Friday, January 4, 2013
Players whose jobs are in jeopardy
By Jim Bowden
Michael Morse's career will likely play out somewhere other than Washington.
We haven’t even gotten to spring training and there are already players whose jobs are in jeopardy either because of their team's trades, free-agent signings or young prospects who are getting ready to burst on to the scene. Here are six players who could lose their jobs between now and Opening Day.
His first opportunity to be an every-day player at the major league level came in 2011, and he responded by hitting .303/.360/.550 with 31 homers. Despite injuries in 2012, the 30-year-old proved that it was not fluke by belting out 18 bombs in 102 games while batting .291.
However, the Nationals needed a plus defensive center fielder, so when they had the opportunity to trade for Denard Span, they did, thus forcing them to move Bryce Harper to left field and Morse to first. However, the Nats are still trying to sign free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, and if he finally agrees to take their two-year offer then Morse will be completely out of a starting job.
When that happens, AL clubs will be lining up to trade for Morse. It doesn’t seem fair for this to happen to a player with as much class and character as Morse, but it’s part of the game.
Kubel, 30, signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Diamondbacks last winter and produced just as GM Kevin Towers had hoped, with 30 homers and doubles along with adequate defense in left field. But when the D-backs signed Cody Ross to a three-year deal worth $26 million, it became obvious that either Justin Upton or Kubel will eventually get traded.
There are some who will argue that the D-backs could open with an outfield of Kubel in left, Ross in center and Upton in right, and they could be right, but eventually Ross will end up in a corner where he best fits and Adam Eaton will the center fielder. And although Arizona keeps listening to offers on Justin Upton, it’s questionable if it’ll get offered a package worth enough for Arizona to ship out a 25-year old who’s already hit 30 home runs and finished fourth in MVP voting.
Manager Jim Leyland told me this week that Dirks is his every-day left fielder and that he earned the spot last year. The 26-year-old ended up hitting .322/.370/.487 in 88 games last year, and against right-handed pitching he hit an impressive .336.
Although he’s projected to be the Tigers' opening day left fielder, he’ll have to be watching over his shoulder in spring training for Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos, the Tigers' two top position player prospects. The Tigers' front office is split on who is the better prospect between the two, with some liking Garcia and his five tools while others point to Castellanos' special hit tool as the separator. Either way, they both possess an upside that Dirks lacks, and he could lose his job before he really makes it his.
He's coming off of an impressive offensive year with the A’s when he hit .262/.377/.491, and his high energy, enthusiasm and leadership will work well in the Boston clubhouse.
The question will come down to the same thing it always has for Gomes in Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Washington and Oakland, and that’s how his defense plays. Left field in Boston is particularly tricky because of the Green Monster, and the Red Sox won't hesitate to play Daniel Nava or Ryan Kalish there if Gomes' defense suffers.
The good news for Gomes is that he's a pull hitter, so Fenway suits him well, and he should get reps whenever a lefty starts.
He signed a two-year, $14 million deal prior to last season, and eventually won the every-day center-field job when Yoenis Cespedes was moved to left field. After a slow start, Crisp hit .259/.325/.418 with 39 steals in helping the A’s win 94 games and the American League West title.
However, an offseason deal with the Diamondbacks that netted Chris Young could mean that Crisp could be moved to a reserve role. Young, 29, was injured most of 2012 but has hit 20 or more home runs four different times in his career and is considered a better defensive outfielder than Crisp. GM Billy Beane keeps saying there will be enough playing time for all four outfielders, but it’s hard to imagine that Josh Reddick and Cespedes won’t be starting most games on the corner and Bob Melvin won’t prefer to start the better defender in Young in center. That would leave Crisp to the DH role, something he’s not exactly enthused about and doesn't play to his strength. A trade is likely.
Cruz, 28, finally got his first real opportunity at the major league level playing in 78 games at third base and contributing with solid defense and a slash line of .297/.322/.431 with six homers in 296 plate appearances. Hanley Ramirez prefers to play shortstop, but the Dodgers are concerned about his defense so much that they have him working on his positioning and angles in winter ball.
NL teams have studied Cruz and will have a better idea how to pitch to him this year, and if Ramirez doesn’t improve his defense a switch back to third base is a real possibility. That would allow the Dodgers to give the inconsistent but flashy Dee Gordon another chance to play shortstop and would give their defense an upgrade. With a new potent lineup, Gordon could hit seventh or eighth and his speed and range will more than make up for his lack of offense. Keep an eye on how Ramirez handles shortstop in spring training, as that will be the key.