Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
"Roster hole" sounds dirty, and I also typed it as "rooster hole" several times by mistake. But here are the five non-moves around the league that were a little befuddling this offseason.
It's been a long offseason. There has been wheeling. There has been dealing. The Blue Jays are better. The Marlins are worse. The Diamondbacks are kind of odd.
But there are teams that left a curious spot untouched on their roster. Not all of these teams are rich, but most of them are. Not all of these teams fancy themselves World Series contenders, but most of them do. Yet they're heading into the season with a big ol' gaping hole. Here are the top five big ol' gaping holes that should have been filled, which is a subject that should do well with Google search results, but probably not the kind we're looking for at Baseball Nation.
5. Blue Jays - 1B/DH
Edwin Encarnacion will take one of the spots, probably first base, which is just dandy. And it's silly to get too nitpicky about the Blue Jays' offseason, one in which they decided to spend money like the major-market team they really are. Considering the 2012 Blue Jays had one of the weirdest, horrific, and injury-filled pitching seasons in baseball, they've done a magnificent job of building a strong, strong rotation, and they've pulled together an interesting lineup, too.
But every time I look at their projected lineup, Adam Lind's name pops out. He'll hit around seventh in the lineup, so it's not like the Jays are counting on him, but that's the point. If the Jays had a DH of note, maybe Colby Rasmus wouldn't have to hit fifth. While the Jays owe Lind $5 million this year, he hasn't been good for three years. Worse than that -- he's been actively bad, being worth about -2 wins combined since his breakout season of 2009.
The Jays are still a contender. But it's like they bought a new, 52-inch TV and a new surround-sound system, but they held on to the TurboGrafx-16, hoping they could find their copy of Bonk's Adventure that they misplaced somewhere. They know it's here somewhere. They'll find it aaaaaany day now.
4. Mets - Like, one outfielder
I go back and forth on this because the Mets probably should be in throw-players-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks mode. And you can make arguments that all of the Mets' outfield options should be given a chance. A year after a semi-breakout in Triple-A, Kirk Nieuwenhuis didn't embarrass himself in the majors. Mike Baxter somehow managed a .365 on-base percentage last year, well above his minor-league career mark. Lucas Duda is probably a better hitter than he showed last year.
As a collective, though, it's a mess. It's almost a little too see-what-sticks, especially considering that Duda is an outfielder like David Wright is a shortstop. This can all change if the Mets get Michael Bourn on the cheap, but for now it's pretty easy to pick on the Mets and their outfield filled with drifters, hobos, and ne'er-do-wells.
3. Brewers - Starting pitcher
I use MLB Depth Charts pretty regularly in the offseason, especially when writing articles like this. And when you get to the Brewers' depth chart, you see this in their projected rotation:
That is ... less than encouraging. The best-case scenario is for Chris Narveson to come back and be the best durned Chris Narveson he can be, which is a pitcher with the upside of a Chris Narveson. Which isn't bad. But if that's the best-case scenario -- especially for a team that can hit a little -- there are probably other scenarios to explore.
But like with Bourn and the Mets, there's an out. Kyle Lohse is still floating around, ticked off that draft-pick compensation exists. The Brewers would lose the #17 overall pick -- to a division rival, no less -- if they signed Lohse. That's a steep price.
Consider, though, that in the 47-year history of the amateur draft, only a dozen No. 17 picks produced more wins above replacement in their careers than Lohse did in 2012. You might think it's a gamble to give away the pick for Lohse. Considering that the Brewers' lineup projects to be average-to-good, but certainly short of overwhelming, it might be a bigger risk to not give up a pick for Lohse if the price is right. There's no better fit in baseball for Lohse.
2. Dodgers - 3B
"Hey," you're yelling at the screen, "what about Luis Cruz, you awful person?" And that's a fair question. Over 283 at-bats last year, Cruz hit .297/.322/.431 and played a nifty third base. His batting average on balls in play was on the high side (.320), but not ludicrously so. He's the only Mexican-born position player with a regular job in the majors and he plays in an area with an enormous Mexican community and he already has the "Cruuuuuuuuuuz" chant going at home. He's become a popular player in a short time with the Dodgers.
But here's a link to the 29-year-old's minor-league stats. If you think Cruz can do anything close to that again, you're taking a 283-at-bat sample over a sample of 4,573 minor-league at-bats. You might be right, but the odds are heavily against you. And the Dodgers are paying a lot of money all over the roster so they don't have to deal with those stupid odds.
1. Yankees - C
Of all the holes, all the big ol' gaping lineup holes left untouched this offseason, this is by far the weirdest. Because we're talking about the Yankees here. The Yankees. The team that once spent a billion dollars on Jaret Wright because they needed a pitcher, and, well, Wright was about all that was available other than Carl Pavano, whom they also purchased for a the price of a space shuttle.
This Yankees team is cool with Chris Stewart at catcher. Maybe Francisco Cervelli if they want to get crazy. A.J. Pierzynski was out there on a one-year deal, and his lefty swing would seem to be a good fit for Yankee Stadium. Nope, not interested. Mike Napoli isn't exactly a Gold Glover, but he could have given the Yanks some offense from behind the plate. Yorvit Torrealba was out there on a minor-league deal. David Ross has been quietly fantastic in a part-time role, and he was available. They could have traded for Nick Hundley, John Jaso, or George Kottaras.
Nope. Chris Stewart. Who seems very nice! And he has a lightning-quick release when he's trying to catch runners stealing. But he's almost like a DH neutralizer, acting as a quasi-pitcher in the ninth spot of the lineup. The old Yankees would have figured something out, probably involving wheelbarrows filled with cash. This Yankees team is cool with Chris Stewart, or maybe Francisco Cervelli. Oh.