Shape up or ship out.
That's the situation Andy Marte is facing this spring as he competes for a backup job with the Cleveland Indians.
Actually, "Shape Up" was the request the Indians made towards Marte in the off-season. The ship out part is just me being fancy to catch your attention...
Marte is on his last legs though. He has run out of minor league options. The third base job is Casey Blake's, so his last hope is to beat out Josh Barfield or Asdrubal Cabrera for the last roster spot.
With Cabrera a virtual lock to win the second base spot and Barfield having options left, that gives Marte a leg up. And he'll need it. The perception coming out of Indians camp is Marte will make the roster no matter what. The Indians aren't about to jettison him like they did with Brandon Phillips.
Certainly by not living up to the request to get in shape Marte is now skating on thin ice. He is looking lighter on his feet but, according to Manager Eric Wedge, "It's OK, it's not great."
I know Wedge is quite fine with Marte working it out in Spring Training, but to me it's disappointing sign.
Victor Martinez lost 10 pounds during the winter and gained muscle. First baseman Ryan Garko has also lost significant weight. Last year Jhonny Peralta came in looking slimmer and it definitely paid off.
So what exactly is Marte's problem? Some of his teammates did it without even being asked. The Indians made it a request and it's obvious he slacked off or didn't do enough. Wedge's comments don't exactly reinforce the idea he did his job.
Marte will probably end up making the big league roster, but his chances are going to be small unless an injury happens.
With Casey Blake on a one year deal, probability points to the third base job being open next year, depending on what happens with Josh Barfield. But will Andy Marte, who has six career major league homers compared to 113 minor league homers, be able to last that long?
Marte has phenomenal power; he was a big-time prospect running through the Brave's organization before he got traded to the Red Sox for Edgar Renterria. Marte was then flipped to the Indians in the Coco Crisp deal, one the Indians clearly won regardless of how Marte pans out.
With Josh Bard and David Riske no longer on the club and Coco Crisp soon to join them, Kelly Shoppach has become a big part of the Tribe as the backup catcher. If Andy Marte emerges, then the deal will be a huge Indian win.
The question is: Will he?
The Tribe has options next year. They could move Jhonny Peralta to third, play Cabrera at short (his natural position), and have Barfield play second, leaving Marte out of the mix.
Or Andy Marte can make the situation a tough one. To do that though he needs to become a super sub and hit when called upon. No doubt he'll be one of the first options if an injury happens at any position other than catcher, shortstop, or second base because of Blake’s versatility.
Super stud or super bust? Marte's mission should be to define himself as a major league ball player. Coming into Spring Training not meeting the Indian's desires wasn't the greatest first step.