Saturday, December 08, 2007

An Exercise in Futility

After having publicly acknowledging that they were in need of middle infield depth, the Indians acquired Futility IF Jamey Carroll from the Colorado Rockies for the famed Player to Be Named Later. While much gnashing of teeth and hand wringing has begun in various corners over this minor acquisition, it remains just that – minor. Very simply, Carroll is a middle IF who will give the Indians the ability to spell AstroCab at 2B or allow Cabrera to spell Peralta at SS, in addition to adding flexibility on the roster as Carroll played 2B, 3B, SS, RF, and CF for the Rox last year.

The move provides an immediate answer as to where Josh Barfield figures into the 2008 plans as the seamstress in Buffalo can start putting the BARFIELD on the back of a Bisons’ jersey this morning. Prior to the acquisition, the only feasible alternative (under contract, ruling out Chris Gomez’s return) for the Indians in their middle infield was to allow Josh Barfield to start the season as the “Utility IF”, which is in quotes as Barfield can really only play 2B and, thus has limitations on the usefulness and flexibility that a “Utility IF” historically provides. Barfield is now certain to start the season in AAA (unless, miracle of miracles, he beats out Asdrubal for the 2B job in Winter Haven), where he will get the consistent AB that simply don’t exist for him on the parent club in an attempt to figure out what went (dreadfully) wrong for him in 2007.

As for the player heading to the North Coast, Carroll is a 34-year-old who goes by the name of Jamey, which may be one reason that so many people are against this move. In my mind, once a man passes the age of 16 or 18, he generally drops the childlike nickname of Jamey or Mikey or Stevie – with a few exceptions that are more socially acceptable, like Jimmy or Sammy or Tommy. I suppose within the family context, the continuation of a nickname is not completely outrageous, but to continue to go by the name of “Jamey” well into your 30’s smacks of the Peter Pan Syndrome. I know that in sports we tend to have our heroes continue to go by their childhood nicknames (Kenny, Sandy, Manny, Charlie, etc.), but “Jamey” just bothers me.
Maybe it has something to do with the eldest daughter’s name on “Charles in Charge”, as much as I so did love Nicole Eggert once upon a time.

But I digress.
Seriously, Carroll brings flexibility to the team, defensively, if not bringing too much lumber to the party. He’s averaged an OPS of .703 in his 6-year career (though he did have a decent 2006 season as the Rockies everyday 2B), which is about right for a Futility IF. If Carroll was being counted on to be much more than that, this move would cause worry. But figuring that he’ll only be used for depth on the roster shouldn’t cause too much consternation.

One concern that has been voiced is the fact that Carroll is due $2.3M in 2008 and that the money (on a small-market team) could be better allocated to bolster the bullpen or acquire a full-time LF. The announcement of the move intimated that the Rockies, who had a crowded middle infield, could be picking up some of the tab for Carroll in 2008. The argument regarding Carroll continues that players like Carroll are a dime a dozen and are easily found on the FA market. That may be true, but again, it’s an argument about the 25th man on the 25 man roster! Only those unnaturally obsessed with Mike Rouse are the ones who are giving this too much thought.

The Player to Be Named Later to go to the Mountain Time Zone will likely come from a pool of lower-rated prospects as the Indians balked on including (not-too-highly-rated) RHP Sean Smith in the deal (after Colorado asked for Barfield). It’s entirely possible that the Indians could trade one of the players already on the 40-man-roster (remember, someone has to come off to add Carroll) that looks to be at the end of his Tribe career like a Brian Slocum.

All of that being said – the move does have some 25-man roster implications, mainly because of Andy Marte and Big League Choo being out of options as one of them will be squeezed by this move. As of today, the 13 roster spots for the offense figure to shake out like this:
Notably absent are Ben Francisco (who, barring a trade of Jason Michaels, looks more and more to be joining Barfield in Buffalo to start the season) and the BLC. Of course, the BLC is rehabbing a arm injury that could allow the Indians to stash him on the DL, then some rehab time to start the season; but, right now, he joins Francisco and Barfield as an odd man out in the roster picture.

A trade could still be in the offing to make space for Francisco on the roster or even to move Choo to another team as the next group of OF prospects (Jordan Brown and Trevor Crowe) figure to be arriving in Buffalo soon. But as of right now, both OF are out of the mix with the parent club after the acquisition of Carroll, coupled with the assumption that Andy Marte will begin 2008 in Cleveland in some capacity.

All in all, it is not a major move in the least, despite some of the outcry about the acquisition and the implications it has on the roster and payroll.
A wise man once told me that arguing about Utility IF is the lowest form of Baseball conversation.
I suppose in lieu of anything else to discuss…


Anonymous said...

If I were feeling pugnacious (I'm not), I'd argue that for what honest-to-gosh left fielders cost these days, $2.3 big 'uns isn't gonna make much difference.

Good point though, about Brown and Crowe. A bust-out year from either of them in 2008 forces the Indians' hand on Choo and Francisco -- who, by the way, I'm still private rooting for as the successors to Micucci and Dellichaels.

t-bone said...

$2.3 million.


Ron Vallo said...

A couple if things:

Gomez is already gone, to Pittsburgh

From everything I've read, Colorado is oaying NONE of the $2.3 million.

More than need-be has been said about the acquisition of a utility infielder. Stil, it seems someone else could do this job for less.

LargeBill said...

While you're right that this is not a big deal, it is another move that the only things fans can say about it is WHY. Why bother with this guy? Dozens of similar players are available each year, so why bother? Is this our answer to the Tigers' moves?

DT said...

Hey...I usually like your blog, but you sound like a true idiot with your "Jamey should have dropped his nickname a long time ago" rant. If you took about 5 seconds to research it at all, you would have learned that "Jamey" is actually his birth name...not James or whatever else you assumed it might be. Only official idiots like Sheldon Ocker commit such blunders.

Pat Tabler said...

Actually DT, I couldn't figure out why people were getting so worked up about a middle IF and thought I would give the obviously irrational view that people didn't like his name.

Not sure if you noticed the link to his B-Ref page, but I did notice his given name and kept with the joke, mainly to give me a chance to get the "Charles in Charge" song stuck in my head for 2 days.

Pat Tabler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.