Brendan Ryan Takes Shortstop Job
After experimenting with it a bit over the last few weeks, Eric Wedge made it official this morning – the M’s are going to start Brendan Ryan at shortstop and Jack Wilson at second base to begin the season. Ryan is younger, healthier, and is likely the better defender of the two, so there’s certainly logic in giving him the more challenging defensive position. And, with Adam Kennedy slated for some fairly regular playing time at second base, this creates a natural job share with the left-handed batting Kennedy and the right-handed hitting Wilson, where the two can both play part-time and hopefully keep Wilson’s body from breaking down as often as it has the last few years.
There are merits to this decision. That said, I’m still not a big fan of the call. Perhaps its still the memory of last year’s failed Jose Lopez-Chone Figgins switcheroo, where the M’s decided that Figgins looked more like a second baseman than Lopez did and went with body type instead of positional experience as the deciding factor. Figgins was a disaster at second base, however, in part because it was a position he just hadn’t played all that much. There was a learning curve that had to be overcome, and so for most of last year, the M’s had to put up with Figgins making mistakes that a more experienced second baseman wouldn’t have made. And, of course, it all meant nothing, as this year Figgins is right back where he belongs, over at third base.
I have a bit of a feeling of deja vu here. Jack Wilson is not any kind of long term answer for the Mariners. He almost certainly won’t be a Mariner in 2012, and he might not even be one in July. Dustin Ackley is the future at second base, and if he plays well in Tacoma to start the year, he could force his way up to the big club early this summer. Once again, the Mariners are asking a player with limited experience at second base to make the conversion in season without it having much of a long term reward. They’re eating the cost of the adjustment without the hope of a payoff.
There’s an argument to be made that having Wilson gain experience at second base might increase his trade value this summer, as he’ll have greater positional flexibility and could be marketed to teams looking for either a shortstop or a second baseman. That’s possible, I guess, but I think you could also argue that there is such a small supply of shortstops that moving Wilson off the position might actually harm his trade value – if a team like the Giants decides to scout Wilson as a fill-in for the black hole they have at the position, they won’t get to see him actually play shortstop, and will have to make inferences about his abilities to still play that spot on the field. Additionally, they’ll have the knowledge that the Mariners think he wasn’t capable of playing SS for them this year, and likely include that in their decision making process. You may add teams looking for a second baseman to the list of suitors for Wilson this summer, but I think you probably subtract teams looking for a shortstop. And shortstops are in higher demand than second baseman.
Overall, I’d say this is unlikely to help Wilson’s trade value and unlikely to improve the Mariners defense all that much. It might make things a bit easier on Ryan, who can focus on playing shortstop exclusively now, but I don’t know that there’s a big gain to be had from that. I guess I just don’t see a lot of upside here, but I do some potential risks. Wilson could adapt poorly to second base, or he could be taken out while trying to turn the double play with his back to the runner – a play he hasn’t had to make in his career until now.
It seems like another needless position switch, honestly. It didn’t help last year, and I’m not sure it will help this year either.