Several overqualified players might be riding the pine while a pricier, less productive veteran hogs their position on Opening Day, but they deserve to be starting.
Every year, major-league teams spend millions on evaluating and acquiring players from outside their organizations, whether they’re amateurs eligible for the draft, professionals in another system, or foreign or domestic free agents available to the highest bidder. Sometimes, though, a potential source of improvement is already in house and in uniform, overlooked in favor of a more experienced or higher-paid player who’s no longer the best man for the job.
Sixteen years ago, Brian Giles was one such player. Giles was blocked by Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez at the outfield corners in Cleveland, but at designated hitter, only an aging Eddie Murray barred his way. The 40-year-old future Hall of Famer had been productive a season before, but by ’96 he was a year away from retirement and had little left. Giles was ready to replace him. At age 25, he was beyond the age at which most promising players get a long major-league look, but he had only a September cup of coffee to show for his two successful seasons in Triple-A.
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So Cliff Floyd tore his Achilles, no big deal, we'll just plug in this guy...
Chavez was worth 3.7 Wins Above Replacement this season; in his five previous seasons, he was worth a cumulative 4.7 WARP. A great deal of that value is in his defensive play, which has unquestionably been an asset to the Mets during both the regular season and in the playoffs. The Mets outfield is somewhere flyballs go to die on the nights when Carlos Beltran and Endy Chavez patrol two-thirds of it--unless Shawn Green is butchering plays in right field on the same night, of course. Endy's defensive abilities have never really been the issue at hand, though. It's his bat that has often been the topic of very angry conversation, and probably would have been mentioned more if not for the even greater shortcomings of others around the league, immortals such as Neifi Perez or Cristian Guzman.
Endy was originally signed out of Valencia, Venezuela by the Mets back in 1996 at the age of 18. He made an impressive enough debut in Rookie league, .354/.430/.561, with a career high of seven home runs in just 164 at-bats, but really did not do much in the follow-up seasons. He was named the top player on his GCL squad in 1997, but I'm guessing the Florida voters weren't exactly sure how to use their ballot. His walk rate was impressive at 14.1 percent, but he lacked even the slightest semblance of power, and his playing time was fairly limited.
Terrible performance and tons of playing time has made Endy Chavez a giant drag on the Expos' offense. The off-season's Ortiz-for-Moss deal wasn't as bad as you think for the Giants. Kevin Cash is the latest catcher-of-the-future for the Blue Jays. These and other news and notes out of Montreal, San Francisco, and Toronto in today's Prospectus Triple Play.
Hackin' Endy: For a few years now, Baseball Prospectus has put together a game called HACKING MASS. As the game's rules page explains:
So Minaya has a likely budget of $40M, and a projected payroll of $56M or so. What does he do?
Minaya has to cut about $16M in payroll. There are some salaries on the roster that could be cut without hurting the on-field product all that much. Unfortunately, Fernando Tatis is the biggest albatross on the Expos payroll, but I think his $6M is basically untradeable, at least not without the Expos paying a big chunk of his salary or accepting an equally bad contract in return. But we'll give Minaya the benefit of the doubt, and assume he can unload Tatis and half of his contract (but doesn't acquire anything of value in return). $3M in savings.