This is always an interesting time of the year as team executives, players, managers, reporters and fans scan the news to see which players are released or sent to the minors.
The first shocker came today when the Tigers decided throwing $14 million into the wind was better than having Gary Sheffield play for them.
Sheff vowed to play on. Will some team will take a $400,000 flyer on him? The Phillies have expressed an interest. Sheffield has said he wants to play for the Rays or Marlins. Would he take a bench role? Given that he needs one more homer for 500, he probably would.
Sheffield is 40 and hit .225 last season with a .326 OBP. He can’t play the OF or run much any more. He’s also not exactly Mr. Warmth in the clubhouse.
This is another example of how baseball is changing because of drug testing. Teams used to value veteran sluggers because everybody (including the media) would shield their eyes when some old dude belted 40 home runs and swallow some made-up story about a new weight-lifting regimen.
Now clubs place more emphasis on youth, versatility, defense and speed along with financial value. Look at the Yankees. They’re going with Brett Gardner in center and may well have a spot on the bench for Ramiro Pena. Last year they went with Morgan Ensberg.
I think Joe Girardi is exactly correct when he predicts a major shift in how the game is played. Sheffield is out and we’ll see in the next few days whether any other notable players follow.