Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sierra's Chances

Yesterday, as Mr. Mosvick pointed out in his post, the Twins signed veteran Ruben Sierra to a minor-league deal, apparently to give him a shot in spring training. It's an extremely low-risk move, so I can't complain about it one bit, but I am a little puzzled. I can see the value that Sierra would bring as a left-handed pinch-hitter, but I honestly can't see how Sierra possibly makes the 25-man roster this season.

The issue is thus: If the Twins carry 11 pitchers (almost a sure thing), they are left with six spaces for non-starting position players. If they were in a situation like last year, where their projected DH was Lew Ford - a guy who can also backup the outfield spots solidly - then you can afford to carry a guy like Matt LeCroy who really can't play defense anywhere and is solely a pinch-hitter and part-time DH. Unfortunately with, Rondell White in the picture, they can't really afford this luxury. Presuming Jason Kubel wins the starting right field spot out of spring training, the Twins are left with five bench spots which will be filled by Mike Redmond, Juan Castro, Lew Ford, Michael Cuddyer, and Nick Punto. I guess if Kubel isn't ready at the start of the year, maybe you have a spot for Sierra, but with his talent I think it's a foregone conclusion that he will be up eventually, so really it would just be delaying the inevitable.

I think Sierra could be an effective bench player for the Twins, but unfortunately I don't see how there is possibly space for this 40 year-old who can't play defense and hasn't been a particularly good offensive player in the past four years.

4 comments:

cmathewson said...

Two things:

1. When Ford was DH, he couldn't be used in the field for that day without the Twins giving up their DH. So having a true DH on the roster doesn't hurt the managers' flexibility in game situations. It might hamper the manager in line-up flexibility from day to day, but not in game situations.

2. Think of Sierra as the bench equivalent of a LOOGY. A true LOOGY might only get 75 outs in a year, so why do we keep a roster spot open for him? Because those outs are often game deciding outs against the Travis Haffners and the Jim Thomes. Sierra might only get 150 PAs in the season, but those PAs will be against the other team's best relievers when a weak hitting middle infielder would be an automatic out. Using Sierra as a pinch hitter at least gives you a chance in that situation.

It's one of the untold sotries from last year. The Twins did not have a lefty pinch hitter on the roster for the first time in recent memory, so they were forced to use LeCroy in pinch-hitting situations even though he had no chance against right handed closers. Offerman had something like 20 pinch hits in 2004. Strategically placed, those pinch hits might have resulted in 6 wins. 6 wins doesn't get the 2005 team over the hump, but they sure help the 2006 team, which figures to be in the hunt. And, as I show aver at Twinkie Town, Sierra's better than Offerman.

Nick N. said...

Good points Cmath. Couple things...

Ford could not be used as a defensive replacement when he started at DH, true enough, but he was a player on the roster who could field 3 positions, leaving LeCroy as really the only guy you didn't want anywhere in the field. Ford did not DH everyday, so whenever he didn't, he was available to give Stew/Hunt/JJ a day off or pinch-hit/run. I don't anticipate ever seeing White in the field this year, and even if he is, it could only be left. Same goes for Sierra.

Like I said, I agree with you that Ruben would be a valuable pinch-hitter, and I like the LOOGY analogy, but I just feel like the 5 bench guys we have now who (aside from Redmond) can all play several defensive positions, are too valuable to let go in favor of RS.

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