After Ian Desmond’s injury, the Colorado Rockies need another option to fill first base in his absence. Among those seen taking groundballs during practice on Monday, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com, was none other than Cristhian Adames.
Um, No? No, no, NO!
The ideas that Adames is a serious part-time option at first base and that the Colorado Rockies are a contending team should be incompatible. That’d be kind of like playing Gerardo Parra there. Or Daniel Descalso. You get the idea.
Might I suggest an alternate idea?
Let’s get Tom Murphy a new glove.
Let me try to explain!
Murphy should still split time at catcher with Tony Wolters and still learn all things while donning the tools of ignorance. However, because Desmond is injured and assuming Mark Reynolds gets the bulk of the playing time at first base, Murphy potentially becomes the best right handed bat off the bench. The problem, though, is most teams don’t pinch hit with their backup catcher. So, if his at bats are limited to a timeshare with Tony Wolters, and we’re still trying to figure out just how good that bat is, Murphy’s opportunities will be limited.
The additional challenge is that because Murphy is a right-handed hitter and Wolters hits lefty, a strict platoon at catcher suggests that we might not get enough data to see just how well Murphy hits right-handers. If he gets more opportunities because he is able to play first base, it’ll be easier to determine just how playable Murphy’s offense is. Should it happen to be a special bat, depending on his defense, it’ll be easier to decide if he becomes the full time starting catcher. Or, similar to Buster Posey and the early careers of Carlos Santana and Victor Martinez, perhaps he splits time between two positions. If Murphy excels, it’s even possible he becomes the Rockies full-time starter in 2018.
By giving him some practice at first base, not only do the Rockies get to see more at bats to determine just the type of hitter he is, but it opens up some double switching options. The Rockies could pinch hit with Murphy, then let him remain in the game and swap out Mark Reynolds for the pitcher’s slot. Or, if the lineup slots aren’t lining up, the team could move Reynolds to the outfield, move Murphy to first base, and remove whichever left or right fielder is appropriate.
In addition, the Rockies still have Tony Wolters around, opening up more opportunities for creativity. Maybe Wolters can give DJ LeMahieu or Trevor Story a rest by moving to the infield, and let Murphy take over at catcher. This gets Wolters more at bats, makes him available for pinch hitting opportunities, and will provide a better idea of how good Wolters is at the plate.
There are some risks. It can be distracting and maybe even demoralizing to have a young guy learn a second position. Murphy has never played first base. This decision tree also necessitates carrying a third catcher. We’re also late in the spring, which reduces the time available to learn a new position (unless your name’s Adames). But I do think it’s something the Rockies should really consider if they want to get a good idea of just what they have behind the dish.