The White Sox once again pounced on the hot stove season’s opening day, but at least they avoided making a dubious trade, especially one that set up an equally ill-advised extension.
Nope, it was the mere re-signing of Omar Vizquel, who will keep Luis Aparicio’s number active for another year after agreeing to a $1.75 million contract.
Considering what he did for the Sox last year — made third base respectable again after Mark Teahen desecrated the dignity out of it, namely — it isn’t a bad signing. The raise seems a little excessive, considering he’ll be 44 a few weeks into next season, but it’s hard to argue against compensating an overachieve accordingly.
But there is a sizable risk, if last year rears its ugly head. While Vizquel says he’s fine with a part-time role, that’s what he anticipated last season, and he wasn’t thrilled by it. From a Daily Herald story on May 25, Vizquel said he didn’t much care for his bench player:
“It’s hard to say,” Vizquel said. “It’s hard to play in the role that I am when you’re used to playing every day. It’s hard preparation; sometimes you feel disappointed, sometimes you’re sad. Your mental process is different. You take different ways to prepare, and I don’t know if I can do it another year.
“I could probably do it because physically I feel pretty good, but mentally it takes a toll on your body. It makes you doubt sometimes. I don’t think I want to go through that process again.”
Well, he’s risking going through the process again. If all goes well, he’ll be a once-a-week player, because that means Brent Morel is holding up well enough at third.
However, if my hunch is correct, whether or not he’s content with his role comes down to his April performance.
After all, he spent the 2009 season as a caddy/tutor for Elvis Andrus, playing sparingly until an August injury to Ian Kinsler put Vizquel in the starting lineup for 13 games. Why didn’t he hate being a bench player then, compared to 2010? My guess:
- April 2009: 6-for-18.
- April 2010: 2-for-22.
Vizquel actually picked a strange time to complain about his performance. He hit .292 in 25 May at-bats before that statement to the press, so he was in the process of returning to his true talent level. I’m guessing it just didn’t feel fast enough for him.
The snag is that Vizquel’s true talent level is going to keep dropping, in theory. I mean, he’s going to be 44 years old. Given his age, the way he started last season, and the way he performed like every White Sox hitter in April, a sub-Mendoza average would probably be a good bet. If that happens, and there are no position-player emergencies that force him into the lineup, Vizquel’s presence could pose a small problem. But only a small one, because that salary is cuttable.
Vizquel isn’t the only ancient former Mariner infielder to return for 2011 — Joey Cora is on his way back, too. He was in the running for the Milwaukee Brewers’ managerial opening, but they instead chose Anaheim Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke.
Arizona Fall League:
- Peoria 13, Mesa 8
- Eduardo Escobar went 4-for-5 with a triple and two doubles, driving in two.
- Anthony Carter got back on the horse, striking out one in a 1-2-3 inning.
More AFL write-ups in the Chicago Tribune, including a couple of comparisons for Escobar:
The surprise of the AFL has been switch-hitting shortstop Eduardo Escobar, whose four home runs and exceptional defense liken him to David Eckstein for their knack to make plays despite their lack of size.
Last Thursday, Escobar poked a pitch to right field for a triple that was reminiscent of what Orlando Cabrera did during the 2008 season.
“When you’re trying to work on something, whether it’s during a season or not during a season, it’s going to be frustrating,” Leesman said last week. “They tell you not to look at your stats because they don’t. It’s one of those things where you just can’t worry about it. You know what you need to do and keep working on it, and it’s going to pay off.”
From a development standpoint, this could pay off for Leesman, who impressed manager Ozzie Guillen last spring with his 95-mph fastball. The Sox retained him in spring training for an extended period so he could absorb as much information from pitching coach Don Cooper and by watching veterans like Mark Buehrle before reporting to Class A Kannapolis.