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.

A’s running out of time to find home in Oakland, Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS — The Oakland Athletics have spent years trying to get a new stadium while watching Bay Area neighbors such as the Giants, Warriors, 49ers and Raiders successfully move into state-of-the-art venues, and now time is running short on their efforts.

The A’s lease at RingCentral Coliseum expires after the 2024 season, and though they might be forced to extend the terms, the club and Major League Baseball have deemed the stadium unsuitable for a professional franchise.

They are searching for a new stadium in Oakland or Las Vegas, but they have experienced difficulties in both areas. The A’s missed a major deadline in October to get a deal done in Oakland, and there has been little indication they will receive the kind of funding they want from Las Vegas.

“I think the A’s have to look at it in a couple of ways,” said Brendan Bussmann, managing partner at Las Vegas-based B Global. “Obviously, they have struggled in Oakland to get a deal across the line. It isn’t for a lack of effort. . You have an owner that’s willing to pony up money, you have a club that wants to sit there and figure out a way to make it work, and you keep running into obstacles along the way.

“It’s time to fish or cut bait. Oakland, do you want them or not? And if not, where are the A’s going to get the best deal? Is it Vegas? Is it somewhere else? They’ll have to figure that out.”

What the A’s are thinking is a little bit of a mystery. Team President Dave Kaval was talkative earlier in the process, saying the A’s are pursuing two different tracks with Oakland and Las Vegas. But he went silent on the subject several months ago. A’s spokeswoman Catherine Aker said mostly recently that the club would withhold comment for now.

The A’s have been negotiating with Oakland to build a $1 billion stadium as part of a $12 billion redevelopment deal.

Newly elected Mayor Sheng Thao said reaching a deal is important as long as it makes economic sense to the city. Her predecessor, Libby Schaaf, led prior efforts to reach an agreement, but after the city and the A’s missed that October deadline, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed reservations a deal will ever get done.

“The pace in Oakland has not been rapid, number one,” Manfred said at the time. “We’re in a stadium situation that’s really not tenable. I mean, we need to do something to alter the situation. So I’m concerned about the lack of pace.”

Recent California history justifies his concerns. SoFi Stadium in Southern California and Chase Center in San Francisco were built with private money, and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara was 90% privately financed.

“And then I think there was some contagion where around the country people realized these deals could be done well privately and could generate a return on investment to those investors,” said David Carter, a sports business professor at the University of Southern California. “Why are we throwing public money at it at all?”

That’s also a question being asked in Las Vegas, even though the Raiders in 2016 received $750 million from the Nevada Legislature for a stadium. That then was the largest amount of public money for a sports venue, but it was surpassed last March by the $850 million pledged to construct a new stadium for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Another deal like the one for Allegiant Stadium, where the Raiders play, appears unlikely in Nevada. T-Mobile Arena, which opened in 2017, was privately financed. An arena planned for south of the Las Vegas Strip also wouldn’t rely on public funds.

Las Vegas, however, has shown financing creativity. Its Triple-A baseball stadium received $80 million in 2017 for naming rights from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Room taxes fund the authority, so it was public money in a backdoor sort of way.

Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, who is on the board of the convention authority, has spoken with A’s representatives about their interest in Las Vegas and said he is aware of the club’s talks with other Nevada officials. He said the A’s are taking a much different approach than the Raiders, who identified Las Vegas early as their choice landing spot after many years of failing to get a new stadium in Oakland.

“When the Raiders decided to come to Las Vegas, they had a clear plan,” Naft said. “You had a clear body that was tasked with assessing the worth and the value, and they committed to the destination. I have not seen that from the Oakland A’s at any level, and it’s not really our job to go out and beg them to come here because we have earned the reputation of the greatest arena on Earth. We have put in both the dollars and the labor to make that the case.

“I think I’ve made myself clear, but from conversations with others, I don’t think I’m alone on that.”

New Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo “will not raise taxes” to attract the A’s or any other team, his spokeswoman, Elizabeth Ray, said in a statement. But she said the club could qualify for other ongoing “economic development programs,” which could mean tax breaks similar to what Tesla received in 2014.

Manfred said in December that the A’s relocation fee would be waived if they move to Las Vegas, a savings to the club reportedly of up to $1 billion.

“We’re past any reasonable timeline for the situation in Oakland to be resolved,” Manfred said then.

Naft said Allegiant Stadium filled a hole that went beyond landing an NFL team. It allowed Las Vegas to attract major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and Final Four and major concerts such as Garth Brooks and Elton John that “in many cases we would not otherwise have.”

He said he doesn’t believe a baseball stadium would accomplish that, and sports economist Victor Matheson agreed.

“I think there’s a real question about how much people are willing to watch baseball in Las Vegas,” said Matheson, a professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. “It’s not like locals don’t have a huge number of entertainment options right now, and it’s not clear exactly how much people might travel to watch baseball in Vegas, either.”

If the A’s truly want to be in Las Vegas, Naft said they need to make that clear.

“I just believe you can’t play destinations against each other,” Naft said. “If you want to come here and you want to be met with open arms, you’ve got to commit.”

Should the A’s fail to reach an agreement in Oakland or Las Vegas, they could consider other destinations such as Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville; and Portland, Oregon. Whether they would have the time to explore such options is another question.

Oakland has already shown it will watch the Raiders move to Nevada and the Warriors go across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.

Las Vegas, Matheson noted, is hardly in a desperate situation. He also expressed caution that Las Vegas could go from being among the largest metropolitan areas without a major professional sports team to among the smallest with three franchises.

“So you’ve gone from kind of being under-sported to being over-sported in a short period of time if the A’s were to go there,” Matheson said.