Luis Rodriguez Is New Too

About a week ago, the Mariners gave minor league contracts to pitcher Justin Miller and infielder Sean Kazmar. Today, the Mariners gave minor league contracts to pitcher Fabio Castro and infielder Luis Rodriguez. Based on a sample size of this paragraph, the front office's new policy is that these things have to happen in pairs. That's probably going to make things weird when the Mariners see one guy they like. They'll have to force themselves to sign someone else too, even if they don't want him. Which, incidentally, is how you end up with guys like Sean Kazmar.

You might know Luis Rodriguez as having come to the plate 984 times with the Twins and Padres between 2005-2009. You might also know him as having one of those generic Latin infielder names that just blends in with all the others, like Jose Hernandez or Luis Lopez. And to be honest, for a while up through 2009, Rodriguez had done little to put himself on the map. The veteran had demonstrated the ability to play second, short, and third, but he hadn't hit, and he was bidding his 20s goodbye. He appeared doomed to a fringey and likely unsatisfying career.

Then 2010 happened. It didn't happen in the Majors, mind you, but rather in AAA Charlotte, where Rodriguez came to the plate 400 times and knocked 16 dingers. 16 dingers isn't extraordinary, but it's notable when the guy's previous career high was eight. Rodriguez had never shown much power before. He'd slugged .323 in the bigs, and .359 in the minors. Last season, he slugged .493, with more walks than strikeouts for good measure. That's the kind of season you'd rather have from a 22 year old than a 30 year old, but it's still interesting when it comes from the latter.

Dave wrote about Rodriguez over at Fangraphs a few months ago, identifying him as a possibility to be the next Andres Torres. It was Torres who suddenly learned how to hit at 29 and carried his success over into the bigs. There's no guarantee that Rodriguez is able to do the same, and in fact I would bet against it, but there's no denying that the price is right. Rodriguez is here on a risk-free minor league contract, and if it turns out there's actually something in there, the upside is significant. Not as a star, but as something more than the many embarrassments with which we've become familiar. We know the guy can make contact. We know the guy can identify strikes and hold his own around the infield. If he can hit for a little power, too, then that makes a useful player. Certainly more useful than, say, Josh Wilson.

I don't know what happened with Rodriguez last year. Nick Green tried to pull a similar kind of thing a few years back, and he hasn't exactly set the world ablaze. But again, when the risk doesn't exist, it's hard to find fault. So Rodriguez's big season in Charlotte might've been an anomaly. The Mariners currently have two Wilsons and a desperate need for someone who at least has the lingering scent of power caught in his clothes. Why not?

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