McDonald's gonna McDonald... - Ralph Freso
By swapping two regular position players - Chris Johnson and Justin Upton - for one, Martin Prado, the trade did help reduce the overstock in this department for the Diamondbacks. But there still seems to be one player too many on the roster. Who'll be the odd man,. literally out?
The regular starting line-up appears pretty set at this point. Miguel Montero behind the plate, with Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill, Cliff Pennington and Martin Prado around the infield, and Jason Kubel, Adam Eaton and Cody Ross manning the outfield. On the bench, Wil Nieves and Gerardo Parra appear all but locks to have spots. That leaves, in all probability, three spots left for the four remaining players: McDonald, Bloomquist, and the two new Erics, Chavez and Hinske. While we'll still have to pay them, it seems that someone will be
Several factors should be taken into account. We are looking to cover all four infield positions: even if we have regular starters there, they will need a day off every now and again. Handedness when they bat matters: both in relation to the starters, so they can be used to pinch-hit in later innings, and for platoon purposes. Flexibility of position is a plus, and it'd be nice if they could actually produce, both with the bat and the glove. Finally, while these are all "sunk costs", some are more
sunk costly than other. Let's go over each man's credentials and see what they have to offer. Positions played are over the past three seasons, in descending order of appearances, min 10 starts.
Willie Bloomquist (RHB)
Age on Opening Day: 35
Last year: 338 PAs, .302/.325/.398 = .724 OPS, -0.4 bWAR, 0.8 fWAR
Last three years: 918 PAs, .280/.316/.370 = .686 OPS, 0.5 bWAR, 0.4 fWAR
Positions played: SS, LF, RF, 3B
2013 Salary: $1.9 million
Bloomquist certainly has a useful degree of flexibility, with ability to play on the left-hand side of the infield, and experience at both corner outfield positions. However, the downside is that... well, he isn't actually very good at them, with a total of about half a WAR since 2010. On the fielding side, over his career, while Willie has played everywhere but catcher, he has a negative UZR at them all except second, where he sits at +0.5. While he hit .302 last reason, it was a remarkably empty .302. Of the 1,182 players who have batted .300 over 300+ PA in the past 25 years, only eight had a lower OPS than Bloomquist.
Eric Chavez (LHB)
Age on Opening Day: 35
Last year: 313 PAs, .281/.348/.496 = .845 OPS, 1.5 bWAR, 1.8 fWAR
Last three years: 611 PAs, .266/.326/.423 = .748 OPS, 1.5 bWAR, 1.8 fWAR
Positions played: 3B, DH
2013 Salary: $3 million
Since we're still in the National League [the Astros having taken that particular bullet for us], Chavez is very much a one-trick pony. Okay, two: he plays third-base and hammers right-handed pitching. We saw that when we looked at platoon splits last week, where his 181-point OPS difference trailed only Cody Ross among D-backs with more than a couple of big-league season. That was particularly true in 2012, where his OPS against righties was .908, compared to .382 versus southpaws. Used properly - as last year, where only 12% of his PAs were vs. LHP - he could be a potent weapon. Won't be the five-time Gold Glover he was at third, but shouldn't embarrass himself.
Eric Hinske (LHB)
Age on Opening Day: 35
Last year: 147 PAs, .197/.272/.311 = .583 OPS, -1.0 bWAR, -1.1 fWAR
Last three years: 731 PAs, .236/.315/.407 = .721 OPS, -0.8 bWAR, 0.5 fWAR
Positions played: LF, 1B, RF
2013 Salary: $1.35 million
A couple of years ago, this might not have been a bad signing, but Hinske's numbers completely cratered last year, hitting below the Uecker Line over 91 games. He was particularly useless off the bench, going 8-for-57, a .140 clip, and in 300-odd games as a PH, his career line is .218 /.317/.359, a .676 OPS. The main thing Hinske has in his favor over the other candidates, is that he does have experience playing first. That would make him a credible platoon candidate for Goldie, who has historically had some issues against RHPWDSPOHCH [right-handed pitchers who don't smoke pot or have crappy haircuts].
John McDonald (RHB)
Age on Opening Day: 38
Last year: 213 PAs, .249/.295/.386 = .681 OPS, 0.9 bWAR, 0.7 fWAR
Last three years: 621 PAs, .241/.279/.373 = .652 OPS, 3.0 bWAR, 1.9 fWAR
Positions played: SS, 2B, 3B
2013 Salary: $1.5 million
Despite being the oldest and lightest-hitting of the quartet, both bWAR and fWAR agree that he has been the most useful over the past three. The reason is well-known - McDonald isn't called "the Prime Minister of Defense" for nothing [though the name given to him when with Toronto makes more sense if you know the first Canadian Prime Minister was also called John McDonald]. Does have some flexibility to play around the infield: second-base is probably his best position, but is good at shortstop, and seems to have improved significantly at third, after some early struggles at the hot corner.
Of course, the problem may end up solving itself during spring training, after McDonald falls (or is pushed?) down the stairs at Salt River Fields and breaks his hip... A trade of one of the four may also happen. But I suspect it's a decision more likely to be taken by Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson, closer to Opening Day than when the players report in a couple of weeks.
Who should be the team's 26th man?
Willie Bloomquist (25 votes)
Eric Chavez (14 votes)
Eric Hinske (68 votes)
John McDonald (33 votes)
140 total votes