I share the feelings of my sometimes partner in crime John Sharkey. I often feel conflicted as a fan, because in the short term, I want stop-gaps and non-producers like Luis Rivas, Doug Mientkiewicz, Juan Castro, Tony Batista, Nick Punto, Jason Tyner, Ramon Ortiz, Carlos Silva and Sidney Ponson to help the Twins win the day. I am also conscious of the fact that the short-term success of players like these may lengthen their time as regulars when superior players may be toiling away in the minor leagues, or may prevent the Twins from addressing their needs at a particular position during the off-season.
John's post, aforelinked, got me thinking. While an early spurt of good play may make teams more reluctant to cut bait on a player who isn't performing and blocking a superior prospect, salary also plays into things. The Twins spent $3.1 million on Ramon Ortiz and $4.35 million on Carlos Silva. Regardless of the fact that contracts are guaranteed in Major League Baseball and that the combined $7.45 million is now a fixed cost (and that the Twins aren't on the hook for anything in 2008 with either pitcher), no GM is blessed with the complete lack of pride necessary to ignore the percentage of payroll that may have been squandered in deciding when enough is enough. There will always be the desire to stay the course, even if it is the wrong one, in hopes of getting some return on investment.
With the above in mind, I can imagine a scenario in which, because a GM would rather delay admitting he blew $X million as long as he can, an early streak of good play from a player that will eventually play themselves out of a regular role with the major league club will not lengthen that player's time in the majors in spite of their poor performance. This may have two benefits: (a) the brief period of good play at the beginning of the season, and (b) delaying the arbitration clock of one of the organizations best prospects, potentially saving the team money in future years and allowing the team to hold rights over more of said prospect's peak performance.
However, if the stop-gap or non-producer is being paid on the cheap, I believe my colleague John's hypothesis is correct. Given their respective contracts, among Ortiz, Silva, and Ponson the latter will be the first pushed aside to make room for Garza/Slowey.
I dig baseball's more relaxed, longterm perspective. If your favorite NFL team starts out 0-4, the sky is falling. If your favorite MLB team loses four games in a row, oh well. With that in mind, shouldn't we, as Twins fans, be pulling for Ponson to get beaten like a rented mule now that Slowey (who is on Baseball America's latest Prospect Hotsheet) and Garza are heating up in Triple-A? It's in the back of my mind, but I still can't bring myself to do it when Ponson is on the mound.