CF for sale, $12M/yr OBO, only third owner!
Any of you who have poked your head over to my personal Twitter will not be shocked to hear this, but for the rest of you let me spell it out — I have no love lost on Aaron Rowand.
For all that there has been a furor recently, and for not the first time, over Barry Zito and his dirigible sized contract, Rowand’s has the potential to be the real albatross around the neck of this team if things don’t change, and sooner rather than later.
When the FO made the deal to bring Rowand over, I doubt they were expecting to end up with a guy who would hit .230/.281/.378 (without the attendant defensive fireworks necessary to balance that out) and end up losing most of his starting time to a guy making barely above league minimum. No one could have been expected to predict the simultaneous tanking of Rowand and the break-out season from Andres Torres, but that is definitely the reality the Giants have found themselves in. The fact is that Rowand is not only unnecessary, he’s getting in the way of the team’s ability to hold onto and develop other players. I don’t want to say that Rowand is cliff diving, but at 33, with a three season downward momentum in his performance, one has to start to wonder if even regression to the mean is too optimistic.
If the team were in a bad way for a center fielder, hanging on to Rowand to the tune of $12M for the next couple of years would sting but would at least sort of make sense. He’s not so bad that he necessitates being dumped without there being an obvious replacement. But there is an obvious replacement. In fact, in various configurations and scenarios, there are several. Cody Ross in right, Andres Torres in center and some combination of Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff in left, with Nate Schierholtz as a late inning defensive replacement would be about as good an outfield, in terms of combined offensive and defensive skill, as we could hope to have without some major shakeups. You put Rowand back into that mix at center field, where he is only ever going to play based on what Bochy has said and the fact that he hasn’t played an inning anywhere else since 2004, and you create a whole lot of needless chaos. Move Torres to right, and what do you do with Ross? You could let them split the starts, but Ross is a player who does better when given consistent playing time, so by having him essentially share a starting position you’re taking a hit immediately. Keep Torres in right and move Ross to left and you’re taking Burrell out of the lineup by necessity, and Huff as well once Brandon Belt gets called up. Pulling two sluggers out of the game, in a team that isn’t known for offensive production (even if this season is shaping up to be much better in that department than what we’ve come to expect), for the sake of Rowand would be a special brand of crazy that even on my most cynical days I want to hope that Bochy, Sabes and Co. aren’t capable of.
And what of the fourth outfielder in any of these scenarios? Ideally you want one of a couple of things from a fourth outfielder; utility backup abilities if any of your starters go down, slick defense as a late inning insurance policy to maintain a lead, or a strong bat to take advantage of when you can risk a bit of a defensive hit. Nate Schierholtz can fill the first two of those things and should bat somewhere in the .250/.300/.375 arena, which is, somewhat terrifyingly, better than what Rowand put up last season. Pat Burrell, when he’s in good offensive form, is a good ace in the hole if need be, and if we can get another .450+ SLG year out of him, he’ll be more than worth the $1M he’s making. Burrell needs to get enough at bats early this season to get his confidence built, though, and with Rowand around that’s going to be that much harder to make happen.
With news of Domonic Brown‘s broken hand, hope for a trade off of Rowand springs anew. If Shane Victorino can be moved to right, or Rowand can be compelled to move his squatty little self over so Victorino can stay at center, the Phils could use him. Not only that, but Rowand could use the Phils, because if something doesn’t change, his career doesn’t have a whole lot of life left in it.
[Edited to add 8:05 am EST 3/7/2011]: Splashing Pumpkins has an extremely relavant poll. Do go vote.