An Interesting Rumor
Per Shannon Drayer on twitter, the M’s have begun to focus on a new option to handle second base this year, and you might remember this one – Luis Valbuena, who the M’s shipped to Cleveland in the Franklin Gutierrez deal. He’s been nothing short of awful since going to Cleveland, posting a .243 (!) wOBA last year that is astonishingly awful for a player who has showed some legitimate promise. He would have been one of the worst hitters on last year’s Mariners team, and that’s saying something.
That said, Valbuena absolutely killed Triple-A in each of the last two years (in admittedly small samples of about 100 PA each), and his minor league track record was strong in Seattle as well. He’s still youngish in that he just turned 25 last week, though time is running out for him to establish himself as a Major League player. In some ways, he’s at the same point of his career that Adam Moore is – if he doesn’t hit in 2011, he’s probably going to get stuck with the AAAA player label and struggle to get another real shot at regular playing time.
Valbuena offers a very different package than we thought the M’s might have targeted. Rather than going for a steady veteran who would hold down second base for a few months, they’d get a guy who could theoretically take the job and run with it, or flame out spectacularly. Perhaps they see the two months before Ackley comes up as a worthwhile opportunity to take a flyer on a guy – if he sucks, you’ve got his replacement on the doorstep, and if he’s good, you now have an interesting player that you didn’t have before. Cleveland thought enough of his defense to give him time at shortstop, so there is a dream scenario where he hits enough to hold a starting job and fields enough to convince the team to let him take over for Jack Wilson, but that’s getting near the land of wish-casting.
If Cleveland isn’t asking for a huge return, it could be an interesting opportunity to buy low on a talented underachiever, and at the league minimum for 2011, he’d fit into the team’s need to deal with budgetary restrictions. That said, giving him the second base job out of spring training, coming off the kind of season he had last year, also increases the team’s chance of being absolutely terrible, and that’s the kind of outcome that could get everyone in the front office fired.
It’s a risk. It might be one worth taking. At the very least, it’s an interesting rumor in a day that has lacked them.