Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Diminishing Role of Jamey Carroll

There were a few surprises on Opening Day at Target Field but for the most part, the game went according to plan. Justin Verlander pitched well. Joe Mauer got his hits. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder know how to get RBI. The inexperienced Minnesota bats didn't know how to get an RBI. This all led to the Tigers coming out on top.

One interesting move made was actually a player left on the bench.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Ron Gardenhire turned to his bench and tabbed Wilkin Ramirez to pinch-hit for Pedro Florimon. This move wasn't a surprise as Florimon is a light hitting middle infielder and Ramirez was added to the roster for some pop off the bench.

The surprise came later in the bottom half of the inning when the Twins turned over shortstop to Eduardo Escobar. It's not that Escobar is a bad pick to play shortstop, in fact he might have been the best defensive option available to the manager.

Jamey Carroll was left on the bench and with this decision came question marks about his role with the 2013 Minnesota Twins.

At the beginning of last season, Carroll had to be riding high. He signed a very lucrative free agent deal for a player closing in on 40-years old. The Twins named him the Opening Day shortstop and he found himself batting between Denard Span and Joe Mauer. Life was good!

A slow start began to muddle the role of Carroll. He didn't record a hit in his first four games and it would take awhile to get his average back to a respectable point. The team moved him out of the number two spot in the batting order and he would spend time playing a variety of different infield positions during the rest of the year.

Entering this spring, the front office made it be known that there was an open competition for the middle infield jobs. Carroll, Florimon, Escobar, and Brian Dozier were all in the running for starting jobs. Florimon had the leg up for the starting shortstop job since the end of last year. That left three men fighting for the other spot.

The Twins want Dozier to be a part of their rebuilding process. This was evident last season when they continued to use him at shortstop even with his struggles. Dozier is 14 years younger than Carroll and he is under team control for multiple years. It makes sense to start Dozier but there are still questions about Carroll's role with the club.

Carroll will make $3.75 million this year, which is a lot of money for someone that looks like a bench player at this point. There are incentives in his deal if he accumulates over 550 plate appearances this season. If he gets 401 plate appearances in 2013, he will have the option to return to the Twins for $2 million or become a free agent. If he doesn't reach that number of ABs, the Twins can pick up his option or buy out his deal for $250,000.

All of these things could be a factor in his diminishing role.

It was only one game and a couple of bench decisions made by the manager. The 39-year old Carroll will likely get playing time when one of the other players struggles or when an injury arises in the infield. There will be important at-bats for the veteran infielder and the Twins have to hope he will be ready when the opportunity comes.

Carroll's role might be shrinking but his time in Minnesota isn't over yet.

1 comment:

Benjamin Noble said...

Excellent analysis, great read. I still think Dozier is suspect, though, and that we'll see Carroll in a larger role at some point this season. I sincerely hope I'm wrong.