Once again the purpose of this exercise is to begin making us think like GM's, position by position and try to figure out the situations at each spot and what needs to be done to bring us back into contention. Next year? No, we're not going to win the division without an insane amount of luck --I'm not completely ruling out that possibility, though :)-- and people misunderstand me if that's where they think this thread series is going, but we can be a lot closer to the leaders longer with only a few corrections. Being close translates into more tickets being sold, which will allow us opportunities to get some better players.
At the end of this series, we're going to have a go of predicting the 2006 roster. Last week, in the catcher discussion the consensus seemed to be to accept uncertain play next year from Closser and Greene (or whoever else we get to backup JD) and wait for Chris Iannetta (hopefully) in 2007. This week, the right side of the infield:
Part Four: Second Base
Shealy's waiting for his turn to swing.
Reliably Good, Marketable and Expensive, or Young, Talented and Cheap?
As far as first base goes, the question is quite simple:
Do we keep Todd Helton, or do we trade him and his salary to play Ryan Shealy?
Shealy's ready, there's no question about him needing anymore development time, and Helton's here. Now, before you go into the declining slugger argument, I want to bring up the Helton page at baseball-reference.com because they have similarity scores for players so that by looking at some of these we can get a little bit of a feel of how a player is going to decline. Helton's comps are all pretty much Hall of Famers, Hank Greenberg, Johnny Mize, and Chuck Klein historically, with Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell figuring prominently among his more contemporary comparibles. Now, from these superstars we get a picture of generally longer peak periods than more average players. Klein had the steepest and fastest decline just after thirty, Bagwell's been fairly steadily dropping since he was thirty-one, but up through last year was still 17% over a league average hitter in OPS. The rest have put up fairly solid numbers into their middle thirties, albeit sporadically (Mize and Greenberg had their careers interrupted by WWII, Thomas has been on and off the DL). If Helton can avoid the injury bug, there is little reason to think that he'll be less than stellar for the next three to four years at least.
Then what about Shealy? Well, his minor league stats and ability to handle the bat in brief appearances in Denver indicate he'll be at least as good or nearly so and he's young, and affordable for several years to come. The money and loyalty become the big sticking points here without Helton you can be certain there will be a discernible drop in the number of season tickets sold in the offseason that wouldn't have occurred if he was still a member of the team. His departure would signal to the casual fan another salary dump and could damage the franchise's credibility with this type of fan for years to come. Can you get a decent return by pawning Shealy? Can you pawn Helton and most of his contract and still get something back that doesn't cause mobs to assemble to burn down Coors Field?
This position is a little tricky as well. In house, we have Luis Gonzalez currently getting the bulk of the playing time and doing a decent job of it when he does. We still have Aaron Miles, and we also have Omar Quintanilla heading back to AAA for a bit more refinement but he could be ready by next Spring as well. What makes this position interesting and a quandary for our GM is first, making sure you have the right player for the job (Gonzalez is a tremendous asset as a suitable backup all over the field, but he's also our current best second baseman) and also, knowing how to get the greatest possible return for whichever player proves the odd man out. Who are you going to deal Aaron Miles to and when, and what do you expect he'll bring? Do you deal him at all before the season or wait until the trade deadline next year?
Omar Quintanilla has proven unready at the plate in his recent work. Will he be there by 2006?