Saturday, December 8, 2007

Heir to the Bench

John McDonald. Lou Merloni. Joe Inglett. Mike Rouse. The Tribe has had a long line of distinguished, yet fleeting, utility infielders over the years. Who will be honored with the title of Defensive Specialist this season?

Apparently, it's former Colorado second baseman Jamey Carroll. Cleveland traded for Carroll on Saturday in exchange for a minor league player to be named. Carroll is 33 and saw the majority of his time at second and third base over 109 appearances, with 55 starts in 2007. According to Cot's, he will be paid $2.15 million in 2008 and has a $2.5 million club option for 2009 with a $.15 million buyout. Carroll will be replacing Chris Gomez, who was picked up off waivers from Baltimore last season. Gomez signed with Pittsburgh for $1 million this offseason.

Gomez's offense was never anything to write home about, even for a utility guy (.325 OBP, 83 OPS+ in 240 PA for 2007). In that sense, Carroll's poor numbers at the plate should not be a burden, since what he's replacing isn't significant and he won't be asked to start many games anyway. Carroll's best season came in 2006 when he posted a .377 OBP and 94 OPS+ in 534 PA (he was Colorado's starting second baseman in '06). 2007 saw a precipitous drop-off in offense for Carroll, with a .317 OBP and 56 OPS+ in 268 PA. Considering he played in an extreme hitters park (Coors Field) and the National League, this is a pretty dramatic trend. Again, don't expect any production offensively; we didn't pick this guy up for his splits.

Below is a comparison between Carroll and a league average second baseman in 2007 (RFg = range factor):

Carroll: .992 FP -- 4.08 RFg
AL Avg.: .986 FP -- 4.54 RFg
NL Avg.: .984 FP -- 4.23 RFg

Carroll's defense seems solid enough and he has a reputation for good range at his natural position. I don't anticipate any problems out of second this season (Cabrera is rumored to be the starter with Barfield in AAA), which is good because I don't have any faith in Carroll as a starter for any stretch due to his offense. The Tribe's depth/insurance at second base consists of Cabrera and Barfield. Carroll's just a part-time infielder and possible pinch runner.

Trading for Carroll sounded like an odd thing to do. It just seemed excessive to give up a player and pay over $2 mil for a bench player on an already crowded roster. He probably makes about a million dollars more than your average utility guy and has a rapidly declining offense. I guess there's not much point in nitpicking though, since Carroll is adequate for the role he'll be given. There aren't any players in Buffalo that I'd be campaigning to fill out the bench either (not including Marte and Cabrera, who I hope to see with Cleveland regardless).

Carroll does have one thing going for him though. Before the trade was even made official he had already picked up the nickname of "Gritty Jesus," due to his very public religious preferences. I wish I could take credit, but the fine folks at LGT are responsible for that one. Best. Nickname. Ever.


The Cavs have lost 6 in a row, with their latest defeat coming at the hands of the Bobcats. LeBron hasn't played since November 28 because of a sprained left index finger. Coincidentally, Cleveland hasn't won since James left the lineup. The King, and Cleveland's only hope to ever win again, had this to say in Saturday's Plain Dealer:
Teams better get their wins now against us. They're talking trash against us now because we have guys out. But when we get our guys back, it's going to be a different story.
Hang in there Cavs fans.

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