29 June 2011
After today’s game, D’Backs manager Kirk Gibson announced that the team has released 3B Melvin Mora. Mora was hitting to a line of .228/.244/.276. He had only garnered 16 plate appearances since June 10 (collecting merely three hits in that span), so this move does little to affect the team on the field. What it does do, however, is give a 25th roster spot to someone who has earned it. This move has been a long time coming; too long. The Diamondbacks should have made this move weeks ago, when it became apparent that Mora was not the starting third baseman.
On December 6th of 2010, new D’Backs GM Kevin Towers traded current 3B Mark Reynolds to the Baltimore Orioles. On that same day, Towers signed Melvin Mora to a 1yr/$2.35MM contract to fill the vacancy. At the time, it was not a bad move: the D’Backs were not expected to compete and Mora (coming off a respectable .285/.358/.421 season, OPS+ 97, .344 wOBA) would act as a bridge to prospects in the minors who needed more time to develop (see Ryan Wheeler, Matt Davidson, Bobby Borchering). He was the Opening Day starter as expected, and while never being solid at the plate, he provided a good glove at the hot corner. Until that is, he lost his starting job to the gritty Ryan Roberts. After that his at bats became few and far between, and it appeared that his days wearing Sedona Red were numbered.
Then an article appeared on mlb.com on June 26 that Towers and Gibson were contemplating roster moves. The article discussed Sam Demel, leading readers to believe it was about changing the look of the bullpen (as it was; the D’Backs made two roster moves affecting the bullpen on June 28, calling up LHP Alberto Castillo and RHP Yhency Brazoban in place of Bryan Shaw and Esmerling Vasquez). But when these two men talked, the name Melvin Mora must have come up. Subsequently Mora received merely two pinch hit plate appearances in the following series. It seemed Towers and Gibson already had him half way out the door. Wily Mo Pena appears to be the new right handed pinch hitter off the bench, and with Roberts playing well at 3B, today’s release only makes sense. But why did it take this long?
Already having played in the majors once this year is a man who provides some left handed pinch hitting ability, also with the ability to play to 3B in a pinch. D’Backs fans may not like hearing the name, but Sean Burroughs is annihilating AAA pitching. He got off to a slow start in his time in the Show this year (no hits in his first 8 PA) but then very quietly heated up. After that, he hit .375 in 16 pinch hit PA, including a big double and run scored to start a rally June 14 vs. the Giants. In that same span, Mora came to the plate 39 times, and only got a hit five times, good for a .135 average. Why then when Wily Mo Pena was called up did Burroughs get sent down and not Mora? Since the June 19 game, the day Burroughs was waived, Mora has started a grand total of zero games. In seven games in Reno since Burroughs’ demotion, he has a slash line of .417/.432/.639 for an OPS of 1.071. Granted, those are minor league numbers, but Burroughs would be a good complimentary left hander off the bench. When Gerardo Parra, Kelly Johnson, Juan Miranda, and Miguel Montero all play (which is most days), there are no left handed pinch hitters. If Sean Burroughs gets called up, the D’Backs would have a pinch hitter to face the good right handed closers in their division (Wilson, Street, Bell). Ryan Roberts is the third baseman; Burroughs would not be. But having Burroughs and Pena has a lefty/righty tandem that Gibson must find awfully appealing.
Another 3B name is switch hitting infielder Geoff Blum. He returns from the disabled list near the All-Star Break. So if Burroughs isn’t what the team wants, call up a place holder infielder or a reliever until Blum is healthy, at which point he can step in as backup 3B/pinch hitter extraordinaire.
But honestly why has Melvin Mora been a Diamondback for so long? Money. Mora makes $2MM+ this year whether or not he shows up at Chase or gets released and plays in a beer softball league. Sean Burroughs makes merely the league minimum. The D’Backs wanted a return on their investment of the former Silver Slugging 3B Mora, and were hoping beyond rational hope that he would get better. Best of luck to Melvin Mora, Barry M. Bloom of mlb.com reports he left with class and is appreciative of his time here, so good for him. But it was time for the D’Backs to admit their mistake. Today the D’Backs did just that, and realized that Mora was not the player they thought they were getting, and that his roster spot is better spent on Burroughs, or a reliever, or another infielder.
Addition from Amit: I agree that the team could use a LHB off the bench, so Burroughs does make some sense. Cody Ransom has been hitting very well at AAA (.321/.398/.632, with 20 HR), and can play all over the infield, but is a right-handed batter. Tony Abreu is a switch-hitter who can also play all over the infield. He still can't take a walk, but is hitting a decent .311/.350/.470. The team could decide to make Willie Bloomquist the backup 3B, and call up 1B/LF Brandon Allen, also a left-handed hitter. Allen has his AAA stats up to .295/.421/.545, and could take some at bats away from struggling 1B Juan Miranda. The best hitter currently in AAA is OF Collin Cowgill (.363/.437/.578). Cowgill also hits right-handed, and would be a better platoon partner for Parra than Bloomquist. And of course, slugging 1B Paul Goldschmidt is also an option, but it would be a surprise to see him jump from AA to the Majors.