M’s Officially Choose Sweeney
The fight for the right-handed 1B/DH bench job officially ended today with the expected result – the M’s are going to keep Mike Sweeney on the 25 man roster, and Chris Shelton was assigned to Tacoma. He’s agreed to the assignment and will be with the Rainiers when they open their season next week.
Most of us feel that Shelton is a better player than Sweeney, but given the limited playing time that the role was going to offer either player, the difference in expected production between the two is pretty small. Sweeney got the edge due to his veteran leadership, and while we’ve been the leading proponents of the “talent is more important than chemistry” brigade, when the difference in production is this close, using off the field stuff as a tie-breaker is fine with me.
There’s also another aspect to this that hasn’t been touched on – if the team had gone with Shelton, Sweeney retires. He’d said from the beginning that he would hang it up and go home if he didn’t make the team. So, in reality, the choice was between having Shelton on the major league roster or having Sweeney on the major league roster and Shelton in Tacoma. What does the team do if they go with Shelton, Sweeney retires, and then Shelton gets injured in May? Morse is probably going to be lost on waivers, and there isn’t another obvious fit in the organization as a replacement for an injured Shelton in this role. With Sweeney on the team and Shelton in Tacoma, the team has a fall back plan if Sweeney gets hurt that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
So, there’s reasons to go with Sweeney. There are reasons to go with Shelton, too, and I think there’s a case to be made that this isn’t the optimal decision for a team looking to extract value from every spot on the roster. But, there are pros and cons to both sides, and this isn’t a case where there’s one obviously correct answer. It’s a coin flip. Can’t blame them for picking heads or tails.