November 21, 2011
While other teams are overspending for defensive-minded middle infielders not likely to advance them up the standings, the Philadelphia Phillies have expertly acquired a decent piece of corner infield insurance at a very affordable rate.
As first reported by Fox Sports' Jon Morosi on Sunday afternoon, the Phillies will receive Ty Wigginton(notes) from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for a marginal prospect to be named later or a sum of cash to be determined later. So next to nothing in terms of baseball value is lost, and they'll be splitting Wigginton's $4 million salary.
Basically, the Phillies just signed Ty Wigginton for one year at $2 million, which means they will pay him about 40 percent of Clint Barmes'(notes) average salary with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Different needs? Yes. Different markets? Yes again. But this deal for Philadelphia really illustrates the difference between an organization understanding what it needs to stay in the hunt and how to acquire it reasonably, and another organization without much of a plan to get over the hump.
But I won't harp on the Barmes signing any further.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro would obviously like Wigginton to split time with Jim Thome(notes) at first base until Ryan Howard(notes) returns from his torn Achilles' tendon, and to spell Placido Polanco(notes) at third. He will not be a defensive upgrade at those positions — well, maybe to Thome — but he can stand where you need him to and will surprise occasionally with a nifty stab.
Some like to call him the poor man's Michael Cuddyer(notes) due to his versatility and "ability" to play the corner outfield. I won't go all the way there, because I've seen Wigginton in the outfield (photo above) and feel no one else should be subjected to that. Keep him in the infield and continue pursuing the real Michael Cuddyer.
There's also a debate to be had about whether or not Ty Wigginton is still good enough offensively. He clearly was not in his lone season with Colorado, producing a .242/.315/.416 line. He was even worse with runners in scoring position, hitting a meager .163. He won't last long in Philly if that continues, but barring a Garrett Atkins(notes)-like career collapse, all of those numbers are bound to come up.
As David Martin of Rockies Review points out, Wigginton struggled readjusting to (or refused to accept) becoming a role player in the National League after spending two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, and never altered his approach for situational plate appearances. I think that's an accurate assessment of Wigginton's down season. Perhaps some regular playing time early, before being eased into a bench role when the Phillies get healthy, would help him get into a better offensive mindset.
If not, it's only one year and it's only $2 million. There is a club option worth $4 million in 2013, but should Philly choose to not exercise it, Colorado would be on the hook for the $500,000 buyout. The risk is minimal in this market, and the reward is being a deeper, better baseball team. I like the deal for Philadelphia.
I don't mind it for Colorado, either. Sure it leaves them with a rather unimpressive group to compete for playing time at third base. That group currently includes former can't miss prospects Ian Stewart(notes) and recently signed Brandon Wood(notes) — both of whom have done nothing but miss — and 25-year-old Jordan Pacheco(notes) — an average hitting catching prospect that is being transitioned into a utility role — among other marginal options.
That's the bad news.
The good news: Third base prospect Nolan Arenado (right) — who tore up at High A Modesto with 20 home runs and 122 RBIs — capped off his standout season with an MVP campaign in the Arizona Fall League. The 20-year-old is on the fast track, and whoever settles into the position in 2012 probably won't be needed in 2013.
They'll also save $2 million that could be used to fill any number of openings.
It's a sensible deal for both sides. At best it's a short-term win-win. At worst it's forgotten by May.