The Case for Moving Ryan McMahon Back to Second Base
It’s time for some Rockies musical chairs.
This is Rockies Pitch, a newsletter about the Colorado Rockies. Please consider subscribing and sharing this link with a friend.
The news dropped Thursday morning:
The injury happened in Tuesday’s game against the Rangers when Rodgers dove to stop a grounder. It’s a disappointment for fans as well as Brendan Rodgers, who’d hoped to follow up his Gold Glove 2022 with an offensive breakout in 2023. But on Thursday when Bud Black told the media that “there’s trauma to the capsule into the joint and all the surrounding tissues that keep the shoulder intact and secure,” it’s not good news. Surgery is a real possibility, which would put Rodgers’ season in jeopardy.
That leaves the Rockies with a conundrum: What to do at second base, certainly in the near term and perhaps all season?
Thomas Harding reported that Black laid out the following options:
Play Alan Trejo, Harold Castro, or Cole Tucker.
Move Ryan McMahon back to second.
Let prospect Coco Montes play second.
“Acquire experience at the position.”
We can argue about which of these is the best option, but I’d like to focus on the one that makes the most sense: Sending Ryan McMahon back to second.
Despite being a natural third baseman, McMahon (who, at the time was blocked by Nolan Arenado) was moved to second in 2017 and played there almost exclusively in 2019. In the cumulative 1633.2 innings he’s spent at second, he has 12 DRS. For comparison, in a cumulative 2616.1 innings at third, he has 33 DRS. In short, Ryan McMahon is a very competent second baseman, even though it is not his natural position.
Check this out:
If the Rockies were to move McMahon back to second, it would help them begin to sort out a personnel jam during a season that needs to focus on allowing players to get regular playing time and develop their skills.
Below are some possible options:
Let Elehuris Montero and Nolan Jones Platoon at Third — It’s Montero’s natural position. In fact, it’s been his primary defensive position during Spring Training, so the Rockies clearly want to keep him fresh there. Plus, his defense has improved. Platooning Montero with lefty Nolan Jones, another repurposed third baseman, makes sense as it would get both players back to their defensive homes while allowing them to see regular playing time.
Added bonus: Such a move would clear up the glut at first base given that the Rockies appear to be committed to playing CJ Cron. This arrangement would allow Michael Toglia to get more playing time at first, his natural position. Under the current configuration, the Rockies have Cron, Toglia, Montero, and Jones crowded together, waiting for a chance to play first. Reader, there just aren’t that many innings in a baseball game.
Let Kris Bryant and Nolan Jones Platoon at Third — I had pretty much written Bryant off as a third baseman since the Rockies had made clear they planned to play him in left field. However, a conversation between Manny Randhawa, Mark Knudson, and Nick Groke has me rethinking that assumption.
This podcast was recorded prior to Rodgers’ injury, but Groke explains why the Rockies might want to move Bryant back to third. (It involves keeping him off his feet, and when you’ve got a very expensive player coming off a case of plantar fasciitis, it makes sense that perhaps the Rockies would want to limit his time roaming about the vast acreage of Coors Field.) Bryant has more than 5,500 innings at third and a DRS of -4, which is not awesome, but if a move to third helps him stay healthy, maybe it’s worth the defensive cost.
Added bonus: The Rockies could sort out their outfield problems. In Spring Training, Sean Bouchard continues to hit, and it seems increasingly likely he will break camp with the Rockies. Yonathan Daza isn’t going anywhere, and Charlie Blackmon has made clear that he expects an occasional game in right field. Plus, there’s Nolan Jones, and I haven’t forgotten about Randal Grichuk, who will miss the beginning of the season. Moreover, it’s time to give Brenton Doyle a chance. If Bryant moves to third with Jones as a platoon, it frees the Rockies experiment in the outfield. (Under this scenario, however, that first-base traffic jam remains unresolved.)
Both of these options strike me as workable ways to handle second base while the Rockies continue to assay their system.
However, I tend this think this won’t be the path they take. It seems more likely that Harold Castro or Alan Trejo or Cole Tucker will get the job. Since 2020, Castro has 349.2 innings at second and a DRS of -1; Trejo has 160.2 innings at second and a DRS of 1; and Tucker has 111.1 innings at second at a DRS of 1. Of the three players, Castro is the most versatile — and the worst at third base with a DRS of -10.
If I were running the Rockies (which I, clearly, am not), I’d platoon Montero and Jones at third. From a development standpoint — and 2023 should be all about development — this seems like the best path forward.
Now to see if Ryan McMahon’s next Spring Training game finds him playing second base. We’ll know soon enough.
What I’m Reading
Zachary D. Rymer’s “Predicting One Unlikely Big Contributor for Each MLB Team” (Bleacher Report) — For the Rockies, Rymer is going with Sean Bouchard — and I could totally see that happening.
Thomas Harding’s “Rockies Beat” (MLB.com) — Harding writes about Zac Veen who answers questions with the kind of open honesty I don’t remember seeing since Jon Gray.
Skyler Timmins’ “Invasion of the Southpaws” (Purple Row) — Timmins published this on Wednesday, with Lucas Gilbreath a featured pitcher. On Thursday, we learned that he’s headed for Tommy John surgery, which is awful news. But at least he’s not the Rockies only lefty reliever.
Stephanie Apstein’s “The Padres Don’t Care About Their So-called Small Market” (SI.com) — I’m not sure there’s a story I’m more interested in this year than whether the Padres can pull it off and show that market size doesn’t matter.
Ailsa Chang’s “Major League Baseball Is on the Clock” (NPR.org) — Chang talks with Grant Brisbee about the pitch clock, and if you can hear a Grant Brisbee conversation, you’ve got to do it. (His 2017 piece on the pitch clock remains required reading.)
Kris Bryant is apparently back.
That’s his second home run in Spring Training. Here’s hoping he stays healthy in 2023 because the Rockies are going to need him.
Thanks for reading —
@ReneeDechert (Twitter) ★ @ReneeDechert (Mastodon) ★ @Renee.Dechert (Instagram) ★ @ReneeDechert (Post)