The Phillies signed outfielder Willy Taveras to a minor-league deal Thursday. Taveras will report to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to replace DeWayne Wise, another veteran outfielder that the team had signed prior to the 2010 season.
Wise had an opt-out clause that allowed him to seek free agency if he did not find himself on the Phillies 25-man roster by June 1.
At least this writer wholeheartedly supports the Taveras signing. Willy adds very little with the stick, but he has a ton of speed, great range in the outfield, and a cannon for an arm.
Taveras has played all three outfield positions but is primarily a centerfielder. He began his career in Houston where he posted exceptional Ultimate Zone Ratings (UZRs) of 9.8 and 20.3 in his two full seasons at Minute Maid Park and its spacious center field.
As with nearly every outfielder that has ever played in the unique atmosphere of Colorado, the metrics didn’t favor Taveras at Coors Field, but he went right back to being an extremely productive defensive centerfielder after leaving Colorado for Cincinnati.
As a point of reference, note that Taveras and Shane Victorino have each played very close to 5,000 innings in the outfield in their respective big league careers, and Taveras has been worth exactly 3 more runs above replacement defensively than Victorino.
Taveras More Deserving than Dobbs
In my humble opinion, I believe Willy Taveras should have a spot on this major league roster sooner than September. The Phillies bench has been downright awful, hitting .221/.262/.291 in 351 collective plate appearances, and, if you can fathom it, the unit has been even worse than that.
The bench has hit into 11 double plays (Wilson Valdez has eight by himself) and, to make matters worse, Greg Dobbs, Ross Gload, and Ben Francisco have all been very shaky in the field.
Before the season started, I noted that signing Ross Gload made Greg Dobbs redundant and obsolete.You don’t need three left-handed hitting bench bats. Most teams don’t even have two.
Sure, we should applaud Dobbs for leading the NL in pinch-hits during the 2008 season, but since then he has hit .221/.276/.351 with 15 extra-base hits in 228 plate appearances.
Dobbs may have gone 22-for-62 as a pinch-hitter in 2008, but he has been 10-for-74 in that role since 2009 began, and there are no existing evidentiary signs that show us that the 2008 Greg Dobbs is more real than the ’09 and ’10 versions.
Taveras may not provide much value with his bat this season, but neither has Dobbs. Bringing up Taveras would at least give the Phils a bench player with exceptional speed to use as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement.
If you can recall all the way back to the third game of the season, a game with the Nationals was lost late because the Phillies did not have any viable pinch-running options for the slow-footed Dobbs, who couldn’t score from first on a two-out double to right field in the 8th inning of a tie game. The Phils went on to lose 6-5. This is an example of why a pinch-runner is necessary.
Call me crazy, but I’ll take defensive value and baserunning value over no value at all.