Outside of Fenway Park the past three seasons, Garciaparra has hit .281/.325/.448. That’s the player the Dodgers have just signed, and he bears little resemblance to the guy who hit .372 nearly six years ago.With the arbitration deadline looming tonight, I expect Choi to be nontendered by the Dodgers, making him a free agent. His name will certainly be tossed around the blogosphere as an option for the Yanks to take over the Tino Martinez role. I don't see it working out here, given that Joe Torre rarely trusts anyone under 35. I simply hope for Choi's sake he winds up with a team and a manager who can appreciate what he can do rather than dwelling on what he can't.
...So what you’re left with is a past-prime ex-superstar who has been removed from the environment where he’s had the most success, and is now being asked to do on-the-job training at a new position in a difficult hitters’ park with, basically, the rest of his career on the line. Were Garciaparra being asked to play a position with low expectations for production, his chance to be worth the money would be greater. However, his reluctance to play second base, and the Dodgers’ investments elsewhere in the infield, mean that Garciaparra is slated to play first base at this time. That’s a lot to ask of a guy who posted a .263 EqA in 62 games last season.
It’s hard to see how the Dodgers have even upgraded the position. It’s established by now that the baseball industry simply doesn’t like Hee Seop Choi, who has been defined by what he cannot do rather than what he can by two organizations, and who hasn’t been given a fair shake outside of a half-season in Florida in 2004. Even in a difficult 2005 season, however, Choi put up a line of .253/.336/.453, good for a .274 EqA in Dodger Stadium. At worst an average defensive first baseman, and heading into his age-27 season, it seems certain that he would be a better choice than Garciaparra in 2005.
Let’s make this clear: the Dodgers are replacing Choi with a player Choi out-hit last season (and posted comparable numbers to in 2004), a player who’s likely going to be inferior defensively, who will cost more money, and carry a greater risk of injury and decline. They’re getting a more famous person in the deal, one whose aggressive approach at the plate may play better than Choi’s disciplined one, but whose edges are all stylistic.
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