Sunday, February 22, 2009

Big Rocks

"If you can put a guy up there that has the capabilities of a Gold Glove and also a 25-30 home run guy, you have to take a chance. It's a good chance."
- Ron Gardenhire on signing Joe Crede as the Twins new third baseman.

In productivity seminars, there is a popular demonstration that involves trying to fit a bunch of rocks into a large tube. There are probably a half dozen large rocks, and probably a couple of hundred pebbles, and the challenge is to get them all to fit into the tube. The trick is to make sure you put the big rocks in first. Then you sort of shake it and let the small rocks flow around them. It's impossible otherwise.

Gardenhire's quote sums up the big rocks in this signing. The Twins signed a right-handed slugging third baseman who also happens to be a defensive whiz. The details - Crede's health, his career batting average, his struggles against lefties, and blocking Brian Buscher - are not as pretty. We'll hope that with the big rocks in place and a little shaking, these just end up being inconsequential filler.

It's fun to see the level of optimism this has inspired in Twins fans, and I wonder if it's warranted. So let's take a quick look at the rest of the third basemen in the American League, and see where Crede compares:

Group 1:The Cream of the Crop

NYYAlex Rodriguez
TBEvan Longoria

Alex Rodriguez is the current king and Evan Longoria is the heir to the throne, and there really isn't a third baseman who is close. ARod is obviously more accomplished, but if both were granted free agency today, I'm not sure which would end up with the bigger contract.

Of course, that's not gonna happen. They are both controlled through 2017 and 2016 by their respective clubs. The difference? ARod will make $275 million over the life of his deal while Longoria will make $47.5 million. Ouch. You gotta love the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Group 2:Inspiring Envy
CLEJhonny Peralta
SEAAdrian Beltre

This is the reason that the Mark DeRosa trade was so much better for the Indians than it would have been for the Twins. Jhonny Peralta had bulked his way out of being a legitimate shortstop, and his replacement was playing second base. So even though it looked like they needed a third baseman, they really needed a decent second baseman. That much DeRosa can do.

And if you compare Crede's OPS(773), age(30) and defense(awesome) to everyone in this entry, the player he most resembles is Adrian Beltre. That's misleading, because Beltre plays in a monstrous park while Crede played in the White Sox hitter-friendly stadium. Crede is a clear notch below Beltre (even without his health concerns), so let's see if he falls any further down the list.

Group 3: May Still Have a Big Year In Them
BLTMelvin Mora
BOSMike Lowell
TORScott Rolen
TEXMichael Young
OAKEric Chavez

Take a look at the ages on all the guys in this entry for a second. I count just four guys under 30. Lately I've wondered if third basemen can better afford to reach the majors later in their careers, and there seems to be some evidence to support that. That would be good news for fans of Buscher(28) and Danny Valencia(24).

This group has a bunch of guys who are mostly solid, but are clearly on a downward trend. They are useful, but overlooked, and probably one bad contract year from struggling to find a job. I wouldn't take any one of them over Crede, given his extra youth, though it's close.

Group 4: Give It Some Time
KCAlex Gordon
CWSJosh Fields*

The last two youngsters on the list. Alex Gordon was as hyped two years ago as Longoria was last year, but has stalled because he hasn't been able to figure out left-handers. Josh Fields looked like the White Sox third baseman of the future in 2007, lost his job to Crede in 2008, and then was hurt when Crede went down. But he's the reason the Sox were so willing to let Crede walk. (BTW, that OPS was in AAA last year.)

If the Twins had not traded for Crede, this group is where Buscher and Brendan Harris would've landed.

Group 5:Not Stereotypical, but an Asset
LAAChone Figgins

Chone Figgins is an exciting player that was a lot less exciting last year when he was hampered by hamstring and elbow problems. That pitiful OPS doesn't reflect that he's capable of stealing 40-50 bases when healthy, and has enough plate discipline to be a dangerous leadoff hitter. He's not the type of third baseman the Twins need, but he's a great fit for a number of teams.

Group 6: Um......
DETBrandon Inge

I don't think you can totally write off the Tigers this year. After all, they still look quite a bit like the heavily favored team that entered last season. But they have some major question marks, like the bottom of their lineup. Inge is easily the worst starting third baseman in the American League - and he's probably batting seventh in that lineup. Yikes.

So where does Crede land? Let's give him sixth place. He probably belongs in the bottom of that second group, and I'm tempted to also put him behind Alex Gordon just because of his age. That's not great, but it's quite a bit better than the Twins looked 48 hours ago.

Plus, they didn't give up anything to get him, and god knows he's going to be motivated given his one year deal. We'll add those factors to our other big rocks, shake hopefully, and watch to see if they fit together nicely.


thrylos98 said...

Interesting analysis... I agree with a lot of it, but that "blocking Brian Buscher" part is a bit overreaching (heck I edited that participle about 7 times). E5 does not belong to the major leagues. It is not like he is a 24 year old guy with an ok glove and some power who was enthroned to be the Twins' third baseman of the future (Valencia, and watching him play in about 10 AA games, I am leary about that proposition.) Buscher is like Garrett Jones/Josh Rabe. Same (non) skills, a whole less power. He is 28, this is his prime. It's like watching Scott Stahoviak in first in his prime (but much worse.)

Frankly, anyone that could potentially make Buscher a permanent AAA player (at least for this year since after next year it would be independent league time) is worth at least half of what Punto is making...

Sarcasm aside, Crede's swing was majorly messed up by Manuel when he came up with the Sux. His used to be a decent OPS guy before they made him an one dimensional hitter. Details here:

Anonymous said...

How many games do people feel Joe should play given his back situation? How many do you think Gardy will let him?

I like having him 5th unless Casilla goes backwards, if that happens, then I like Crede batting 3rd ahead of the other Joe :)