It's the question that I'm asking myself over and over these days. The 25-year-old first baseman would seem to be an obvious candidate for extended playing time given his exceptional Triple-A performance over the past two years, but the Diamondbacks have continued to find ways not to use him.
They opted to sign Adam LaRoche to a one-year deal last offseason rather than go with Allen, even though he had just batted .298/.373/.503 in the upper minors and showed serious improvement in his strikeout rate. It's not so much that there's anything wrong with LaRoche, but when you eschew your top first base prospect to sign a guy with league average upside, that generally doesn't reflect well on the prospect. And despite being stuck in Triple-A, Allen did nothing but thrive. He improved upon his 2009 numbers, batting .261/.405/.528 despite a somewhat weak start to the season.
You'd think that Arizona's plan before last season was to give Allen another year in the minors by limiting the LaRoche contract to one year, right? At least, that's what I thought. And then this offseason happened. They went out and traded for Juan Miranda. They inked Xavier Nady. And then yesterday they put the cherry on top, signing Russell Branyan, too.
I've been a proponent of Allen's for a while now, and I've written as much on multiple occasions. And now that Branyan is in the fold, I'm even more confused as to why the Diamondbacks are so hesitant to commit to the former White Sox farmhand. Jonah Keri espoused similar sentiments last week on FanGraphs, and that was before the Branyan signing added to the confusion.
Nick Piecoro mentioned on Twitter that this latest move is yet another indication that Arizona doesn't see Allen as a fit, and he even mentioned the Rays as a team that's been high on him in the past. And frankly, if Arizona isn't willing to give Allen the playing time he's so clearly earned, they probably should look into dealing him. I'm not really sure why they're so motivated to play guys like Miranda, Branyan, Nady and Gerardo Parra over Allen, but this appears to be the reality. They don't appear to view Allen as a potential long-term solution, even though he's given many indications that he's capable. And frankly, I'd really like to find out if he's capable, regardless of whether that happens in the desert.
Like Jonah said ever so eloquently, it's really, really time to free Brandon Allen.