Sabermetricians are often told to get their heads out of their spreadsheets and to watch some baseball. The people who say that sort of thing often defer to their own eyes or the eyes of scouts when it comes to analysis. Then you read stuff like this story from Andrew Marchand at ESPN New York in which scouts are said to prefer Derek Jeter over Jose Reyes — and in one case Hanley Ramirez — at shortstop right now and you wonder what they’re smoking.
I’ll give Jeter durability over Reyes right now. But that’s all I’d give him. In no way, however, would I select Derek Jeter over Jose Reyes if I had to put together a team for the rest of 2011. And apart from the scout that Marchand spoke to, I’m not sure who would.
Yesterday free agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki held a workout in California and representatives from at least eleven teams were on hand, reports Tim Brown of Yahoo. Among the clubs present: the Giants — who were said to have a “heavy presence,” including team president Farhan Zaidi and manager Bruce Bochy — the Angels, Red Sox, Cubs, Padres, White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Phillies, Tigers and Pirates.
Your first reaction to that may be “Um, really? For Tulowitzki?” But a moment’s reflection makes it seem more sensible. We’re so tied up in thinking of a player through the filter of their contract and, when we’ve done that with Tulowitzki over the past several years, it has made him seem like an albatross given the $20 million+ a year he was earning to either not play or play rather poorly due to injuries.
It was just the contract that was the albatross, though, right? An almost free Tulowitzki — which he will be given that the Blue Jays are paying him $38 million over the next two seasons — is a different matter. If you sign him it’ll be for almost no real money and he stands a chance to be an average or maybe better-than-average shortstop, which is pretty darn valuable. You might even get one quirky late career return-to-near-glory season from him, in which case you’ve hit the lottery. If, however, as seems more likely, he just can’t get it done at all, you’re not out anything and you can cut him with little or no pain.
Eleven teams think he’s at least a look-see. I bet one of them will offer him a major league deal. Maybe more than one. He’ll probably have his pick of non-roster invites to spring training. I can’t see the downside to at least doing that much.