Mike Hindman, citing an article in the Daily Oklahoman, reported this morning that Laynce Nix has been called up from the AAA Redhawks.
If true, this is a rather odd move to be making right now...not because of Nix's AAA performance -- he's hitting .333/.467/.667 -- but because he's only spent 10 games at AAA.
There are a couple of things that spring to mind with the Nix callup.
1) Who goes down to make room for Nix? There appear to be three possible candidates...Chad Allen, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Mench.
Allen is the most obvious choice, since he's a career 5th outfielder who, in essence, made the club because of the decision to send Nix down. However, he's also the righthanded part of the DH platoon that Buck is running, and is about the only righthanded bat on the bench.
Gonzalez is a possibility, because he's not hitting well right now, and he's not playing all that much -- he's appeared in just 9 of 15 games. With his average dropping below .200, the organization could have decided that he needs more time in AAA.
Mench is also a possibility, albeit a remote one. He's been around long enough that one would think that an early season slump wouldn't result in him being sent down, and as a righty bat, he'd seem to be valuable as a regular member of the outfield. On the other hand, he's also never been a big favorite of Buck's, and only Gary Matthews Jr. has a lower OPS right now.
Allen is the obvious choice, and hopefully, if Nix is coming up, Allen is the player who will be sent down. We'll have to see, however, if that really happens...
2) The other question is, why now? All spring, the organization was indicating that Laynce Nix was making the team, and the only question was whether he'd play every day, or share the centerfield spot with Gary Matthews, Jr. That made Nix's demotion something of a shock, although it was a move I didn't really disagree with, given how much Nix struggled last year.
However, the rapid recall leaves open the question that I was wondering about when Nix was sent down in the first place...namely, why was Laynce Nix sent down? Was he sent down because the organization felt he needed more time in AAA, had areas he needed to work on and improve? Or was he sent down because the organization thought they had a better chance of winning games with Gary Matthews, Jr., playing everyday in centerfield?
I had hoped it was the former when Nix was sent down. However, if Nix was sent down to work on parts of his game, and is now being recalled after just 10 games, I have to wonder...why so soon? Did Laynce Nix really make strides that significant in a week and a half? Did the organization decide it was wrong in its evaluation that he still needed more development time?
On the other hand, if Nix was sent down because Matthews gave the team a better chance to win right now (in their mind), that would be more troubling. Matthews had a hot spring, but he also has a track record of not hitting well, and there was no particular reason to believe that he'd suddenly become a quality starting outfielder. His defense is uninspiring for a centerfielder, as well. He's a fine fourth outfielder, but as a starter, he's woefully underwhelming, and shouldn't have been viewed as anything more than a stopgap.
If Nix was sent down because the team thought Matthews gave them the best chance to win right now, that would certainly explain why they recalled Nix so quickly...Matthews' struggles, and Nix's hot start, would have prompted the organization to make the move. But that also leads to another question...what is this organization trying to accomplish this year?
As has been pointed out by many folks, the team seems to have taken a step backwards in its attempts to develop young talent, bringing in retreads such as Matthews that force out the prospects within the organization that should be getting time at the major league level. It would be one thing if this team were a legitimate title contender, but that isn't the case, particularly given the failure to do anything of substance to improve the team this offseason. It appears that management's goal right now is to do whatever is necessary to win 84 games this season, and if it means slowing young player's development or going with Buck's Grizzled Vets instead of the youngsters, than so be it.