With Takashi Saito scheduled to come off the disabled list any day now — possibly as early as tomorrow in Minnesota — Ron Roenicke told reporters today about the “difficult” roster decision that will have to be made soon.
“We’re looking at some things,” Roenicke said. “There have been a lot of discussions the last couple days. It is a difficult move.”
Actually having to interact with the players is what makes this a difficult move. From the outside, with no personal attachment involved, it seems rather obvious. Trim the fat that isn’t producing, and hasn’t produced all year.
When Saito comes up, cut Mark Kotsay loose. Carlos Gomez has an option, but at least has redeeming value as a defensive replacement, and can play all three outfield spots well. Craig Counsell is in the same boat as Kotsay, but there are fewer viable options to replace him in the infield. Josh Wilson could also go, but as one of the few right-handed bats off the bench, he’s probably safe for now (if you let Wilson go, your only other right-handed bat is Carlos Gomez, not counting pitchers).
Kotsay is hitting .231/.306/.277. Randy Wolf and Zack Greinke have higher slugging percentages. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference both have him at a half-win below replacement level. It’s not like he’s getting unlucky, either — even with a 22.3% line drive rate, his BABIP is just .268. He’s physically incapable of hitting the ball with authority anymore, he can’t play defense any more, and he’s chasing more pitches out of the zone than he ever has in his career. If the Brewers are thinking logically (and not emotionally), Kotsay has to be one of the top candidates to go.
Activating Saito isn’t the only move we could see in the next day or so, either. With the way the bullpen has been taxed in New York, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to get another fresh arm in for the start of the Minnesota series, too. Send Tim Dillard or Marco Estrada down, and bring in Mike McClendon, who’s been on stand-by the past couple days in the Bronx. Mat Gamel is probably sticking with the big league club until the Interleague run is over, so after the Minnesota series, send him back down to keep working on his defense at 1B, and you can bring Brandon Boggs back to basically take Kotsay’s old spot as the 5th outfielder/designated pinch hitter.
Ideally, Gamel would stick around to provide some much-needed power off the bench, but in the long run the team is probably better off sending him down to improve his glovework. If the team is truly in “win now” mode and going for it all this season, it may make more sense to keep Gamel around as a pinch-hitter. On the other hand, Gamel’s defense has a better chance of improving with regular live game reps in Nashville.
To me, that’s the difficult decision, not whether or not the team should release a veteran who hasn’t added much to this year’s team.