Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bad Idea I Heard: DFA Rowand and Start Torres

I heard this idea on the radio the other day and I won't embarrass this host but wanted to address this idea that I've seen fans put out there before, which is to eat Aaron Rowand's contract and start Torres instead.  It is a pretty dumb idea.

The usual supporting arguments typically involve pointing out Arizona's eatting of Eric Byrnes' contract and before that, of Russ Ortiz's contract.  They ate around $10M or so in each case.  So they point to Rowand's $12M contract for this season and say that the Giants should DFA him and play Torres instead.

First, they are forgetting that the Giants have another 2 years on the contract after this season.  So they are not dropping a $12M contract, they are basically dropping $30M+.   That's not going to happen.  Maybe in Rowand's 5th season, if he's doing really poorly and there's someone better, but that's not going to happen this season.

Second, that is the other thing missed by these people, that there has to be somebody better.  Torres is better right now, but over the past 8 seasons, Rowand has been much better overall.  Maybe Torres is figuring things out at a late age, that is always possible, for the reasons the newspapers give, that he was a runner learning baseball for the first time in college.  But at age 32, that's still 14 years already and he's finally figuring out how to hit?

Color me skeptical.  I need more than a little over a month's worth (basically April 18th to current) of good play this season to feel comfortable saying that, as his nice batting line last season was accompanied by a horrid strikeout rate that most hitters cannot support.  This season is much better, much improved in both walks and strikeouts this season, but he's still striking out a little too much, and that's really one month of performance, hitters can do that in short streaks.  Plus, his BABIP was very high last season, higher than what most hitters can support, though there are some hitters that can do that, typically fast guys like Torres.

Nothing in his past suggests that he can do this over a full season.  Basically people are taking a leap of faith that he can do this regularly as a starter.  That is no way to run a team.  At least not a good way.

There is nothing wrong with starting him while he's hot, though.  I believe in playing the hot hitter.  But that does not mean that you DFA a player who can still play MLB level baseball while keeping this currently hot journeyman.  That is no way to manage either.

That brings me to my third reason:  DFAing Rowand, even if you think that Torres is demonstrably better makes no sense at all from an asset management viewpoint.   What if Torres gets injured?  What if his hot hitting ends (like it did for Rowand) and he's sudden the cold hitter?  Then who would you play in CF?  There is no one in the minors hitting well and playing CF right now.  It would be Bocock Part II.

In addition, Rowand, while not currently hitting as well as the average CF in the NL, isn't exactly a replacement level player either.  He would be a good player on any bench, he plays good defense in the OF, can hit a homer now and again, can go on nice hitting sprees when his body is up for it, particularly if he's sitting on the bench.  Yes, his contract is a sunk cost, but if he's still better than who you can put on the bench, you may as well carry him on the bench in case you need him.

And it is not just CF, there is still LF and RF, and DeRosa is no guarantee to return AND be good, plus neither Bowker or Schierholtz have hit consistently enough to keep a starting OF job yet, though good enough to get frequent chances at it.  Rowand could be a better alternative than one of those OFs, and move around like Randy Winn did, though since the defense stats show him to be good in CF this season, I would move Torres around since he's been doing that anyway.

So no, DFAing Rowand and starting Torres is not a smart thing to do.  I'm surprised the host said that, he seems smarter than that generally.  I will chalk it up to having a mic in your hand:  sometimes you just say something in the spur of the moment that looks bad later on.  No excuse for the posters who proffer up this idea on-line though, they have plenty of time to put some thought into it.

This is just like the love Uribe has been seeing both last season and this season, but nobody realizes that since May 1st he has only been hitting .224/.325/.358/.683.  He and Torres are good coming in and providing some pep to the offense when somebody is out, but there is a reason why neither one was a starter when the Giants signed them.  They will cool off and then you need to have other bodies on the bench who can step in.

3 comments:

  1. Instead of 12 paragraphs devoted to arguing against "DFAing" Rowand, which doesn't make sense, how about discussing the more reasonable alternative, which is to platoon (nice word for benching) him? You know, the old 'play your best people' argument.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I believe I covered it elsewhere and hence did not feel the need to cover it again, but yeah, Rowand should be sitting down to "rest" his bat if he's cold again like he's been the last two seasons. Bochy said that he would rest Rowand more, and I don't see a better opportunity than when he's in a big Oh-fer streak. And besides the DL, he hasn't seen any rest and been cold.


    And he has been for a long while now, with Torres hot, definitely, play him in CF and allow Bowker and Schierholtz some serious playing time in the corners while DeRosa is out.

    He's obviously one of those high energy high effort guys who burn themselves out without pacing themselves. He probably should be sitting out two games a week to get proper rest. Maybe also play Torres in CF, Huff in LF, and Ishikawa at 1B sometimes to get Ishi's bat into the game for some power.

    Especially now with Renteria seemingly on the mend every two weeks, his bat has been good, but unfortunately he's unable to use it in games nursing another injury, we should proactively rest the older guys both to keep them productive as well as give young guys starts.

    People blame Sabean for signing these free agents but what they don't understand yet is that the draft is not going to deliver enough talent to cover all your needs on the roster so you need to supplement on the free agency market.

    People think that not signing these guys are the best route but then we could have been left with Brian Bocock as our starting SS the past two years as Burriss sat on the DL, for example.

    Playing young prospects are not going to make them good. As talented as they are in nearly reaching the pinnacle that is major league baseball, unfortunately for them, the level of quality is such that they fall short. You need MLB talent to make it.

    And for every Jack Cust stuck in the minors found to deliver MLB value finally, there are frogs that you have to sift through before you find that Cust.

    Thus you have to go out and sign aging free agents, mainly because teams nowadays sign their young stars into their prime physical seasons before letting them go.

    In any case, no team can rebuild without some vets on their team and sometimes you have to kiss the frogs and hope they turn into princes. Generally, the Giants have gone after the top guys available for what they are looking for, except for cases like Teixiera who clearly wanted to sign east coast and Carlos Lee who was using teams to get a great deal for himself near his big ranch in Texas. As painful as they have been, most of the signings were one of the top guys available for that position.

    I hate it too and also believe that changes should be made in the Giants free agent evaluation process, but Sabean has built up the team that we have today and overall it is situated well and looking good for the future. I think tweaking is needed, not wholesale change.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "People blame Sabean for signing these free agents but what they don't understand yet is that the draft is not going to deliver enough talent to cover all your needs on the roster so you need to supplement on the free agency market."

    How exactly does this point justify the Rowand signing?

    ReplyDelete

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