Some things to talk about while Rusty Staub is inducted into the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame...
1) Julio Borbon placed on waivers
After a long, winding process, it turns out the Rangers won't trade outfielder Julio Borbon after all. On Wednesday, Texas placed the 27-year old on outright waivers, where he can be claimed by any team in the league. Houston is among the teams linked to the outfielder, and it's unclear whether the Astros will exercise their rights to nab the speedy defensive center fielder.
What does Borbon bring to the table? Well, he's a career .283/.324/.358 hitter in 746 plate appearances with 40 career steals and seven career home runs. He has a positive Fielding Runs total for his career, but that's largely based on his extensive playing time in 2010, as Borbon wasn't very good (by the metrics) in 2011 defensively.
We debated which outfielder might be the next to go a few days ago, but Borbon brings up an interesting scenario. On the surface, Borbon is perfect candidate to be a defensive replacement in the outfield who can also serve as a pinch runner. He brings a higher possible batting average while offering lower on-base percetanges.
In short, he's a better Brandon Barnes, right?
I'm not so sure. Borbon has a better track record and a better reputation, but is he better than Barnes right now defensively? I can't really say that. He may be a slightly better hitter, but there's not much evidence he's a better base runner.
In fact, maybe this is a move Luhnow and Co. forego for the sake of (gasp!) team chemistry.
Think about it. Barnes has been in camp from Day 1. He's bought into Bo Porter's system. He does the little things. He runs the bases like they taught in the spring. He's got defensive versatility and he's a great feel-good story of a guy working hard and doing things the right way. If there's anyone who's bought into the Astros Way, it's Brandon Barnes.
What does it say to the other guys in that Houston clubhouse if the Astros suddenly kicked that guy to the curb for another player who is relatively close to Barnes in value? Yes, Borbon may have slightly better minor league numbers, but he is about the same age and doesn't appear to have much value as a regular. Are you going to play Borbon in center over Justin Maxwell?
The Astros Way won't always take precedent in player moves. But, in this situation, with two players who provide the same value to a team, don't you go with the guy who's been here and who is already part of the team's culture?
2) Matty D has been pickin' it for a while
Brian T. Smith has a good premium article up on how Matt Dominguez became such a good fielder. Turns out, he's been doing it since he was a kid.
Most kids just want to hit. Matt Dominguez dug swinging away. But what he really wanted was a glove on his left hand. Then Dominguez would race out to his backyard in Van Nuys, Calif., wait for his father to pick up a bat and joyously vacuum bouncing ground balls into his kid’s mitt.
“It was my dad and my brothers. We used to have competitions,” Dominguez said. “My dad always taught me to try and be as smooth as you can. … It just kind of progressed from there.”
If you haven't gotten to see Dominguez play third, it's been a revelation. He's so good over there, it's almost shocking when a play doesn't get made on the left side of the infield. Watching him Saturday and Sunday against the Angels, Dominguez made play after smooth play to nab runners.
You know who he reminded me of? Former Astros shortstop and current minor league instructor Adam Everett. The big thing about Everett was how smooth he did everything. He was a great fielder who looked like he was making no effort at all.
I get the same feeling watching Dominguez, and that makes him a really fun addition to this 2013 team.
3) Profiling David Aardsma
Thanks to Anthony for turning me onto this great article in the Wall Street Journal profiling the two weeks that former Rice pitcher David Aardsma spend as a free agent. The 31-year old right-hander was cut by the Yankees right before the season, a common occurrence, but one that left him and his family in limbo.
It's a good piece because it brings home the human aspects to player movement that we can sometimes miss. For instance, here's a passage on what his wife had to do once he was cut and not going to New York:
David was supposed to move into the Manhattan apartment they had rented that weekend; instead, she had to talk the apartment complex into letting them out of their lease. The furniture that was due to arrive the next day had to be canceled. The car they had shipped out to New York would simply sit for the next few weeks.
"I called and said put the brakes on, please, please," Andrea said. "You've got to undo everything you set up, and then start all over."
They managed to cancel everything without losing more than the apartment broker's fees amounting to a few hundred dollars, she told David, whose train was arriving at New York's Penn Station.
Don't worry. Even though it's the WSJ, there are no unexpected shots at Jim Crane. Lots of good stuff too on the thinking behind a player making a decision on a minor league contract.