Nick Punto? A closer making the minimum? Nick Punto? NICK PUNTO?!?
And no Yu Darvish, in case you were wondering.
Now we know why the Red Sox were ticked off the White Sox sent Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays without ever shopping him around first.
Picking up Mark Melancon from the Astros in return for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland did make sense for Boston. Lowrie may yet turn into a fine regular at second base, but his glove doesn’t quite cut it at shortstop and his injury history is truly worrisome. The Astros will play him at short for now, but they may end up putting him at third base for the long haul. Weiland profiles better as a reliever than as a starter, though he may turn into a quality setup man in time.
I’m a believer in Melancon, having had him projected for a 3.13 ERA and a 62/22 K/BB ratio in 69 innings next season. Anyone pointing to his walk rate as a reason to be nervous should take note that six of the 26 walks he issued in his 74 1/3 innings last season were intentional. Melancon will never be Jonathan Papelbon, but he should be a nice asset, particularly while he’s making the minimum these next two years.
The Punto signing, on the other hand, is pretty gruesome. Punto is a lot more likely to revert to 2010 form (.238/.313/.302) than he is to match the 2011 line (.278/.388/.421) that he acheived in limited action for St. Louis (133 at-bats). His signing makes one wonder just why the Red Sox are holding on to Mike Aviles. Aviles has some offensive ability, but if he’s not going to be trusted to backup the infield spots, there’s not much sense to keeping him around. If it’s going to be Punto, not Aviles and certainly now not Lowrie, getting the call at third base when Kevin Youkilis is banged up next season, the Red Sox will be taking a big hit at the bottom of the lineup.
But then the Red Sox are starting to get used to taking big hits.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.