Saving the West for last, a few exciting fights for position-playing roles, plus the usual mulling of aspiring fifth men.
To complete my perhaps overly terse-for me, at any rate-series review job battles for starting jobs in the majors, we now turn to the NL West. Admittedly, part of the exercise here for me was to make sure that I turn over to positions and considerations that, too often, do not comprise core considerations for Transaction Analysis: the guys who get punted from Triple-A and back again, the damned and doomed who need to adapt to a shuttle-born existence between the dubious glory of third lefty-dom, spot starting in the rotation because some high-maintenance thirtysomething needs skipping, or the outfielder who plays because somebody's hammy's barking or the like. That's the stuff that, admittedly, is relatively minor stuff, the endless churn that I can't help but find fascinating on one level, but also have to admit impacts a season, a team, or your fantasy squad very little, if at all. Or, as another way to put it, if you're concerned about the whereabouts of Doug Slaten, you're with me in the ranks of the few, the proud, the players in the deepest of leagues, or the folks who don't play Wii in their spare time.
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Some of the choices involved are generating noise, while others are merely noisome.
It's now time to turn to the National League's camp battles-and to perhaps also turn a Nelsonian blind eye to a good argument for why some of these combats are less significant than others-starting with the NL East. What's really at stake as opposed to effectively already set in stone?
Not much to see here other than sorting out some corner spots and back ends of rotations.
In a wee bit of roster oddity, the AL West has both some of the most and least compelling job fights going for it. Whereas every other team in the junior circuit has a meaningful battle for a frontline job-as opposed to the inevitable, smaller combats for back-end bullpen assignments, bench roles, backup catchery, or the like, TA's bread and butter for 15 years-the short stack has one club that has no meaningful job fights, the Angels.
Will the Yankees put both Joba and Phil in the bullpen?; what will the Red Sox do with Mike Lowell?; and other spring questions.
Outright job battles in spring training might not seem quite so common or epic these days, but a number of interesting fights loom as camps open. Several of them figure to be zero-sum contests, where it's not just a question of who gets the slightly larger share of the playing time, but who gets the job outright. Since big elements here are the organization's valuation of the player's present and future as well as how much they've invested in employing him, with camp performance playing an inevitable if sometimes overstated part, some of these battles are less obvious than others. While I usually end up talking a bit too much about benches and bullpens and spare parts on the transactions beat, here are the job fights I know I'll find interesting in the weeks to come, starting with the AL East: