Monday, March 21, 2005

Mackowiak to Rays?

The Tampa Tribune reports that the Devil Rays are "dazed," confused and flummoxed by the recent retirements of Danny Bautista, Roberto Alomar and Marty Cordova. The retirements of these three below-average players should be a blessing in disguise and an opportunity for the Rays, who could give these players' at-bats to shortstops Jorge Cantu and B.J. Upton and outfielders Jonny Gomes and Joey Gathright, all of whom are better players than the ones they'll be replacing. It doesn't seem that the Rays want to do this, however. Here's a particularly stupefying sentence:

The blow can be absorbed with the presence Jorge Cantu, though LaMar was hesitant to hand the everyday job to the 23 year-old.

Memo to Chuck LaMar: The salary of your entire team is comparable to that of your division champion's third baseman. You must play 23 year-olds if you ever want to build anything lasting, and you should especially consider playing 23 year-old middle infielders who have already hit well at Class AAA and the big leagues.

In any case, the Rays are now looking for a new outfielder, and they're interested in Rob Mackowiak. This looks like a perfect match: the Pirates have something that the Rays shouldn't want but do, and the Rays have lots of something the Pirates should want - namely, young outfielders with pop and lots of upside. While the Pirates aren't likely to get Delmon Young or Elijah Dukes for Mackowiak, they might be able to get Jonny Gomes, who was recently (and inexplicably) sent to minor-league camp despite hitting 26 homers in less than 400 at bats at Class AAA in 2004.

Gomes isn't a Grade-A prospect: he won't hit for a high batting average because he strikes out as often as Craig Wilson would if he had to chug a beer every time Tike Redman misplayed a fly ball. And Tampa Bay's AAA park in Durham is very homer-friendly. Still, Gomes might be a 25-homer player this year. Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA forecasting system thinks Gomes would hit .366/.491 in the majors in 2005. Say what you want about forecasting systems, but there isn't a single outfielder in the Pirates' minor league system, other than perhaps Nate McLouth, who even has the potential to slug .491 in a major league season.

Mackowiak has a nice player to have around, and he probably deserves a real shot at a starting job in center field or at third base, but he's not a massive upgrade over Tike Redman or Ty Wigginton. The Pirates already have plenty of backup infielders, and if they can grab an outfielder from the Devil Rays, they'll be set there, too. Of course, I don't know what the Rays would be willing to give up for Mackowiak, but if the Pirates can get a high-upside player like Gomes, they should do that deal immediately.

Thanks to Primer.

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