At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Friday, December 23, 2005

Trading Places When Changing Teams: A New Trend in Player Movement Emerges

Baseball lifers have long lamented the fact that team rosters in this free-agent era turn over as frequently as they do. But the players themselves at least have tended to stick to one position or another, making it easier to find them once their new city of employment is identified.

This appears not to be the case so much anymore, however. In a trend perhaps legitimized by Alex Rodriguez’s famous switch from shortstop to third base when he joined the Yankees two years ago, it seems that a growing number of players today are being asked to move from one position to another, either to make room for the return of an injured player, to help accommodate a trade, or to facilitate a signing. For instance:

  • Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra agreed to move to third base last year with the Cubs, and has now signed with LA as a first baseman.
  • Second baseman Alfonso Soriano was traded to Washington, where it was hoped he’d play left field – a move he’s since stated he won’t make.
  • And today, third baseman Troy Glaus is rumored to be on the trading block to Boston, where he’d supposedly play first base.
I find this development to be refreshing, as it may signal an emphasis on versatility that largely disappeared when baseball became infatuated with the long ball 10 years ago. It also may reflect the implementation of MLB’s new policy toward performance-enhancing drugs, which seeks to eliminate both steroids and amphetamines. As I’ve written before (see post, November 18), this likely will result in a raft of tired players come late August, and they’ll have to be flexibly rotated into and out of the lineup so they can get the rest they’ll need in order to finish the season.

It’s tough enough some years to do more than root for the home-town laundry, which like as not is being worn by a bunch of guys you’ve never seen before. In the years ahead, it will be even tougher to determine whom you’re rooting for, as the second baseman last night may well be the shortstop today. Truly, it’s again becoming as it was when the old-time vendors once shouted, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard!” And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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