These are some arguments I’ve heard as reasons for keeping Omar Vizquel around, and my counter-arguments. I’ll add to them as more arguments come my way.
Point: Omar Vizquel is a Future Hall of Famer, so the Indians should keep him.
Counterpoint: That Vizquel will probably get some votes in 2010-2012 is probably true. Will he get enough votes to get into the Hall of Fame right away? I doubt it. With quanifying defensive prowess being such a grey area, Vizquel doesn’t have an ironclad case other than his Gold Gloves. The biggest obstacle Vizquel will face is the changing of the MLB shortstop from a defensive specialist to an offensive weapon, beginning with Cal Ripken and continuing with players like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Miguel Tejada.
There is the Ozzie Smith exception to getting into the Hall of Fame, but Smith generally is considered the best defensive shortstop ever. His career range factor (5.03) bests Vizquel’s (4.43) by a fairly large margin. Smith also had the benefit of playing in an era when he wasn’t as overshadowed by more offensive players at his position. Smith’s OPS+ (87) is better than Vizquel’s (85). I’d say in retrospect Vizquel’s career is more similar to fellow Venezuelan Dave Concepcion than Smith, and Concepcion hasn’t made the Hall.
I guess my point is that Vizquel is anything but a slam dunk to make the Hall of Fame. That being said, even if I could travel into the future and find out that Vizquel will make the HOF in 7-8 years, will that change the player he is now or next year? No. Here’s a sampling of what Hall of Fame (or Hall of Fame-caliber) shortstops did in their Age 38 season (OPS+ in parenthesis):
Luis Aparicio, 1972: .257/.299/.351 (89)
Dave Bancoft, 1928: .277/.331/.332 (66)
Ernie Banks, 1969: .253/.309/.416 (92)*
Barry Larkin, 2002: .245/.305/.367 (71)
Rabbit Maranville, 1930: .281/.344/.367 (74)
Pee Wee Reese, 1957: .224/.306/.248 (46)
Ozzie Smith, 1993: .288/.337/.356 (88)
Honus Wagner, 1912: .324/.395/.496 (145)
Bobby Wallace, 1912: .241/.332/.316 (89)
*As a first baseman
All of those listed above posted an OPS+ below their career average except for Wagner.
As far as the “You don’t let a Hall of Famer leave” argument is concerned, I’ll just say two words: Roberto Alomar.
Point: The Indians owe Vizquel for staying.
Counterpoint: The Indians haven’t exactly underpaid for Vizquel’s services in recent years. Vizquel’s most recent contract extension paid him $15M over the past two seasons. In today’s economic climate, that’s overpaying.
Point: If the Indians don’t bring back Vizquel, I’m not going back to the Jake again.
Counterpoint: That’s nice.
Point: Vizquel is being kicked to the curbed because of Dolan’s penny-pinching ways.
Counterpoint: This may be true to some extent, but I don’t think bringing Vizquel back would be such a good idea regardless of the Indians’ payroll, for reasons mentioned above. If the Indians had a $70M payroll and paid Vizquel $5M while Jhonny Peralta rotted in the minors, I’d be ticked off. Until Shapiro traded Peralta for a LOOGY in July, when I’d be really ticked off. Shapiro can’t control the teams’ payroll, but the fact that he has $45M instead of $70M to work with makes him less likely to keep indulgences like Vizquel around.