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What to Do with Eldred?

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Dejan Kovacevic has an interesting argument in his Q+A about Brad Eldred:

...[T]his would be my bench: Bautista as Mr. Everything, Nate McLouth and Luis Matos as reserve outfielders, Ryan Doumit as a backup catcher who plays more than once a week, and, yes, Brad Eldred.

Look at it this way: If Eldred is going to be traded -- and he surely will -- the best way to enhance his value is to give him major-league at-bats. If he hits 55 moon shots in Indianapolis, the reaction among other executives will be been-there-seen-that. But if he hits, say, 10 of them in a limited role by July (not easy, I know, but this is someone who can hits home runs by accident), his value would rise. And, this coming off the bench, it might get added attention from American League teams eyeing a potential DH.

Or, look at it another way: How often does the situation arise during a game when the team needs a pinch-hit home run to get back into the game? And how often in the past few years did you see the likes of Tike Redman come to the on-deck circle in those situations?

Meanwhile, over at Honest Wagner, frequent BD commenter Azibuck has a good counterargument:

If he's on the Pittsburgh bench, he will almost surely be all or nothing. He might hit 10 HR off the bench by July, but he'll whiff 33% of the time or worse. And with LaRoche, how many "major-league at-bats" will he really get?

If he's at Indianapolis, he might be too good for the level, making ALL his numbers artificially good. In addition to hitting bunches of HR, he might get severely pitched around, upping his BB rate and lowering his K rate. At that point he's "blocked prospect Brad Eldred." If no other GM bites before interleague play (June 8th), then call him up and let him play DH and PH and hope he's in a groove.

The best way to increase his trade value is to make him look good. To start the season, that means being in Indy, hopefully tearing it up. There will be a point of diminishing returns with that strategy, but having him on the Pirate bench to start the year is risky for his value, and unnecessary in the long-term view. It would be great to have a bench player that can win or tie a game with one swing. But he has no defensive value and has as much chance of having his value decrease.

I can see both sides here. First thing's first, though: informed fans of most other teams would probably think we're nuts to be wringing our hands about Eldred in the first place. To most, he's not really "blocked prospect Brad Eldred," he's "failed prospect Brad Eldred."

Normally, I'm as sympathetic as anyone to arguments about the long-term view, but I'm not sure there's much of a long-term view to be seen here, and like Kovacevic, I don't think other teams will think so either, no matter how many homers Eldred hits in Indianapolis. (Or in Spring Training. Speaking of which, he hit his third homer of the spring today.)

By the time the trading deadline rolls around, Eldred will be 27 years old. The train left Ryanhowardsville long ago and even Shealytown is a distant memory; next up is Julio Zuleta Junction.

I agree with Kovacevic - and not because of Eldred's trade value, because he has too little to really worry about. I want Eldred on the big-league team now because it would really be nice to have a serious power threat on the bench - and after watching Jose Hernandez trying to pinch-hit in key situations later this year, I suspect even Azibuck will agree with me. Sending Eldred to Indianapolis would be like a wine collector stashing two-buck chuck in his empty wine cellar, then drinking flat Diet Faygo with dinner. Just guzzle the Charles Shaw and enjoy it; age isn't going to make it any better.