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Thursday, December 18, 2003

A Tangent Of My Sources Of Optimism: Why The M's Should Hold On To Garcia AND Cirillo 

As I stated yesterday, I think Garcia can be as good in 2004 as he was in 2000 and 2001. I'll always like the prospects of a power pitcher in a big ballpark, especially one with prior success in said ballpark. Suffice to say that a lot of arguments can be made for three possible cases: sign Garcia and keep him, sign Garcia and trade him, and non-tender Garcia (the least defensible option). I like option one, can live with option two, and wouldn't put it past Bavasi to choose option three.

Cirillo's case is admittedly difficult to defend. For the last two seasons, he's been a one-man rally killer, batting a combined .234 in his two seasons with the M's, slugging .308 with an OPS of .603. Pretty crappy, from any perspective. (Unbelievably, he was intentionally walked once last year. Must have been during interleague play.) He did save a few runs with his glove, which offsets a negligible amount of his offensive liability. In his defense, he never took his slumping bat with him to the field.

Watching Cirillo the past two seasons, he's had a few AB's where he's turned someone's 95 mph fastball around and crushed a liner into the gap, or over the left field wall. He really has two distinct swings. There's the one he's used for about 725 AB's the past two seasons. The one where he's trying SO hard to get out of his (we need a more descriptive word than "slump" here) slump that he's starting to run to first before he finishes his follow-through. And not in a good Ichiro way either. Then there's the swing he's used about 25 times or so, where he stays behind the ball, swings through the ball, and crushes. From what I've seen, the ability to hit at a high level is still in his body, and has all but departed from his brain.

I think Cirillo's woes can be corrected with the proper instruction. That's where Paul Molitor comes in. A right-handed, compact-swinging, line-drive machine during his playing days. My first impression of Cirillo, as a matter of fact, during BP on a cold April evening in 2002, was that his swing reminded me almost exactly of Paul Molitor's. That Molitor MIGHT be able to fix Cirillo is reason to hold on to him. The only alternatives proposed thus far have been to release him and eat his salary for TWO YEARS, or to trade Cirillo to the Mets in exchange for Roger Cedeno. It would be foolish to trade Cirillo, who has at least an unlikely upside, for Roger Cedeno, who is a lock to stink.

A lot of people are pointing out what the M's are losing this offseason, and ignoring the rock-bottom seasons two of their key players had in 2002. Even if Cirillo only improves to .275 and Garcia only goes 15-10, it might be enough to contend in the weakened AL West, and at worst they both become very tradable at the deadline for a contending team's best prospects. Even if they exactly duplicate their 2002 seasons, the team isn't making any moves that put them in contention anyway (remember, Quinton McCracken is going to bat at least 100 times in 2004), so they come at no real cost.

I gotta learn an entire semester's worth of analytical chemistry by tomorrow afternoon, so until then, adios.

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