Pop quiz, hot shot!
You traded for an outfielder in the middle of the year who often looked helpless at the plate. He was a nice guy and had character, though, serving as a great cheerleader. And hey, you won the friggin’ World Series, so it’s not like his presence in the lineup every day harmed you that much. He’s arbitration eligible now is gonna make $13-15 million next season. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?
San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean can guarantee that outfielder Hunter Pence will be back with the team in 2013 … “Pence is going to be coming back,” Sabean said at the general managers’ meetings. “We think there are some things he can do to fix what went wrong this year. We like the player. We made a big trade to get him, and he’s going to be a Giant next year.”
The sub-par-for-him production in 2012 is kind of scary for a player who will make that kind of money, but I can see the argument for keeping him.
It’s a devil-you-know situation and a play for upside. Sure, you may end wildly overpaying for a guy who has no business playing a corner for a contender, but what’s the alternative? What replacement is available out there at the moment who you know can fill that role?
Josh Hamilton is not coming to San Francisco. I suppose Torii Hunter and Nick Swisher are possibilities, but you’re talking multi-year deals that will likely be higher than their worth given the dearth of talent on the free agent market this year. And really, the Giants have not played in that sandbox too much in recent years. Beyond that you have, who, Ryan Ludwick? Melky? Ichiro?
The Giants are betting that Pence can snap back to 2011 form. If he does that, or comes close to it, he’ll come close to justifying that arbitration number (or whatever close to it the sides can negotiate). If not, it’s just a one-year gamble, not a multi-year gamble. I can’t say I blame them for doing it.
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.