Juan Rivera has been mentioned as a candidate for acquisition. My candidate however would be from an American League team, a team that plays in the AL East, namely the Tampa Bay Rays. He is also switch hitter instead of just a straight righthander, which is a major plus for this line up as he can add the needed right handed at bats and still switch to the other side if he has to. He is also younger than Rivera by almost 2 years being 29. The biggest plus is, if Brown shows he is in fact ready during Spring Training or after some time in the minors he can play other positions. Where Rivera can only play the outfield corners and first, the person I would pursue could fill several holes on this team.
He has experience at second, shortstop, third, first, and all three outfield positions. His defense at the positions he plays is pretty sound for a guy who has moved around quite a bit during his career too. He is not a stone handed Dan Uggla at second if you put him there. He has shown some power with his bat and has a good batting eye, able to draw some walks. He also has decent base running instincts, another plus over Rivera. He runs the bases well and is able to steal a few. He had a regression offensively last year after a big 2009 which I will discuss below. I do think he will bounce back (especially getting to work with Charlie) and would be a very valuable bat both in the Phillies line up and in Citizens Bank Park. The versatility is really what makes me want to acquire him. Wilson Valdez has a nice glove and his offense was actually surprising, but as I have said before players like Valdez who have a career year late in their career as a utility guy often tend to step back to mediocre levels the next year. Players like Juan Castillo, Edwin Diaz, and Jorge Velandia all come to mind as players like Valdez. It would be good for Charlie to have options instead of being just locked into one person.
I am sure many have figured out that this player that I am speaking of is Ben Zobrist. As I said, Zobrist fits for many reasons. He is exactly the type of player the team needs. He can play for Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Ryan Howard, Dom Brown or Raul Ibanez in the event of injury or just needing a rest. If you are in a pinch he can even back up Victorino. He won’t have the range or glove of Victorino or Rollins, but as noted he won’t kill you either. With his ability to play so many spots he will definitely get his at bats. If he is not starting he gives you two good right handed pinch hitting options off of the bench with some power instead of just one in Ben Francisco. He also can give you a second left hand option with Ross Gload since he is a switch hitter as mentioned earlier. He has more value than a Rob Quinlan for the same slot because Quinlan can’t play the middle infield positions. He also has a better recent track record than Quinlan.
He won’t come cheap; Tampa will want some quality in return, but likewise, coming off a sub .700 Ops season he is not someone you will be trading Singleton, Cosart, Colvin, etc. for. Losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and most of their bullpen, Tampa is trying to rebuild while staying a contender in the tough AL East. They have outfield depth with Zobrist, BJ Upton, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Matt Joyce, and young prospect Desmond Jennings so it is not like losing Zobrist would kill Tampa’s outfield picture. It would also save them at least $4.5 million this year and money to Tampa is an issue. The only reason they signed Manny and Damon was because their prices came down enough that Tampa felt it was feasible to acquire them.
For the Phillies, his arbitration years were bought out so they would have control over him for 3 years at $4.5, $4.5, and $5 mil. There are 2 $7 mil years on the contract but they can be bought out at $2.5 mil in 2014 or 250k in 2015. The $4.5 in 2010 is actually cheaper than Juan Rivera’s $5.25 mil and you may lose Rivera as a free agent at the end of the season.
Barry Jeffrey Jr. writes “The Crow’s Nest” column for PSC.
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