Pujols or A-Rod – How about neither?

In a recent Jerry Crasnick ESPN.com chat, the point of discussion was who would you rather build a team around: Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols.  Now, the question is, in Crasnick’s words, “If I’m a general manager and I’m starting a major league team today, which superstar would I choose: Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols?”  First off, if you get to choose any player in the league, why would you pick between two players already in their peek?  I guess it depends on the rest of the parameters of this hypothetical question.  If the rest of the rules were in line to those of the 1997 MLB Expansion Draft, then you probably aren’t going to get enough good other pieces to contend any time soon.  If there were fewer protected players, than perhaps you could acquire enough players to contend, but I seem to get more of the idea, throughout the chat, that we are constructing a team from the ground up – meaning that contending is years off.

Since contending seems years off, why wouldn’t you go with someone younger and have them peak around when it would be useful?  By the time you field a team, A-Rod will be way past his peak and Pujols would probably have lost some of his great range at 1B and some pop.  I suppose I would rather have Pujols out of the two of them, but I would much rather build my team around a player playing a more difficult position.  I’ve heard a couple scouts say on ESPN.com that they would actually go with 20 year-old Justin Upton, rather than a player with more experience.  Realistically, it would take many years to build a team from scratch and get it to a point where you would actually be able to bring in enough revenue to put a contender on the diamond, so Upton would probably be a good choice.  He will be cheap during this theoretical franchise’s infancy (though he probably won’t be that great) for two years plus another three of arbitration (I believe the fact that he will not be a rookie next year means that his clock has already started – please correct me if I am wrong).

If for some reason there was reason to believe that this imaginary franchise could contend in only a couple years, then I would much prefer David Wright.  Wright is a quality 3B with great contact, excellent on the basepaths (over 81% on SB attempts including last year’s of 34 SB and only 5 CS), good plate discipline, and growing power.  This coupled with the fact that he could very well still improve, given that he only turned 26 last month.  I would prefer to take a middle infielder, but there aren’t really any young ones who I’m as confident in their two way play as I am Wright.  Jose Reyes dropped off last year in power and batting average last year, though his increased walk rate is certainly encouraging.  Hanley Ramirez is a fantastic hitter, but his walk rate is not very good and he is a butcher at SS.  Troy Tulowitzki is amazing defensively and he had some great offensive stats last year, though the Coors factor is difficult to put aside.  There really aren’t any exciting 2B right now younger than Chase Utley.  Brandon Phillips is a fantasy star, but nowhere near as valuable in real-life sporting only a .331 OBP.  BJ Upton, the other Upton brother, has become primarily a center fielder, and I’d be hesitant to take an outfielder with this uber-pick, even if he is a center fielder.  SS is the most important defensive position, so maximizing the fielding and hitting value here would be ideal.  Unfortunately though, I don’t see anyone here to warrant bumping Wright or the potential of Justin Upton.  If I did take a SS though, I would take Tulowitzki and not feel particularly bad about it either.

I realize this is just some January nonsense to pass the time, but its a chat based on an ill-defined question with misinformed answers, often degenerating into insistence on A-Rod’s lack of “clutch” and “clubhouse presence” from the fans.  Also, people don’t seem to realize that he doesn’t play shortstop anymore.  Though, it is amusing to wonder if he would be a better SS than Derek Jeter currently is.

Arbitrary song of the day: Flash Brothers – “Mirage (Shmuel Flash Punk Mix)”

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