Advanced defensive metrics are an imperfect science, as is the classic eye-test. especially for those of us who aren't exactly one step away from being considered for Major League scouting positions. Often there's a disconnect between the two sciences, which has in many cases sparked heated debates. [Insert snarky sentence about Derek Jeter's four Gold Gloves here].
In the case of Alexi Casilla and Pedro Florimon, both means of evaluation more or less agree. Each is a solid defender, with Casilla having demonstrated those skills at multiple positions for the Twins at the Major League level. Florimon is more of a true shortstop, but certainly would seem to possess the skill set to play plus defense at second base as well.
Casilla hit .241/.282/.321 in 106 games this year. That translates to an OPS+ of 68 and a wOBA of .279, all of which is pretty much on par with what he's done since the beginning of the 2009 season (.244/.302/.333, 75 OPS+, .292 wOBA).
Florimon wasn't any better; in fact, he was worse (albeit in a smaller sample). Florimon hit .219/.272/.307, resulting in an OPS+ of 61 and a .258 wOBA. Hooray?
In my estimation, there are three primary differences between the two;
- Age: Casilla will turn 29 next July, while Florimon will be 26 this coming December. There's probably not much room for offensive growth with Florimon, but Casilla has flashed his ceiling (a slightly below-average offensive player) and also shown us his floor (one of the worst hitters in the American League). League average would be a feat for Florimon, but there's a chance he can settle into the same 75 OPS+ average that Casilla has shown.
- Speed: Casilla wins out here, and it's not close. Florimon has some wheels underneath him, but his career-high in Minor League swipes was 26. He was 102-for-152 (67 percent) in Minor League theft attempts. Casilla has 71 Major League steals and has been caught nine times. When he runs, he's going to get there 89 percent of the time.
- Salary: And of course, here's the kicker. Florimon's contract can be renewed for right around the league minimum. He'll make just under $500K in 2013, while Matt Swartz of FanGraphs and MLBTR projects a $1.8M salary for Casilla. Swartz has developed a remarkably accurate formula for arbitration projections, so it's safe to say Casilla is going to cost the Twins about $1.3M more than Florimon.
It's true that Casilla has the slightly better offensive track record. Three times he's posted an OPS+ of 91 (91, 91, 100) or better while seeing significant playing time. However, he's also posted marks of 68, 45, and 40 in notable sample sizes. Those flashes of offensive competency and his plus glovework have kept him around, but Florimon could provide nearly the same overall package for about one-quarter of the price in an ideal world.
The options seem pretty clear. Non-tender Casilla due to his increasing salary and limited upside, or elect to pay more for his spotty but superior offensive track record. In the second scenario, Florimon would be a phone call away in Rochester in the event of an injury or a signature sluggish start from Casilla (career .510 OPS in March/April).
The third, of course, is to simply carry both on the team. However with Jamey Carroll already guaranteed $3.75M in 2013, is it wise to carry two more glove-first middle infielders that don't carry significant offensive upside? I smell a poll coming!