Why The M’s Can’t Platoon The DH
Given all the reports that the M’s are looking for a right-handed hitter and the never ending thirst for power, you will undoubtedly see suggestions that the M’s should sign a guy like Jack Cust or Jonny Gomes, both decent hitters who were let loose by their respective teams today. While it’s a nice enough idea, though, given the current roster, the team can’t really afford to run any platoons. Here’s why.
On the position player side of the ledger, there are 11 spots basically committed to a player, or at least a player type with some kind of current stand-in:
Adam Moore and Rob Johnson are the catchers.
Jose Lopez, Jack Wilson, Chone Figgins, and Jack Hannahan are infielders.
Franklin Gutierrez, Ichiro Suzuki, Michael Saunders (or whoever they get to play LF), and Bill Hall are outfielders.
Ken Griffey Jr is the pinch hitter.
That’s 11 guys, giving the team two open spots on the non-pitching roster. And, right now, there’s no first baseman or designated hitter in the group. You add two guys to fill those open spots, and you’re full at 13. The last two guys added to the roster can’t be part-time players, or they’d be forcing one of the current bench players (Hannahan, Hall, Griffey) into regular playing time. And that’s probably not something the team should be interested in doing.
This is the cost of carrying Junior. You can’t sign a Marcus Thames or a Johnny Gomes to platoon with Branyan at DH when youve already decided to go with 12 pitchers and you’re using one of your four bench spots on a pinch hitter. You can’t do it – the other three bench spots have to go to a backup catcher, a backup infielder, and a backup outfielder. Even with the versatility provided by guys like Figgins and Hall, you can’t justify having three designated hitters on the roster, which is what it would take to run a platoon there.
If you want to argue that they should carry 11 pitchers in order to free up the ability to platoon at 1B or DH, you can make that argument. But in the end, there is little reason to believe the M’s are willing to make that kind of decision. They ran 12 pitchers all of last year despite leading the league in run prevention. The odds of them being willing to go with one fewer pitcher in a year where the staff is expected to give up more runs are just really low.
So, don’t get too excited about possible platoons in Seattle. We traded that right to keep Griffey around for another year. This is the price of team chemistry.