Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rowand in the NY River?

I posted much of the below on another site that had a rumor that the Yankees want Rowand for maybe Matsui and also posted it on El Lefty Malo, so I thought I should put it here as well.  I tried not to make it look too distorted in the flow, plus, as always tweaked based on new thoughts I had:

First off, compared to contracts out there, Rowand is very reasonable, OK if he is average, a bargain if he is out performing. The "problem" is that he's been average more often than outperforming during his career.

However, that's the (real) problem when people who are unfamiliar with a player's background. One reason one year was bad was because he smashed his face on the fence catching a ball. He was batting over 900 OPS when that happened, below average after that. So forgiving him that season (or better crediting him for the great hitting before his injury), he only has the one unexplained poor season and two very good seasons (plus the good start to his injury year) plus 2008, which also started well.

When a young player has an inconsistent year like 2008, you have to wonder whether he's just that inconsistent, but when you have a vet with a history of doing well when not injured, you have to wonder about his 2008 performance (as noted above) being marred by injury: he had roughly 950 OPS first two months of the year, then high 600 OPS rest of the season (think Durham's 2007).

A veteran don't usually do that over such an extended period of time, doing that poorly, without an injury to account for it. He did injure himself severely early in April, but soon was hitting well again, and there is no reported injury that accounts for the severe dropoff after May.

However, something similar happened to Randy Winn a couple of seasons ago, he injured his leg (fouled a ball of his shin if I recall correctly) and while he did return to starting, he didn't hit well at all the rest of 2006 and refused to blame that injury though most fans thought so and reporters asked him repeatedly if that was the case.

Most Giants fans that off-season were complaining about Winn's contract like they are doing now with Rowand's contract. Then he had an OK, Randy Winn-type season in 2007, and fans were in love with him again and he was a fan favorite in 2008 again.

Rowand is today's Winn. Change all the complaints about Rowand, put Winn's name, that was two years ago.

A hitter can go on hot streaks and cold streaks (Durham's 2007), but Rowand's problem has appeared to be injuries that linger on when he should take it easy and heal properly first.   And he is only 30 years old, if he was hitting his peak, he wouldn't hit around 950 to start the season then 600-something the rest of the season, he would struggle offensively like Vizquel did last season and this season.

That's the problem with mechanical forecasting systems, it doesn't capture nuances like this for Winn and Rowand, or any player with an injury. Not that mechanical forecasts aren't great, but you have to know it's limitations.

Rowand has been a very good hitter for a significant amount of ABs. He's also been not so good as well, but much of it can be attributed to an injury he suffered earlier that season.   He has been more a good hitter than a bad hitter when there isn't an injury involved.

Still, I wouldn't go on the record as saying that he's going to be very good in 2009 since there was no official explanation for his drop in 2008 (unlike, say, Morris's drop when it was revealed that he broke a rib but pitched anyway - and poorly - the rest of the season).

I wouldn't go the other way either, as another factor that nobody mentions is how AT&T depresses right-handed hitters stats, which, while not as bad as against lefties, can still be significant. In 2008, he hit .256/.328/.386/.714 at home and a more robust .287/.350/.434/.784 on the road.

So his poor/average season was actually more average to good overall when considering his road numbers.  And I think that is a much better comparison point for any homepark where hitting is skewed either way, whether Giants, Dodgers, Padres for pitcher's parks, or Reds, Rockies, D-backs for hitter's parks.  And consider this: the average NL CF hit .267/.334/.426/.759 whereas Rowand, even with the AT&T downturn, still hit .271/.339/.410/.749 overall, right about average, clearly above average based on his road numbers.

2009 will be his put up or shut-up season. I think that there are a lot of indications that he can be a regularly good hitter - and not even accounting for playing in CF, mid-high 800 OPS would be good for most offensive positions - but there has been enough bad times to wonder if he'll just be a yo-yo the rest of his career, much like how Pete Reiser shortened his career, both length and magnitude, with his multiple injuries.  Still, despite his off-season in 2008, he was still an above average hitter in CF (based on his road numbers).  Think of how good he could be uninjured.

Rowand said before the season that he's learned it's not good to put himself in position to injure himself but then he went ahead and did it within a week or two of joining the Giants. Adrenaline and sheer will, I believe, allowed him to play unfettered by the injury but it eventually caught up with him in June. Or so it seems. Hopefully he has finally learned his lesson and hopefully he will be all healed for 2009.

In any case, the Giants had made a big point of signing him (the Gamer ad program which I enjoyed and, frankly, it was ultimately appropriate as there was no better gamer around than Lincecum) so I don't think he's going anywhere. Plus, he's our only true CF, Winn and Roberts are poor CF. And I think the Giants still believe they got the excellent hitting CF they thought they signed.

Randy Winn is the player who makes the most sense for the Yankees to trade for. He's a reasonable salary, only one year to his contract, produces well, plays 150+ games, can play all OF positions acceptably defensively on a short time basis, RF excellently as a starter, which is cleared by Abreu's free agency.

Plus, the last thing the Giants need is another OF like Cabrera or Matsui, Japanese or not, he's old (the Giants are reportedly looking in Japan more actively now anyhow, I would think they would go young and go relievers) and the Giants are now looking young and clearing their roster of the older players.

That vet strategy was the "Win with Bonds" strategy that didn't work; they are now looking younger and long-term now. The last thing we need is another old about average (and declining the past 4 seasons) OF or young below-average OF, particularly when AT&T kills left hitters.

Because we have plenty of OF options without trading for another. If we trade Winn, Schierholtz gets the chance to show his stuff in RF and I think he will do well, he's done well in short stints with us and well in AAA the past two seasons. He just needs the opportunity. In addition, the Giants have Dave Roberts as utility OF (LF-CF), plus probably John Bowker (LF-RF), perhaps Dan Ortmeier (all 3 OF) and Velez could play LF in a pinch (plus Sandoval, I would think, if necessary). Not great, but no reason to trade a good OF, whether Rowand or Winn, for an OF who, unlike either, is clearly declining in Matsui (OPS+ declining for years now) or a young OF who hasn't hit that well yet, and can't even hit for power in Yankee Stadium.

So unless they are giving up Cano or Jesus Montrero (and I wouldn't do that straight up if I were the Yankees), I don't see what the Yankees have that the Giants would be interested in. I would be interested in Wilson Betemit but not straight up, the Giants would need a prospect thrown in to even up the deal. But he's useful to them so I don't see them giving him up. I just don't see a match between the teams otherwise.  Or if they want to give up some young pitchers like Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes (again, not a deal the Yankees would want to do).   I suppose I wouldn't mind any of their young strikeout relievers, like Edwar Ramirez, Ross Ohlendorf, David Robertson, Phil Coke, or Jonathan Albaladejo.

How about Cano (he had a poor year in 2008, unexplained) and either Wilson Betemit or two of the relievers I listed for Winn (only one year but they can sign him to an extension, I'm sure he would do that)?

Lastly, the Giants have also expressed interest in Alex Rodriguez before, but I assume the Yankees are holding onto him. :^)

13 comments:

  1. Hi again. FarmSystem here. I might be a bit off topic today, but after reading your latest contribution this morning it got me to checking out how some of the players are doing in Arizona.

    I was happy to see that Kevin Frandsen is doing well, playing SS. On the down-side I noticed that Ryan Rohlinger isn't exactly lighting up the league. It got me to checking deeper into his professional career and I fail to see any bright spots, other than a fair amount of "pop" and his ability to remain free from injury.

    I realize that the half-season that he spent in AA was pretty good, but to skip AAA altogether ??? The organization must see something in his mental approach ???

    More in tune with the topic of the day, I think the Giants need to focus on bringing in at least one everyday player that can generate broad appeal in the Bay Area. A Manny Ramirez type, although his asking price is way too much. Somone to peak interest the way Manny did in LA for the final two months.

    A winning team, by itself, can accomplish this but if the Giants trot the same 8 players onto the field in 2009 I think Bay Area fans will eventually lose interest

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  2. Well, I think you can tell from my lack of writing much on Rohlinger that I don't think he's a real option going forward. I share your "meh" reaction to his stats. Given how poor it is, I have to assume that he must be good (or better) defensively, but that's just a guess on my part, haven't heard much on that topic regarding him.

    Since you got me curious, neither BA nor the prospect book I rely on has Rohlinger profiled. Of course, BA didn't have Sandoval profiled last year either (the other book did). He also didn't show up in Baseball Prospectus either.

    Thanks for the news on Frandsen, I saw some single game highlights where he got a bunch of hits, and was wondering, good to see he is walking the talk and doing well. I think he's either starting at 2B or 3B in 2009.

    It's all part of the domino effect with the prospects, on who ends up at 3B, with Frandsen and Sandoval as possibles, depending on whether someone else wins the starting position at 2B and 1B, respectively, basically meaning Velez and Ishikawa respectively.

    The worry is that neither does, and thus we have no 3B again, unless Rohlinger somehow figures things out.

    The good news on him is that he has had OK strikeout rates and get a lot of walks (i.e. high BB/K ratio) which is a good indication of a good batting eye, and thus his struggles in 2006 and 2007 to hit for batting average.

    As I've been saying, it is not the 8 players starting who will draw fan interest, it is the pitchers, Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Wilson.

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  3. I agree that if you have staff full of Tim Lincecums, you'll sell out every night. It is a marvel to watch him pitch. The other three may reach that point at some time, but aren't there yet.

    I grew up during the Sandy Koufax era down here in SoCal and you couldn't get a ticket when the Giants came to town. The toughest ticket was Marichal vs. Koufax. I just feel the Giants are missing that marquee everyday player that the SF fans deserve.

    FarmSystem

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  4. Well, please read my "Hey Neukom" series, where I try to explain what I think are the leading theories on how to win in the playoffs.

    In particular, both Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times tackled this issue and came up with similar results, though they tackled it from different angles: it is pitching and defense that helps teams the most in winning.

    Since you mention Koufax, I thought I would mention that the 60's Dodgers are a team I would like the Giants to model after, two clearcut aces (Koufax/Drysdale; Lincecum/Cain) with a team that is designed more for speed (one of the few offensive qualities that appear to positively affect playoff success) though I'm not sure there will be an equivalent of Wills on the team, hopefully a team of semi-Wills, with Lewis, maybe Velez, maybe Antoan Richardson, maybe Mike McBryde, Nick Noonan, and there are others who have stolen 30+ bases for the Giants in the minors.

    And Sabean always likes the strong defensive types when possible.

    Both studies found no correlation between strong offenses and winning in the playoffs and World Series. Strong pitching, particularly a staff that can strike out a lot more than others, a strong closer, strong defense, are the factors that BPro found, specifically. There was also a slight correlation (though not significant enough) with stolen base attempts. Not runs scored. Not homeruns hit. Not SLG or OBP or OPS. No offensive measure could be tied to success in the playoffs and World Series.

    So I don't feel the need for a marquee everyday player, at least, not until maybe Buster Posey and Angel Villalona make the majors.

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  5. I posted this on El Lefty Malo in response to the risk of having Rowand because he has been so injury prone, plus a few new thoughts:

    Well, being the gamer he is, he at least tried to play through it when it would have been better he healed first. Plus, like most prideful athletes, he wanted to justify his contract, which most commentators said he was overpriced and not worth it. I wish he didn't, but I understand that psychology so I give him points for that. I would rather he feel that obligation than be like Albert Belle and think "I'm owed this, screw the fans."

    I think the risk-reward still exists today as strongly as it did when we signed him. A CF who can hit in the high 800 OPS and play good defense is very valuable. He could be a knuckle-head like Reiser and continue to knock his head into fences and the ground, but he appears to be someone who can learn from past mistakes and has a strong sense of responsibility.

    He must know that fans were disappointed with his play in SF. I'm sure he was disappointed. He seems intelligent enough to realize that he would be better off being productive for the long term than diving for that one out, that one play, and hurting himself for the rest of the season.

    Still, we don't know, he could be the type who can play only one way, like Reiser. But he at least has talked about realizing that he can't do things the same way, that he could modify his behavior for the good of his team, for the good of his family.

    I think the reward is worth giving him another try with the team for 2009 and seeing if he can learn his lesson and produce for us.

    If he can hit like that and Sandoval can continue to hit like he had plus Lewis produce the way he has, we have a pretty good heart of the lineup, even with Molina mis-cast as a cleanup hitter, costing us umpteen run opportunities because of his poor OBP. Plus, if, as hoped, Winn is traded, Schierholtz would also be able to contribute power in the middle as well, totally boosting our power between 2009 and 2008. And who knows if Ishikawa could contribute as well.

    And I'm hoping one of them will take over batting 4th and push Molina back where he belongs, 6th, ideally 7th, maybe 8th.

    Possible lineup if players produce as hoped:

    Burriss SS
    Frandsen 2B
    Lewis LF
    Sandoval 3B
    Schierholtz RF
    Rowand CF
    Ishikawa 1B
    Molina C

    That's pretty good power from 3 to 8 if they can hit as well as they possibly can. And Ishikawa probably should bat 4th against RHP and push everyone down one.

    I think that is a risk worth taking for 2009, another transitional year, I would rather not move Winn to CF, Rowand can be a much better hitter than Winn, I would rather risk for greatness than settle for average. And nothing against average, Winn is a very valuable player I think, because of his consistency across his career, but we need to open a spot for Schierholtz, another player I think who has a chance of being good versus being average.

    These are things we need to know for 2010, when we are suppose to contend. I have a bit of fear that Sabean might keep Winn because Neukom probably wants to see results in 2009 in order to give Sabean an extension, and keeping Winn would help ensure that, whereas trying out Schierholtz could flop, you never know with prospects, though he has done well at every level he has been at, and that could push the Giants back towards another 70-72 win season.

    In other words, I think keeping Winn would probably put the Giants around .500 (or 81 wins) but switching to Schierholtz could push us towards 85 wins or drop us to 72 wins, depending on what he does, with the odds of really good being limited, but odds of really being bad being part of the mix of reality, there is usually more downside than upside to any prospect.

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  6. I can accept the line-up that you have put down on paper. Like the mid-sixties Dodgers, there won't be a lot of offense generated which means the number of wins will come down to the rotation and, more importantly, the bullpen will be asked to hold/save any lead they are given.

    The pieces for the everyday line-up appear to be in place and the winter should be spent putting together a top quality staff.

    FarmSystem

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  7. I just can't agree with the statement that this projected lineup has decent power from spots 3 through 8. This is essentially the same group of hitters that logged a grand total of 94 home runs as a team in 2008. That is just a pathetically bad number. How is it that all of a sudden this group is going to materially improve that number? It may get a little better (it's hard to fathom how it could be any worse), but to make the statement that this is a group that has decent power just doesn't hold water.

    Re Rowand: I said it at the time that this was another in the long line of Sabean's missteps and it is proving to be true. If the Giants can unload his contract on someone (even if they have to eat part of it), they should jump all over it. He is not the defensive player that they advertised and offensively, he's barely average. This skill set will only decline over time.

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  8. Is the "team" that hit 94 HR the same team that fielded the 8 lineup positions in August/September, Boof? No, it isn't. Sandoval, Ishikawa, Schierholtz were not in the lineup all year. Plus, admittedly an experiment, but they are moving Lewis to middle of lineup for 2009 and he feels that he can hit for much more power since he won't have to work the walks to get on base as much.

    And I did note, if they hit like they appear capable of. A big "if" I'll admit, but IF they hit like their background suggests they might, then we would have decent power up and down the lineup, which gets at Sabean's comment that power don't have to come from one position, it could come from a variety of them.

    I understand your doubt about that, and it is legit doubt, but the background for most of them showed more power capabilities than they have shown thus far, and if they tapped that, then we would be more powerful in 2009.

    As legit as it is for you to doubt that, I think it is just as legit to say that if they delivered, we would be OK power-wise.

    And if not, that's OK too, I think 2009 should be focused more on figuring how who is going to be helping us in the show 2010-2014 than on being competitive in 2009.

    I think Rowand's contract was fair for the marketplace and we needed another bat to help with the loss of Bonds. At least he gave fans some hope of replacement, whereas if they did nothing, there would have been zero hope.

    And I don't recall you complaining about the deal when he was hitting 900+ OPS for the first two months, your complaints would be more legit if you were complaining about his contract the whole season.

    As disappointing as it was that he didn't hit better, the team did end up one win higher than it did the year before with Bonds putting up terriffic numbers again. And he contributed to that.

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  9. Take a look at my comment to your Dec. 12, 2007 post. I called the Rowand signing "ludicrous" there and stated the reasons why.

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  10. My point was where were you when he was hitting 900 OPS, were you still complaining loudly about the deal despite that good early hitting? Then I would respect your stand against Rowand. I've been supportive of Sabean through the ups and downs, and still am.

    Here are some of your other quotes from that post, since you brought it up:

    "Very wise when you have zero talent in your minor league system and not much more at the ML level"

    I think Lincecum, Cain, Wilson, Lewis, Sandoval, Hinshaw, Romo, and Schierholtz showed that you are wrong there, plus there is Villalona, Bumgarner, Alderson, Noonan, as well in the farm system and doing well. So Lincecum and Cain is not much more, eh? Would you like to elaborate on that one?

    "There is no rebuild going on....stealth or any other kind. There is no commitment to getting younger & healthier. There is no direction, no plan, no idea."

    I think 2008 clearly showed that there was a rebuild going on and we did get younger. There is a direction and an idea: build from within, give players an opportunity.

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  11. Oops, forgot to mention Burriss and I still think Frandsen is going to contribute to the team.

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  12. I didn't realize that I've have to make the same point over and over again for you to believe that's my stance on it. I though I was pretty clear on what I thought about the Rowand signing and his potential for success in the future in that post.

    The "very wise" comment I made was in relation to the draft pick that the Giants punted in order to sign Rowand, but it's nice that you take that out of context.

    Out of all those players that you mention, the only ones that have proven anything at this point is Linceum & Cain and to a lesser extent Lewis, who will only be a slightly better than average player at best. The rest of those guys have not yet proven that they are real major leaguers yet. Not saying that there isn't any potential for some of them to pan out, but many of them are so far away that there is no sure thing there about any of them, with the possible exception of Bumgarner who consistently gets good reviews.

    And there lies the point of my original post back then....most of these guys that you mentioned (who are largely still unproven) have only been added over the last couple of years. Sabean had totally neglected the offensive side for many years in the minor league development and we are now paying the price for that. Ignore it if you want, but that is fact.

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  13. Well, I can say much the same to you about repeating myself and misrepresenting my points. And I would add also conflicting statements.

    You can't have it both ways. You say talent in your original comment, but now raise it to "Major League" Talent by pooh-poohing all the players I named.

    By that standard, then every team's farm system has by definition basically "zero talent", there is no way to say whether the minor leaguer will ever make it in the majors. They all have potential, but potential is a talent, it is just not realized yet.

    If so, then you are basically saying that the Rays are untalented, most of their young players are unproven, only Kazmir, Crawford, and Pena I would call proven, most have only 1-2 years of proven good production (or less), plus a bunch of old vets like Percival, Floyd, Hinske. Baldelli has only proven he's injury prone, but if you count him then you have to count Noah Lowry for the Giants. Bartlett, Navarro, Iwamura, are close but I would not call them proven talents unless you consider Grissom and Tucker to be proven talents too, they are average type players. I would call the Rays talented but working against that definition, there isn't a lot of talent, just a lot of potential.

    And if your standard is proving it over a number of years, which is the implication you give by saying that none of the young players who had nice years in 2008 had talent, then you are basically arguing that a team has no talent until their players prove it (which you also left nebulous).

    Well, vets have proven it, so are you saying that we should go out and sign up a bunch of free agents who are proven talents? I assume not but with such a stringent definition for talent, that is the result.

    So please, clarify your illogical statements.

    However, I argue that one can make educated guesses based on what they have shown in the minors and that represents talent. I stand by my statement, we have talent: whether they realize their talents is another thing, but they have talent.

    Sandoval might be "unproven" in terms of MLB production, but his production in the minors gives evidence that he can do similarly in the majors. Same with Hinshaw and Romo. They all showed talent in the minors then continued to show it in the majors when they got the chance.

    It may not be proven without a doubt, but to say that they have no talent at all until they prove it is asinine. Potential is talent. As I said, they have talent, whether or not they realize it is another issue.

    If potential is not talent, then you are just making the argument that a team

    Unless, that is, you are really holding to your stated need for "proven" veterans.

    Boo Hoo, we lost a draft pick. Here I go repeating myself again: the Giants gave up the 51st pick of the draft in 2008. One of the main things I've tried to drill into people's heads here is that draft picks are lottery tickets (or horse race ticket, if that is your bag instead) that mostly do not win, place, or even show.

    Let me illustrate with some numbers. In my study, covering 13 years of the draft, from 1986 to 1998, none of the 13 picks at the 51st pick ever turned out good, and only 2 turned out to be useful (over 6 years in majors), and one was marginal (0.5 years to 3 years in majors). 10 out of 13 either never saw the majors or maybe got a cup of coffee (up to 0.5 season). That's 85% of basically nothing and 15% of something useful, but not good.

    In other words, you would rather have a pretty good chance of having nothing, than having Aaron Rowand. That's fine if that is your choice, but that has been my point all these years, that people blindly make statements like this without knowing what they are saying.

    Let's go even deeper and look at the pick that they received for Rowand, the 34th pick, which doesn't even cost us anything. Unamazingly, no good players, 4 useful player, 2 marginal, and 7 who never amounted to much if anything. That's 69% of basically nothing and 31% of getting a Michael Tucker type.

    Meanwhile, we have a actually useful and possibly good player in hand in Rowand. We trade a 15% chance of getting a useful but not good player and in return, we get an actually useful and possibly good player in Rowand. I'll take that.

    He did not neglect the offensive side, he made a strategic decision to fix up our pitching with our higher probability picks than on hitters. When you are a contending baseball team, you will get very poor first round picks, when the odds are against you picking up anyone good. He focused our scarce resource on obtaining good starting pitching, I have no problem with that, our rotation is top notch.

    Still, he selected a fair number of hitters with supplemental 1st round, 2nd round, and 3rd round picks (Burriss, Bowker, Lewis, Schierholtz, Linden, EME), plus took fliers on draft and follows (Marcus Sanders and others) and signed Ishikawa to the highest bonus given outside the first 10 rounds, plus signed international free agents like Sandoval and Villalona, and undrafted free agents like Brian Horwitz.

    The thing is, you don't appreciate nor understand how truly hard it is to find talent via the draft, you think that it is easy and it is not, the odds are totally against you when you are winning and still not all that good when you are among the worse teams in the majors.

    This is not like the NFL or NBA where one pick can change an also-ran into a contender in a few years. The MLB draft is truly a farming situation where it takes years to harvest your crops.

    And as much as it emphasizes individual talents (pitcher vs. hitter), it is a truer team sport than any of the others considered to be more of a team sport because one guy cannot dominate and will a team to victory. You can have the best hitter ever hit better than anyone ever did and you can have the best pitcher ever pitch the best game ever, but both can still lose the World Series because there are so many parts that have to work in order to win it all.

    About your stance on Rowand, it's easy to be quiet when things are not going your way. You see fit to complain constantly on my blog, often the same thing, so it is not like you are shy about restating your points, so where were you in early 2008 season when Rowand was hitting well and saying "Mark my words, this will not work out, this will end badly!" I know you complained when the signing happened, but I don't recall anything like this when things were not going your way. A dichotomy like that I would have noticed.

    Meanwhile, while the sky was falling, I've been saying the Giants will be OK and not having the worse season in franchise history. I've also continually said that Sabean should be given a chance to show what he can do with the core pieces he has put together.

    Cry about the offense all you want, but we have a pitching rotation that is the envy of the majors and could be among the best in the majors for years. Meanwhile, we have some nice talent in the offense that may or may not pan out, but that's what rebuilding is for, finding out who works and who doesn't.

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