Dan O’Dowd, You Confuse Me

In talking to people down here in Orlando, there’s palpable shock over how the market is developing this winter. The Jayson Werth deal looms over everything, but even the guys expected to settle for smaller deals are coming away with surprising quantities of years and dollars. That trend continued this morning when the Rockies gave Ty Wigginton a two year, $7.5 million contract to do… I’m not sure what, exactly.

It’s not that Wigginton is useless – he’s got some decent power and even draws walks against LHPs, so he can have some value as the lesser half of a DH platoon. Unfortunately, the Rockies play in the league that doesn’t use the DH, and they just acquired a better version of this exact same player last week when they traded for Jose Lopez.

It would be hard to find two more similarly skilled players in the game than Lopez and Wigginton. They are both slow-footed right-handed infielders with some power and no patience. Lopez is a decent enough defensive third baseman who can fake it at second and has experience at first as well. Wigginton has experience at all three spots, though he’s awful at nearly all of them.

Giving Lopez $3.6 million for one year to see if he can thrive in Coors Field, while serving as a backup corner infielder who can also play second, was a decent enough idea. Giving Wigginton that same amount of money for two years to duplicate what they just had is, well, not.

Usually, even if a move doesn’t seem to be a great idea, you can see the logic behind it. This one, though? I honestly have no idea what the Rockies are doing. In order to come up with scenarios where both of these guys play enough to justify the contracts, you have to stick better players on the bench, and they had to guarantee Wigginton a second year in order to create this problem.

Maybe there’s a trade coming that will allow this move to make more sense. Or maybe this market really is just bananas.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

35 Responses to “Dan O’Dowd, You Confuse Me”

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  1. Steve says:

    Rockies start 4 left-handers on the corners (Cargo, Smith, Helton & Stewart), plus have an unsettled 2B situation. Last season, they had trouble with having enough RH bats to fill in against lefties. This does two things A) allows Smith & Stewart platoons against tough lefties with Lopez at 2B and B) provide insurance in case Helton has another down year.

    Although I totally agree with the concerns about the 2 year contract….would have much prefered a 1 year deal.

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    • mbrady16 says:

      Yep, that’s what I was thinking. They have a surplus of lefties and wanted Wigginton to help balance it with his positional flexibility (though as Dave noted, I wouldn’t want him on defense too often.)

      2 years at that cost for a righty utility guy though? That’s what is baffling to me.

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    • Good post. Lopez will play 2B and 3B exlusively. Wigginton acts as not only a bench infielder but a fifth outfielder as well. The double dipping is probably why O’Dowd okayed the contract demands, not that I’m particularly happy about it. The Rockies needed to add another bat, and given the options in their financial price range, this was probably the best bet.

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      • Steve says:

        Agreed, plus I think Wiggy and Lopez are the exact type of hitters that Coors seem to help the most (strikeout guys with power). With Wiggy, Lopez and Spilly, the Rockies now have the RH balance to Smith, Stewart and Helton that they needed.

        Rockies just need a backup catcher and setup arm before calling it an off-season.

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      • Nathaniel Dawson says:

        Except that Lopez doesn’t really strike out all that much. And I guess you could say he has power — yet he’s only averaged 15 homers a year in his career. So that’s where it all falls down.

        That being said, he’s likely to put up good numbers in Coors next year. Of course, that’s true of about any decent hitter.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Stewart has demonstrated a very small platoon split so far in his career. Putting a 26-year-old former top prospect into a strict platoon when there’s little evidence that he should sit against LHPs, especially so that you can get Ty Wigginton on the field, is kind of crazy.

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      • Steve says:

        His career stats vs lefties are skewed due to an incredible 2008 performance in 54 AB vs. lefties (1.137 OPS).

        Stewart in 2010:
        vs. LH – .231/.343/.341
        vs. RH – .264/.346/.475

        Stewart in 2009:
        vs. LH – .178/.278/.386
        vs. RH – .244/.335/.488

        The last two years the difference has been clear. He needs a platoon.

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      • John says:

        Steve: when samples are that small (or even if they’re not), you cant just throw out suggestive data for your argument. One could argue that the samples you are talking about are RIDICULOUSLY tiny as well and throw one or both out to come to a totally new and opposite conclusion.

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      • Steve says:

        John: while I agree that the sample size is overall small….I’m more likely to lean towards the fact that they guy hasn’t hit lefties in the past two seasons. While I agree that 100 AB each season isn’t a lot to go on, there’s even less evidence that he actually can (50 AB in 2008). While I’d certainly prefer to judge this based on 1,000 AB vs. lefties, the Rockies had to make a call on 2011. Based on what evidence we do have, you can understand why they may be pursuing a RH hitter to bat for Stewart against tough lefties. Besides, the Wiggy deal has as much to do with being a “hedge” in case Helton doesn’t bounce back as much as it is a RH hitter for Stewart.

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  2. goyo70 says:

    I think you’re understating Jose’s fielding potential at second. While I agree that Lopez and Wigginton share similar skill sets with complementary strengths, this move allows them to either emphasize offense (Wigginton) or defense (Lopez). It also provides depth should either get hurt or tank.

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    • philosofool says:

      I doubt Wigginton is actually a better hitter than Lopez. Safeco killed Lopez, who is a pull-power, high-contact, walkless hitter. In a hitter-friendly park, he might actually hit .300/.320/.480.

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    • TDillon says:

      If you think Jose Lopez as a defensive “strength” you are sadly mistaken. 4 years ago, perhaps. But definately not now.

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  3. Mr Punch says:

    “Wigginton has experience at all three spots, though he’s awful at nearly all of them.” More exactly, Wigginton is awful at all three, but flawed defensive metrics fail to make that absolutely clear. And he’s not all that good a hitter, either. I can buy some of the arguments for signing him, but not the two years – this guy’s main value is as trade bait on July 31.

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    • hk says:

      The problem with being trade bait on July 31 is that they signed him to a 2-year deal for $7.5M. If it was 1 year for $3.75M, the trade bait argument works better.

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  4. tbad says:

    But Wigginton’s an all-star!!!

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  5. Xave says:

    They’re just inexplicably avid fans of the Lopez/Wigginton™ player model, and can’t bear going a day without one of them on the field. Wigginton is Lopez insurance.

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    • Choo says:

      O’Dowd appears to be stockpiling infielders who exhibit that beefy, well-insulated body type in an effort to create an almost unfair home field advantage during those cold spring months in Denver. In other words, O’Dowd will be riding fat camels across the desert when everyone else is riding thoroughbreds. Genius.

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  6. Mark says:

    Is it something as simple as the Rockies having extra cash to throw around and not wanting to keep it for a rainy day?

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  7. rick p says:

    dont they still have eric young, chris nelson, and the herrera kid who did alright at second last year?

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    • Steve says:

      I think there’s worry about EY2’s defensive ability to handle 2B for a full season. Herrera is viewed more as a bench player. Personally, I’d rather see Nelson get the shot, but I don’t think they wanted to rely on him going into Spring Training (wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a half season in AAA). Regardless, all three still have options left and two of them will likely start the year in AAA as there would only be roster room for one after the Lopez/Wiggy signings. Lopez is officialy competing with those 3 for the starting 2B job.

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  8. Cody says:

    Don’t knock it, this is how Brian Sabean built a World Series Champ.

    Overpay for a decent player to an obscene contract that will hamper your future budget for at least 7 years.

    Draft a futur ace and stud catcher.

    Sign duplicitous position players who play multiple positions but are on the wrong side of 30.


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    • fredsbank says:

      Cody, might your last name be Ross perchance?

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    • Cheese Whiz says:


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    • NEPP says:

      That’s just crazy enough to work!

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Another way to look at it ….

      Assemble a dominant starting staff, and you are able to piece together a reasonable defense and offense with less than ideal pieces.

      While it’s easy to poke fun at the lineup and offense and chalk it all up to luck so they we can continue believing something that may not be true, often in order to make us feel better or more justified in our beliefs.

      But, to ignore the action that assembled the starting rotation, because it gives a lot of credit Sabean, is negligent.

      There were other teams that passed on Lincecum. Lincecum isn’t the reason they won the series.Neither is Posey. Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Baumgartner is why they won the series.

      I challenge other teams to assemble such a starting staff. Since Sabaen is about the dumbest and most incompetent GM out there, doing so should be no problem for the rest of the league.

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      • Cody says:

        I am a Giants fan. I was trying to be funny.

        While I agree that the pitching staff is the reason they won–and I do not write that development off to luck–some of the offensive contributions were a bit fluky. But here are my thoughts on a few key points to the Giants success this season.

        1. The Giants might be the best org in baseball at drafting pitchers that develop into major league talents. I can’t say how much of that is making the right choices on draft day or how much is due to a great system that supports and develops pitchers so well. Probably a bit of both. But look at the pitchers that originated from their system;

        Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Wilson, Bumgarner, Romo, Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Corea, Jeremy Accardo I am sure I am leaving out a few average MLers too. And not to leave out guys like Ainsworth and Foppert who were top prospects and had injuries effectively end their careers.

        2. I believe the Giants are becoming wiser about the veteran bats they add. Uribe and Huff were super cheap and had potential to bounce back from previous down years. These were perfect buy low strategies that panned out classicly.

        3. There was some innevitably freaky streaky hitting from Rentaria and Ross.

        4. Buster Posey is way better than anyone thought he would be (at least so far), and he might be the most valuable player in the game by the end of next season.

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  9. Griggs says:

    The only thing confusing about this to me is why they didn’t do it last year. They stayed with Barmes one too many years hoping he would either acquire the patience to fit in the lineup at the 2 spot or become a more consistent power hitter. So now at second they give up some defense with the probable starter Wigginton but they have a player that helps their offense. And most importantly Wigginton provides some insurance for Helton if he doesn’t hit better than last year. Lopez provides a right handed alternative at third(something else they sorely lacked last year) and some depth at second. He should begin the season as a bench player but he has had some good defensive years and my hope is he will at least provide solid defense with basically the same offense as Barmes but this season that combination will be coming off the bench not as our everyday second baseman. All this still allows Nelson and Herrera to win a job and I hope they both do.

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