|Five Under-Utilized Bench Players||| Print |||Send|
Written by Tom Lindsey (Contact & Archive) on May 04, 2008
Rivera is unlucky enough to be playing in what is, perhaps, the best outfield in baseball.Â Heâ€™s only managed thirty at-bats so far this year, but heâ€™s worthy of many more.Â The last time Rivera was allowed a significant number of plate appearances, he hit .310/.362/.525.Â We know that Rivera injured his Tibia prior to the 2007 season, and that it severely limited his playing time; we can only speculate as to whether the Angels also injured their brain that off-season.Â With Rivera down and no real center fielder to speak of, they decided to give Gary Matthews Jr. five years and $50 million dollars.Â And admittedly, the move looks immensely more stupid after also giving Torii Hunter an Oil Tanker full of money, but Rivera is a superior hitter to Matthews Jr. and should be playing in front of him.Â
Itâ€™s also quite possible that Rivera is better than the starting left-fielder, Garret Anderson.Â Anderson is a career .295/.326/.469 hitter coming off of a good season, while Rivera is a .288/.337/.468 career hitter.Â Using Anderson here instead of Rivera is not criminal: The matter of â€śwho is the better hitter here?â€ť is still really up for debate.Â The Angels should be using the DH position to their advantage, though, allowing both Rivera and Anderson regular time in the lineup, while Matthews fills in when heâ€™s needed defensively.Â Instead, Matthewsâ€™ DHâ€™s while Rivera rots on the bench.
In a perfect world, the Angels would be able to unload Matthews for a prospect or two, but his contract all but prevents that from happening.Â Trading Rivera makes more sense, with poor offensive teams such as the Mariners, Royals and Padres being the most likely takers.
Germanâ€™s fate as a poorly used infielder was sealed the day Royalsâ€™ General Manger Dayton Moore traded pitching prospect Billy Buckner for Alberto Callaspo.Â Callaspo is younger than German, superior defensively, and is generally regarded by the Royals organization as the â€śsecond baseman of the future,â€ť which are all huge advantages he has over German in his quest for playing time.Â Despite Callaspo having all of these things in his corner, however, German is probably the better player right now, and offers a higher on-base percentage, something the Royals are desperately in need of.Â The Royals have a good and versatile bench, but thereâ€™s no reason they shouldnâ€™t be able to get a guy with a career .367 OBP more than 18 at-bats, more than a month into the season.
It was rumored that the Royals were offered Dodgersâ€™ reliever Hong-Chih Kuo for German, but that they were holding out for shortstop prospect Chin-Lung Hu.Â The Dodgers were unwilling to part with Hu, so German remains a Royal.Â Given the struggles of KCâ€™s free agent acquisition Yasuhiko Yabuta in the bullpen, they should probably jump on the offer for Kuo if itâ€™s still available.
Itâ€™s not that Thames is a great hitter, because heâ€™s not.Â Heâ€™s hit .240/.305/.488 in his career, which comes out to a 104 OPS+.Â But an above-average hitter whose value is largely tied to his power hitting ability is a commodity many teams could use.Â He was not so under-utilized before Miguel Cabrera was acquired, but now that Brandon Inge is now also a bench player, his plate appearances figure to go down significantly.Â
Unless Huber is just that rare sort of player whose minor league numbers arenâ€™t useful at all in formulating a major league equivalent, itâ€™s hard to fathom why a team like the Padres cannot work him into the lineup.Â Heâ€™s a career .289/.369/.495 in the minors and won the Texas League batting title in 2005 at the age of 22; the Padres are the worst offensive team in the majors, hitting an anemic .231/.302/.340 so far.Â The outfield is especially weak, so Huber seems like an ideal fit.
Strangely enough, this is the second poor offensive team that cannot or will not get Huber into the lineup regularly, so itâ€™s possible his minor league numbers are the rare kind that do not correlate well at all with major league success.Â The Royals traded him to the Padres for $50 K, an insult in the lucrative world of baseball, which does nothing but support the notion that Huber may always struggle in the major leagues.Â I think itâ€™s likely, though, that Huber can help the Padres and he should at least be given a chance to do so.Â Though heâ€™s failed pretty miserably at the major league level, heâ€™s only been given 123 ABâ€™s to prove himself.
Matt Murton (sort of)
Murton isnâ€™t technically a bench player (currently a minor leaguer), but the fact that heâ€™s not is only an extension of how badly heâ€™s being misused.Â The Cubs have finally come around as an offensive team and donâ€™t really need his help (failing to use him well does not really become apparent), but when thereâ€™s a .295/.363/.451 career hitting, twenty-six year old outfielder who canâ€™t get any playing time, you have to wonder whose Mama Murton made a fat joke about.Â And though the outfield is crowded now, Murton only managed to get 14 at-bats when Soriano was injured.Â
There are plenty of teams who could use Murton, and the Cubs should use him as a bargaining chip in their attempt to win now.Â If he remains in Iowa for most of this year, heâ€™ll have been grossly misused, but if the Cubs can trade him for a useful player in their playoff run, they can turn a bad situation into a good one.
Because I ripped you off by including a minor leaguer in my list of bench players (suckers!), I decided to throw a bullpen guy in here as well.Â Chamberlainâ€™s been doing a great job in the Yankees bullpen, and itâ€™s understandable that many Yankees fans do not want to mess with success, but with Ian Kennedy struggling mightily and Phil Hughes now injured, the Yankees have a serious need in the starting rotation.Â Pettitte and Mussina have been fine so far, but both are getting up there in age, and both have been in moderate decline; their pitching fortunes could change quickly.Â The Red Sox have been bold with Buccholz so far, and it has paid off.Â In order to compete with Boston this year, the Yankees should also take a chance on Chamberlain and allow him to start.