which won’t be so bad if it comes with plus defense. However, he is injury-prone and there’s not much behind him.

Dishonorable mention: Nationals, Rangers, Mets, Royals

The Nationals have yet again struck out on obtaining a center field upgrade, leaving them with the option of shifting Jayson Werth from right or letting Roger Bernadina and Mike Cameron battle it out in spring training. The Rangers will have Julio Borbon, Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry compete, but they always have the fallback of returning Josh Hamilton to center.

Right field: Astros – Brian Bogusevic, Fernando Martinez, Jack Cust

At least the Astros avoided the clean sweep in the outfield; I think J.D. Martinez will be below average in left, but he does have a nice glove. Bogusevic just doesn’t possess the power to be useful as a regular, and the alternatives aren’t pretty.

Dishonorable mention: White Sox, Red Sox, Athletics, Giants

Right field stands as one of the game’s strongest positions at the moment, and none of these situations are nearly as bad as Houston’s. The White Sox will turn to Dayan Viciedo after trading Carlos Quentin, and while I don’t think he’ll be outright bad, I don’t see him being much of an asset offensively or defensively right away. The Red Sox can try a Ryan Sweeney-Cody Ross platoon, at least until Ryan Kalish gets back. The big problem there is that they may need to start both Sweeney and Ross if Carl Crawford starts off on the DL.

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

Mat Latos
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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Jason Castro loses arbitration hearing against Astros

Jason Castro
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Veteran catcher Jason Castro and the Astros went through with an arbitration hearing over a difference of $250,000 and the three-person panel ruled in favor of the team.

That means Castro will make $5 million this season rather than his requested amount of $5.25 million. This is his final year of arbitration eligibility, so the 29-year-old catcher will be a free agent after the season.

Castro showed a lot of promise early on, including making the All-Star team at age 26 in 2013, but since then he’s hit just .217 with a .650 OPS in 230 games. His power and pitch-framing skills are a valuable combination even within sub par overall production, so 2016 will be a key year for the former first-round draft pick.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Eminent Domain and the history of the Rangers Ballpark

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump addresses supporters at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Eminent Domain — the right of a government to take/buy private property for public use — and its implications has always been a controversial topic. It became far more controversial in the 1990s and early 2000s, however,  as the practice, which is intended for public projects like roads and stuff, was increasingly used in ways to help developers and businesses.

The controversy came to a head in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court held that general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth — not just direct public works — qualified as a “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The upshot: if someone had a good argument that a shopping mall would benefit the community, Mr. Developer and the government can force you to sell them their house.

This led to a HUGE backlash, with property rights people freaking out about what seemed like a pretty clear abuse of governmental power serving the interests of developers. Some 44 states have since passed laws outlawing the use of Eminent Domain for purely economic development. Some of that backlash has gone too far in the other direction, with some laws getting passed which not only required compensation to landowners if land was taken, but merely if land was diminished in value.  Like, if the government passes an environmental regulation which makes your private, for-profit toxic waste dump less lucrative than it was, the government has to pay you. It’s crazy stuff, really. And all of those laws notwithstanding, the topic continues to be a controversial one, with battles over what, exactly, is “public” what is a “public good” and all of that raging on. It’s rather fascinating. At least for boring nerfherders like me.

In the recent GOP presidential debate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush got into it on the topic, with Trump — a real estate developer, or course — defending the use of Eminent Domain to take land for economic development and Bush — a really desperate dude who at this point will take ANY position he can if it’ll give him traction — opposing it. In the days since they’ve continued to fight about it, with Trump charging Bush with hypocrisy since his brother, George W., was an owner of the Texas Rangers when they built their new ballpark with the help of Eminent Domain.

Ahh, yes. We finally get to baseball.

Today Nathaniel Rakich of Baseballot digs into that project and looks at how it all played out against the Eminent Domain debate. It touches on stuff we talk about a lot around here: are ballparks engines of economic development or merely for the enrichment of ballclubs? If they are built by a municipality, are they public goods? Wait, how can they be public goods if you can’t just walk into them for free? And the arguments go on.

It’s fascinating stuff showing, once again, that the real world and baseball intersect all the dang time and it’s handy to have a handle on just how, exactly, it does so.