MLB Sluggers on the Hot Seat Entering Spring Training
MLB sluggers with guaranteed contracts aren't promised everyday roles. These 10 offensive-minded position players enter spring training on the hot seat with a lot to prove.
Overcrowding at certain spots sometimes pressures veterans to produce in exhibitions. Those coming off surgeries in the past six months—like Todd Helton and Delmon Young—need to prove they're healthy and fit enough to be fielders in the National League.
All of the following have been considered relatively powerful hitters at some point during their major league careers.
Continue reading to find out which one finds himself in the most uncomfortable situation.
10. Todd Helton (Colorado Rockies)
Todd Helton's contract with the Colorado Rockies expires after the 2013 season, at which point he is expected to retire.
The 39-year-old owns countless franchise records and a .320/.419/.545 lifetime batting line. Even when adjusting for friendly conditions at Coors Field, he's among this generation's top sluggers.
In 2013, Helton will aim to bounce back from an unproductive, injury-plagued campaign. The first baseman spent the final two months on the disabled list and was frequently benched when on the active roster.
His year is off to an embarrassing start, as The Denver Post reports a Feb. 6 DUI arrest.
9. Adam Lind (Toronto Blue Jays)
Despite agreeing to a very team-friendly contract following his breakout 2009 season, Adam Lind has underachieved for the Toronto Blue Jays.
He seldom reaches base and poor conditioning makes him an inadequate fielder. His batting splits resemble those of a platoon player.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos nearly doubled Toronto's payroll this winter to create a World Series threat. The window of contention will stay open through 2015, when Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle, Edwin Encarnacion and Maicer Izturis (among others) complete the final guaranteed years of their respective contracts.
The Blue Jays will say goodbye to Lind if he doesn't seem motivated in February and March.
8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Boston Red Sox)
The Boston Red Sox plan to use Mike Napoli exclusively at first base, but still have a surplus behind the plate.
Newly-signed David Ross is assured a 25-man roster spot. However, it has yet to be determined whether Ryan Lavarnway or Jarrod Saltalamacchia will split playing time with him.
The former seemed ill-prepared to transition to the majors in 2012. He excelled on the farm and could be retained at virtually no cost for the next several seasons.
Saltalamacchia led the Red Sox in home runs at age 27. The former top prospect is an impending free agent whose game is deficient in other areas.
If he fails to convincingly out-perform Lavarnway in the coming weeks, Boston might dangle him in front of needy teams.
7. Alfonso Soriano (Chicago Cubs)
Anticipating that Alfonso Soriano wouldn't be in their future plans, the Chicago Cubs deepened their outfield with signings of Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz.
There is pressure on Soriano to waive his no-trade clause this spring. Suitors particularly value players who they can control for at least two full seasons.
If the 37-year-old doesn't cooperate, the Cubs might bench him in favor of someone with better plate discipline and defensive instincts.
6. Delmon Young (Philadelphia Phillies)
Delmon Young immediately received a vote of confidence from GM Ruben Amaro Jr. According to Ryan Lawerence of the Philadelphia Daily News, Amaro expects him to be in action everyday.
However, the overweight outfielder has internal competition from the likes of Domonic Brown, John Mayberry, Laynce Nix and Darin Ruf.
In the National League, he doesn't have the luxury of hiding in the designated hitter's spot. Young must do whatever is necessary to get a healthy body because the Philadelphia Phillies will be reluctant to start an immobile individual.
5. Kelly Johnson (Tampa Bay Rays)
Weak production during his contract year forced Kelly Johnson to accept a significant pay cut in free agency.
He better re-establish himself as an above-average player from the get-go because powerful prospect Wil Myers will be in the big leagues by midseason. That promotion will make the outfield awfully crowded and probably push Ben Zobrist to second base.
As his understudy, Johnson would seldom leave the bench and become a candidate to be designated for assignment.
4. Chris Young (Oakland Athletics)
Four current Oakland Athletics outfielders have grown accustomed to playing everyday in the majors.
The newest addition, Chris Young, might be the odd man out. He posted a much lower OPS-plus than the other three last summer and historically struggles against right-handed pitching.
Young will be in direct competition with Coco Crisp, who also considers center field his primary position. Both enter the final guaranteed year of their contracts with great defensive reputations.
In spring training, the A's must choose between Young's power—24 home runs per 162 games—and Crisp's outstanding base-stealing. Whomever shows less potential should be placed on the trading block.
3. Justin Smoak (Seattle Mariners)
It might already be too late for Justin Smoak.
The Seattle Mariners have acquired Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse to fill two spots in the lineup. Regardless of spring success, Smoak won't leapfrog either of them on the depth chart.
The 26-year-old is almost certain to be dealt if he disappoints during exhibitions. His only chance at retention is showing sufficient slugging to merit a reserve spot on the active roster.
2. Juan Uribe (Los Angeles Dodgers)
The Los Angeles Dodgers can afford to hold onto awful contracts, but there's no reason to do so for a sub-replacement-level player. That's precisely what Juan Uribe has been since signing several years ago (.199/.262/.289 in 474 PA).
L.A. can already expect versatility from Jerry Hairston Jr., Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker.
Filling out the bench will depend on whether the team prefers Dee Gordon's blazing speed or the power Uribe flaunted with the Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants.
1. Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees)
Alex Rodriguez doesn't control his fate at this point.
The disgraced slugger has suffered a serious hip injury that he might never fully recover from.
Moreover, strong ties to PED provider Anthony Bosch could lead to a suspension from Major League Baseball. The punishment will depend on the findings of an ongoing investigation.
Sources tell ESPNNewYork.com that the New York Yankees "plan on exploring multiple avenues in an attempt to void the star third baseman's contract." He is owed $114 million through the 2017 season.
It ought to be a nerve-racking spring training for A-Rod, even if he doesn't set foot on the field.