Spring Training 2013: Notable Players That Could Be Jobless Before Opening Day
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A handful of standout names in Major League Baseball could face unemployment with weak Spring Training performances.
Most of these players are in the twilight of their careers and not only risk losing their job, but possibly ending their careers as well.
Spring Training will also be showcasing the most talented prospects in baseball, players that could prove worthy to relieve some of the older veterans of their jobs.
Here are some players that could find themselves without a job after Spring Training.
Oakland right-hander Bartolo Colon.
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Oakland A's starter Bartolo Colon, along with Alex Rodriguez, were featured in a report by the Miami New Times last week stating a handful of MLB players knowingly ordered and received performance-enhancing drugs from a company called Biogenesis in southern Florida.
Colon was suspended last August for 50 games after he tested positive for testosterone.
So, with all these accusations and convictions, is it worth it to keep the 39-year-old former Cy Young Award winner?
Colon, who’s struggled with injuries over the span of his career, will have to play out the final year of his contract without the PED's that likely kept him on the field, pitching at a high level.
The Athletics also have a few young guns who will be competing for a spot in the starting rotation alongside Brett Anderson, Jared Parker and Tommy Milone. A.J Griffin pitched well enough in 2012 to earn his place at the bottom of the A’s rotation as well.
While Colon seems to have a spot in the rotation at the moment, a poor Spring Training could propel guys like Andrew Werner or coveted prospect Dan Straily to replace Colon.
If Colon does not produce in spring ball, it might be in the A’s best interest to release the 39-year-old media magnet to reduce clubhouse distraction.
Colon posted a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts for Oakland last season.
Mariners outfielder Jason Bay.
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Jason Bay signed a one-year, $500,000 contract with the Seattle Mariners that includes another $500,000 if he makes the team.
The slugger from British Columbia is coming home and attempting to revitalize a career that’s taken a nosedive over the last three years.
Bay is coming off a season with career lows in almost every offensive category, including just 32 hits in 215 at bats (.165 average). Injuries have had a lot to do with Bay’s decline, but his swing is no longer as compact as it used to be, and it is slow through the zone.
Seattle is going to have a decision to make prior to Opening Day on whether or not to cut the Canadian product.
With Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders and newly-acquired Michael Morse making up the Mariners’ outfield, it’s going to prove rather difficult for Bay to secure a spot.
Bay will get a lot of at bats over Spring Training. He needs to stay consistent if he has any shot of making the Opening Day roster.
Shortstop Miguel Tejada.
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Similar to Bay, shortstop Miguel Tejada signed a one-year deal with Kansas City worth $1.1 million if he makes the Opening Day roster.
Tejada, now 38, spent all his 2012 season playing for Triple-A Norfolk where he hit .259 with 18 RBI and no home runs.
While common sense says Tejada should have no trouble making the Royals roster, this Royals team is full of young, proven talent the organization is looking to continue building upon for years to come.
Frankly, there’s no spot for Tejada on this young roster, unless he can put up standout numbers in Spring Training.
Royals starting pitcher Luke Hochevar.
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The Royals' Luke Hochevar was once a talented young pitcher from Denver who was considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Seven years later, Hochevar is in jeopardy of losing his job.
The Royals made some serious noise this offseason by acquiring pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays to join a rotation with Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen and Ervin Santana.
The move leaves Hochevar sandwiched between those superior arms and some of the young guns like left-hander Will Smith and top pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer.
In addition, Hochevar’s best season came in 2011 where he posted a mediocre 11-11 record with a 4.68 ERA and 128 strikeouts, not what the Royals expected seven years after they drafted him with the first overall pick in the 2006 MLB draft.
Last season, Hochevar had the worst season of his career, going 8-16 with a 5.73 ERA. His 118 earned runs were good enough for most-allowed by an MLB pitcher in 2012.
Time is running out for the 29-year-old Hochevar to live up to his expectations and a poor Spring Training could result in his exit from Kansas City.
Dodgers pitcher Ted Lilly.
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When healthy, Ted Lilly has quietly put up consistently decent numbers throughout his 14-year MLB career.
Unfortunately, it’s been shoulder problems that have plagued the crafty left-hander over the last few seasons. While Lilly is too talented to not have a spot in some MLB rotation, the arthroscopic surgery he received in September leaves a number of questions unanswered.
If the surgery affected his already low velocity, the break on his curve and slider, or even his delivery, Lilly could be in trouble.
While Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu will take the first three spots in the rotation, the Dodgers have five veterans competing for the four and five spots, all of which are healthy, that is, except Lilly.
The New York Times says, common risks regarding arthroscopic shoulder surgery are weakness and stiffness of the shoulder and injuries to blood vessels or nerves.
Lilly, who turned 37 last month, will not only have to rehab, but compete for a spot in the rotation, all of which will put excess stress on that shoulder. Lilly is also approaching the final year on his deal, making him expendable, whether that be via trade or release due to injury.
In the end, Lilly will likely overcome his shoulder problems, but if he doesn’t, don’t expect the Dodgers to keep an injured 37-year-old on the roster.
Orioles' second baseman Brian Roberts.
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To Baltimore’s credit, they haven’t given up on Brian Roberts, who’s been battling chronic injuries since 2010.
With Ryan Flaherty and the acquisition of Alexi Casilla off waivers, Roberts’ time in the major leagues may be coming to an end.
The 35-year-old second baseman is entering the final year of his contract and is too much of a risk to carry any trade value. If Baltimore is happy with what they see out of Casilla and Flaherty during Spring Training and Roberts continues to underachieve and battle injury, there’s little doubt that Roberts won’t be on the Opening Day roster.
Roberts remains questionable for the start of Spring Training with groin and hip injuries.
Yankees' third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
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Baseball’s tainted home run slugger may be released pending league involvement on Rodriguez’s latest involvement with performance-enhancing drugs.
“If MLB disciplines Alex Rodriguez over the latest illegal PED allegations, the New York Yankees plan on exploring multiple avenues in an attempt to void the star third baseman’s contract,” reported Wallace Matthews of ESPN.
A-Rod, who’s owed $114 million over the five seasons, has battled injury and uncharacteristic production over the last two seasons. On top of all that, his postseason performance has been horrendous.
With the Yankees signing Kevin Youkilis to a one-year deal this offseason, A-Rod has become expendable. Sure, Youk won’t be able to put up 40 home runs and 130 RBI, but he’s the safer and healthier option over A-Rod at the moment.
Dumping A-Rod would also minimize the overabundance of clubhouse distractions that perennially occur in New York.
That being said, if A-Rod isn’t suspended by the commissioner, the Yanks will likely keep their slugger, but if he is suspended anywhere from 50 to 150 games, the Steinbrenners will send him packing.