Dan O’Dowd, You Confuse Me

In talking to people down here in Orlando, there’s palpable shock over how the market is developing this winter. The Jayson Werth deal looms over everything, but even the guys expected to settle for smaller deals are coming away with surprising quantities of years and dollars. That trend continued this morning when the Rockies gave Ty Wigginton a two year, $7.5 million contract to do… I’m not sure what, exactly.

It’s not that Wigginton is useless – he’s got some decent power and even draws walks against LHPs, so he can have some value as the lesser half of a DH platoon. Unfortunately, the Rockies play in the league that doesn’t use the DH, and they just acquired a better version of this exact same player last week when they traded for Jose Lopez.

It would be hard to find two more similarly skilled players in the game than Lopez and Wigginton. They are both slow-footed right-handed infielders with some power and no patience. Lopez is a decent enough defensive third baseman who can fake it at second and has experience at first as well. Wigginton has experience at all three spots, though he’s awful at nearly all of them.

Giving Lopez $3.6 million for one year to see if he can thrive in Coors Field, while serving as a backup corner infielder who can also play second, was a decent enough idea. Giving Wigginton that same amount of money for two years to duplicate what they just had is, well, not.

Usually, even if a move doesn’t seem to be a great idea, you can see the logic behind it. This one, though? I honestly have no idea what the Rockies are doing. In order to come up with scenarios where both of these guys play enough to justify the contracts, you have to stick better players on the bench, and they had to guarantee Wigginton a second year in order to create this problem.

Maybe there’s a trade coming that will allow this move to make more sense. Or maybe this market really is just bananas.





Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Steve
11 years ago

Rockies start 4 left-handers on the corners (Cargo, Smith, Helton & Stewart), plus have an unsettled 2B situation. Last season, they had trouble with having enough RH bats to fill in against lefties. This does two things A) allows Smith & Stewart platoons against tough lefties with Lopez at 2B and B) provide insurance in case Helton has another down year.

Although I totally agree with the concerns about the 2 year contract….would have much prefered a 1 year deal.

mbrady16
11 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Yep, that’s what I was thinking. They have a surplus of lefties and wanted Wigginton to help balance it with his positional flexibility (though as Dave noted, I wouldn’t want him on defense too often.)

2 years at that cost for a righty utility guy though? That’s what is baffling to me.

Andrew T. Fisher
11 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Good post. Lopez will play 2B and 3B exlusively. Wigginton acts as not only a bench infielder but a fifth outfielder as well. The double dipping is probably why O’Dowd okayed the contract demands, not that I’m particularly happy about it. The Rockies needed to add another bat, and given the options in their financial price range, this was probably the best bet.

Steve
11 years ago

Agreed, plus I think Wiggy and Lopez are the exact type of hitters that Coors seem to help the most (strikeout guys with power). With Wiggy, Lopez and Spilly, the Rockies now have the RH balance to Smith, Stewart and Helton that they needed.

Rockies just need a backup catcher and setup arm before calling it an off-season.

Nathaniel Dawson
11 years ago

Except that Lopez doesn’t really strike out all that much. And I guess you could say he has power — yet he’s only averaged 15 homers a year in his career. So that’s where it all falls down.

That being said, he’s likely to put up good numbers in Coors next year. Of course, that’s true of about any decent hitter.

Steve
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

His career stats vs lefties are skewed due to an incredible 2008 performance in 54 AB vs. lefties (1.137 OPS).

Stewart in 2010:
vs. LH – .231/.343/.341
vs. RH – .264/.346/.475

Stewart in 2009:
vs. LH – .178/.278/.386
vs. RH – .244/.335/.488

The last two years the difference has been clear. He needs a platoon.

John
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Steve: when samples are that small (or even if they’re not), you cant just throw out suggestive data for your argument. One could argue that the samples you are talking about are RIDICULOUSLY tiny as well and throw one or both out to come to a totally new and opposite conclusion.

Steve
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

John: while I agree that the sample size is overall small….I’m more likely to lean towards the fact that they guy hasn’t hit lefties in the past two seasons. While I agree that 100 AB each season isn’t a lot to go on, there’s even less evidence that he actually can (50 AB in 2008). While I’d certainly prefer to judge this based on 1,000 AB vs. lefties, the Rockies had to make a call on 2011. Based on what evidence we do have, you can understand why they may be pursuing a RH hitter to bat for Stewart against tough lefties. Besides, the Wiggy deal has as much to do with being a “hedge” in case Helton doesn’t bounce back as much as it is a RH hitter for Stewart.