The Phillies enter Spring Training with arguably more depth, both positionally and in the starting rotation, than any team in baseball. It doesn’t mean Ruben Amaro assembled the most talented bunch, pound for pound, but the Phils have enough quality bodies (really, Corey?) to push each other in an attempt to make the 25-man roster.
Two of Amaro’s better signings this Winter were Juan Pierre and Joel Pineiro to minor-league deals. MLBTradeRumors released its Top-10 Minor League Deals of the Off-season on Tuesday and Pierre and Pineiro checked in at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Fronting the list is Reds left-hander Jeff Francis.
As MLBTR founder Tim Dierkes notes, Pierre has declined but is still valuable, more so than Nate McLouth or Mark Kotsay, who were each given major league deals. And Pineiro, despite his ineffectiveness in Anaheim last season, is only a season removed from posting a 2.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a 55% ground ball rate, a 3.84 ERA and 2.5 wins above replacement in the tougher league.
Before the off-season started, MLBTR recognized Pierre as the 43rd-best available free agent and Pineiro as the 46th.
Pierre’s contract is non-guaranteed, though the expectation seems to be that he’ll make the Phils’ final roster as a fifth outfielder. Either way, the Phils snagged a useful bench piece for minimal risk, especially in comparison to Endy Chavez, McLouth and Kotsay, who each signed one-year deals for between $1.25-to-1.75 million.
Pineiro, meanwhile, probably won’t make the team unless a pitcher gets hurt in Spring Training. The Phils figure to carry a 12-man pitching staff of: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Worley, Blanton, Papelbon, Bastardo, Stutes, Qualls, Kendrick, Dontrelle and either Justin De Fratus or Jose Contreras.
When a semi-productive veteran can’t make a team out of camp, the two typical scenarios are:
A) He is cut and allowed to catch on with another team, or
B) An out-clause in his contract states that if he isn’t called up to the majors by a certain date, he is free to explore other opportunities.
It would probably behoove Pineiro to accept a starter’s role at Lehigh Valley if he doesn’t make the team, building up his arm strength and pitching regularly. If a Phillies starter goes down, he would get the first call. If the Phils’ staff maintains its health through the middle or end of May, he could be free to replace the injured starter of another team.
The fact that these scenarios even invite discussion is a good thing, it means that an older team like the Phillies is equipped to weather the injuries that have plagued them annually since 2009.