Reported by both MLB.com writer Greg Johns and then Larry Stone threw a little gas on the fire with his comments on twitter. It really isn’t shocking and it makes sense to use Ryan at short over Wilson with his inconsistent health.
But using Wilson at second does bring some questions to my mind. While defensively, Wilson would be extremely strong, his offense isn’t what it once had the potential to be. Could he provide any offensive value playing second base? He was once was a guy who you could depend on hitting 25+ doubles and while Bill James has him projected to be a .660 OPS, if he actually lived up to those projections it would be the first time since 2007 that he managed an OPS of .660 or over.
I’m more inclined to give the starting job to Adam Kennedy, who isn’t known for his bat has the potential to be a much better solution. While, not an offensive juggernaut by any means Kennedy still has the possibility at 35 to be an offensively average player until Dustin Ackley is ready. Currently projected to hit for a .688 OPS, Kennedy also manages to get on base via an average walk rate, something Wilson hasn’t shown a consistent knack for doing, while still maintaining minimal amounts of strikeouts.
Of course Kennedy isn’t the “gold glover” that Jack Wilson is but based on his TotalZone and UZR numbers (advanced defensive metrics) both say he’s an above average defender over 150 games, although Fan Scouting Reports (the eye test) have him drifting into the negative the past two years.
Now, there is also one other factor to take into consideration and really in my opinion this is one of the biggest things to consider. Jack Wilson is a free-agent at the end of the year and being only 33 there still lies the possibility as a plus defender at a premium position. Something more than a dozen teams would and could very well be interested in come July/August. I’m not talking about a return of top-10 organizational prospect. But, depending on how much stock he restores over the course of the season, its possible that we could get something of use in return (see: Mike Fontenot or Jim Edmonds).
There are always “Brandon-Maurer-type-prospects”, young projectable arms who haven’t quite lived up to their potential that we could “snag” in return. Look at Mauricio Robles, whom we got for 2 wasted months of Jarrod Washburn. Who’s to say that Jack Wilson isn’t able to play 120 games at short this season? Restore some of that value and then flip him at the trade deadline.
The question of course is “do other clubs buy into his defensive prowess if he’s playing second base?” I’m not sure. It’s a good question and one that requires some thought. If I’m trying to put the best team out there. I go with a Kennedy/Ryan double-play duo and wait for Ackley to arrive. But, Wilson presents some interesting problems and possible solutions.
As of now (all things considered) I would use Ryan as a platoon partner with Kennedy at second. But, I would also use Ryan to relieve Wilson on day games that follow night games. Hoping beyond hope that Wilson builds up some trade value and flip him when the best opportunity presents itself. That could be May, heck that might not be until August or even never. That’s just what I would do.
One last thing that may or may not have been an omission from John’s article, it only briefly mentioned Dustin Ackley to be in the mix for the starting job. While, parts of the fan base are all over the “FREE DUSTIN ACKLEY!” train. I think it’s important to the long term success of the Mariners organization to see Ackley start down in AAA.
This isn’t to say that all young minor leaguers should not start the season on the big league roster – I personally believe it’s on a case-by-case basis. And I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say that if Ackley did make the team out of spring training that it would cause the team “monumental failure” for the future. But, as fans we have to consider what we would be asking the team to forfeit should Ackely make the team. Ackley’s free-agent clock starts in 2017 rather than 2018. We only need to have TWO MONTHS of patience.
Happy Presidents day!