Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Positional Flexibility and Salvador Perez

According to a statement by Ned Yost in late September, Salvador Perez is going to play first base in winter ball. Yost wants to see if Perez’s glove could work there, and he believes that Perez has the defensive talent to play there. This could easily be nothing; for the conspiracy theorists, this could point even more toward a Billy Butler trade. Theorizing aside, why would Yost want to see if Perez can play first base? 

The answer is positional flexibility. Yost is looking for a way to get Perez’s bat into the lineup every day. However, even the Royals realize that playing one player at catcher every day is a recipe for disaster. Knees must be rested. Therefore, Perez must be able to do something else to get on the field in order to play every day. It is often natural for a catcher to transition to first base later in his career (Joe Mauer), so trying Perez at first is not an irrational thought. 

What are the situations that Yost could be envisioning? The Royals have an every-day first baseman in Eric Hosmer, whose bat NEEDS to be in the lineup every day. This is where the Butler trade theories come in. If Perez plays an acceptable first base, the positions he can play are C, 1b, and DH. Hosmer could play 1b and DH. Kottaras can play C and DH. Without Butler, the DH becomes a rotating position to give the position players who have the best bats a rest while keeping their bats in the lineup. These scenarios don’t even take into account the outfielding platoon I mentioned previously. 

There are a few issues with this plan, however. Given Perez’s body type, I don’t imagine he would be much better than Butler at first base, and Butler has much more experience at the position. If the goal were to give Hosmer some days at DH, Butler could probably play a better 1b than Perez. Another issue is that Perez’s bat, while good for a catcher, is not the kind of bat for which you trade players away in order to keep in the lineup more. Butler is flat-out a better hitter. 

Should the reasoning behind this situation be to try something different in order to generate more runs, I can admire that. The Royals should be doing everything they can to generate more runs. However, trading Butler away, playing an inferior defensive player at 1b, and replacing those DH plate appearances with a Perez platoon will not generate or prevent more runs. 

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