Has Jim Edmonds gone from signing a minor league contract to being guaranteed an Opening Day roster spot? That's the impression we're left with after reading Tim Kurkjian's most recent piece, featured on the front page of ESPN's MLB page (h/t to Wrigleyville23, by the way, where I first saw this linked). The Kurkjian piece is very well done, just like most of his stuff, but there was one line early on that threw me off guard:
...in only 3½ weeks, at age 39, he got himself ready to play, came to spring training and will make the club. He is the only left-handed hitter among the Brewers' four primary outfielders, but if he continues to play the way he has this spring, he might end up playing center field on close to an every-day basis.
Granted, there was probably a very good chance of Edmonds making the Opening Day roster regardless of what kind of spring he had just based on the fact that he chose to sign with Milwaukee of all teams, and judging from the comments he made in the days following the deal's announcement. But there's just something about the way that Kurkjian threw that line in there -- almost as an afterthought -- that surprised me for some reason.
Should we be surprised that he's basically got the fourth outfield job locked up? Probably not. He's played very well in the small sample we've seen so far, and like Kurkjian said, the three outfield starters are all right-handed. Jody Gerut is also left-handed, but it definitely seems like Edmonds has surpassed him on the depth chart...and that's if he didn't start ahead of Gerut to begin with.
Even Kurkjian's line about Edmonds even possibly starting a lot of games doesn't seem too crazy anymore. If you tried to sell me on this back in January when I spent a few days railing on this relatively harmless signing, I probably wouldn't have bought it. But Carlos Gomez hasn't shown very much growth so far this spring, and may end up re-tooling his swing. He still has an option left, so it remains entirely possible that he starts the season playing every day in Nashville, while playing time in Milwaukee is split between Edmonds and Gerut.
Am I crazy about this? No. We're dealing with an incredibly small sample size here, and I'm not confident Edmonds can keep it up. Even in his resurgance with the Cubs in 2008, he was heavily protected with very few AB's against left handed pitching and plenty of days off. I just can't see him staying productive if he's playing every day, or even in a majority of the team's games as the left-handed side of a platoon with Gomez.
Do I hope it happens? Sure, but I won't bet on it. This is a guy who's going to be 40 in June, and hasn't played in a regular season Major League game in over a year. It's one thing to bang a few doubles off the wall against some non-roster invitee in Maryvale, it's another thing to try to do it against Chris Carpenter and Carlos Zambrano.
Based on what we've seen, though, it does seem like Edmonds has at least one of the reserve outfield spots locked up. It certainly makes for a good story, but it's one that's far from being finished.