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A few modest proposals

Not much blogging yesterday (or today) because I foolishly left my wireless card at home, which left me stuck on a train to Seattle for four hours with no Internet access (back to "normal" tonight). On a happier note, I spent some of those four hours (finally) reading Sports Illustrated's baseball preview, which includes a "modest proposal" for every club (all of which were "compiled" by Joe Sheehan, one of our friends over at Baseball Prospectus). Running through a few of the more interesting proposals:
Red Sox: Use Jed Lowrie as leadoff man rather than Jacoby Ellsbury.

I love the idea. Lowrie was pretty good last year despite a wrist injury that sapped his strength for much of the season. He played exceptionally well in spring training. And now his wrist is hurting again, so he's not going to be playing shortstop -- let alone leading off -- for quite some time, it seems. Julio Lugo's out, too. Nick Green played shortstop last night. And people wonder why it's hard to predict the standings.

Twins: Send Delmon Young back to the minors, where he might learn to hit.

Most of the preseason stuff I read suggested that Michael Cuddyer should have been the odd man out in the Twins' outfield, with Young joining Carlos Gomez and Denard Span as regulars. The assumption, as I recall, was that Young needs to play regularly if he's going to improve. But even just looking at performance, Young actually out-hit Cuddyer last season. And of course he's seven years younger. So unless someone can demonstrate that Young would develop significantly quicker in the minors, I think you leave him in the majors and let him take his lumps for 450-500 plate appearances this season.

Indians: Don't be shy about dumping Travis Hafner in favor of Matt LaPorta.

The Indians have to give Hafner one more shot, and by "shot" I mean at least a couple of months. If not a couple of years, since they still owe him $49 million and he was real good just two seasons ago. As usual, though, there's a lesson here: long-term commitments to sluggardly sluggers often bite you in the backside.

Phillies: Break up lefties in the lineup with Jayson Werth.

This one deserves a bit of extra credit for the author's prescience ...

    Having replaced lumbering Pat Burrell in leftfield with lumbering Raul Ibanez, the Phillies find themselves with the 3-4-5 part of their lineup batting exclusively from the left side. That will be a major tactical issue late in games, when opposing managers bring in relief specialists to face Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Ibanez in high-leverage situations. All lefthanded hitters struggle against such lefties as the Braves' Mike Gonzalez and the Mets' Pedro Feliciano. Sliding Jayson Werth (career .374 on-base percentage, .545 slugging versus lefthanders) into the fifth spot ahead of Ibanez would force managers to choose between making pitching change or taking a bad matchup, a decision that will come up repeatedly in the 36 games games Philadelphia plays against its top two division rivals.

Sure enough, that's exactly what happened in the Phillies' very first game, as Mike Gonzalez was able to escape a big ninth-inning jam by retiring a couple of those lefty hitters. I'll bet a silver dollar that Charlie Manuel does eventually break those guys up when a southpaw is starting.
Brewers: Trade Prince Fielder, play Mat Gamel instead.

This echoes a suggestion I made last year, I believe. My thought was that Ryan Braun should wind up at first base instead of Fielder, but Gamel -- who was 22 last season and tore up the Double-A Southern League -- would fit in nicely, too. Perhaps as soon as right now. Not that the Brewers should just give Fielder away; after all, he's a fine hitter and he's still cheap. But he doesn't figure to age particularly well, and low-revenue teams simply can't afford to let major league talent waste away in the minors. The Brewers need to either play Gamel or trade him (as they did with LaPorta last summer; you judge how well that worked out).

Diamondbacks: Even if he's healthy, Eric Byrnes should be a fourth outfielder.

Well, yeah. I'm mentioning this one only because I love this line: "Energy is good, left turns at first base are better; Byrnes and his .325 career OBP don't provide enough of the latter."

Giants: Trade Barry Zito.

As the argument goes, the Giants already have three young starters who are better than Zito (true), they've got Randy Johnson this season (also true), and they've got a couple of hot prospects in the minors who may well be ready in 2010. Well, OK. But what about 2009? And exactly what might the Giants expect in return for a pitcher -- for the sake of argument, we'll say Barry Zito -- who's a No. 5 starter for most clubs but is still owed a gazillion dollars? I say the Giants should keep Zito until the exact moment that they just can't stand to look at him for one more #@&%$ second. And then they release him.

Padres: Trade Brian Giles.

Boy, this is a tough one. The Padres have two good hitters and Giles is one of them and the fans probably wouldn't be real thrilled if he got sent along to a contender. On the other hand, Giles is 38 (38!) and the Padres' farm system isn't exactly loaded with prospects. So, yeah: they should trade him for prospects if they can. In fact, anything else should be considered malpractice.