March 23, 2005

The Restovich Dilemma

I'm very happy about the ever-increasing chance of Jason Bartlett opening the season at shortstop. However, the domino effect his making the team could have on the roster is really infuriating. With Bartlett starting, the Twins would likely keep Juan Castro and Nick Punto as backup infielders.

That strikes me as something straight out of the Department of Redundancy Department, because a team doesn't really need two light-hitting utility infielders, particularly when they've got a light-hitting (and supposedly slick-fielding) second baseman. (That would be Luis Rivas, for those of you who are new here.)

So if Bartlett makes the team, the Twins will pay Castro a million bucks a year for the next two seasons to start once a week and play late-inning defense every few games after Matthew LeCroy pinch-hits for Bartlett or Rivas. And they'll then keep Punto around for ... well, I'm not sure what he would have left to do with Bartlett starting and Castro playing defense. But whatever it is that Punto would do, it would come along with the team potentially losing Michael Restovich.

Restovich is out of options, so he either makes the team or has to be passed through waivers before he can go back down to Triple-A for the 50th year in a row. And according to the Official Twins Beat Writer of La Velle E. Neal's recent article on Restovich:

Barring an injury, Restovich can make the team as a backup outfielder. The Twins' five-man bench -- if Jason Bartlett opens the season at short -- would look like this: Restovich, catcher Mike Redmond, designated hitter Matthew LeCroy and infielders Nick Punto and Juan Castro.

But there's one problem. "I'm going to have a lefthanded pinch hitter off the bench somehow," Gardenhire said.

Keep in mind that, unlike Punto if Bartlett and Castro are also on the team, Restovich would actually have potential uses throughout the course of a season. He could be a good pinch-hitter (although he's not left-handed, so Ron Gardenhire wouldn't use him) and he would make an excellent platoon partner for Jacque Jones out in right field. And yes, I realize I've said that same thing about a dozen outfielders over the past few years, but it remains true.

The Castro signing struck me as a poor move when it happened and it has somehow gotten worse since then. Castro has already committed seven errors this spring when defense is his only possible asset and he was brought in as insurance for Bartlett not being ready.

But because Bartlett appears ready, that leaves Minnesota with a crappy infielder making a million bucks a year to fill a role Punto could fill for $300,000. Not only that, having to keep multiple utility infielders weakens the bench and may cause the team to lose someone who is relatively young and potentially useful.

Isn't it funny how even when something goes my way (Bartlett playing well this spring and possibly becoming the starter at shortstop), I can find something to complain about? Just killing time until Opening Day, that's all.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Top 50 Prospects of 2005: 21-30 (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Five Questions: Milwaukee Brewers (Tom Meagher)

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