Griffey’s Return, What It Means
It’s official – Junior is coming back for another victory lap, signing a one year deal to fill an unspecified, reduced role on the 2010 team. The casual fan will be thrilled. We are a bit less so. But, the should he return arguments are now moot. He’s on the team next year, so let’s look at the implications of what this actually means in terms of the roster.
If we assume that the M’s are going to carry 12 pitchers again, that leaves them with a four man bench. One of those spots is reserved for the back-up catcher, and now Junior occupies another. That means the final two bench spots have to serve as the reserves for the other eight spots on the field. The in-house candidates for those spots are currently Jack Hannahan, Bill Hall, Matt Tuiasosopo, and Ryan Langerhans.
One of those players just lost their jobs. There isn’t room for all of them in Seattle anymore. If we say that Tui is the likely starter at third base (and I’d say that’s probably the most likely scenario, given the current roster), then Hannahan makes the team as the default reserve infielder. He’s the only one of the four who can play shortstop, so he’s got a more secure role here than the rest.
After that, it would come down to Hall versus Langerhans. Langerhans is the better player, but Hall is probably going to win out. The M’s are on the hook for $1.3 million of his 2010 salary, while Langerhans can be non-tendered without a cost. Hall also offers a RH platoon option for Saunders, plus the ability to play 2B/3B if need be. While Langerhans is a better outfielder, he doesn’t offer the same positional flexibility that Hall does, and with a roster spot now being reserved for a part-time pinch hitter, that becomes a deal-breaker.
So, unless the M’s decide to go with 11 pitchers next year, this probably ends the Ryan Langerhans era in Seattle. The M’s have essentially traded in about half a win worth of value (the difference between Langerhans/Griffey in on-field value as a reserve) for the expectation of better team chemistry.
We wouldn’t have made this move. That should be obvious by now. It won’t destroy the franchise, but it’s an inefficient use of resources, and exposes the team to some real problems if Gutierrez gets hurt. The M’s just became a little less likely to win in 2010.