Under the Amaroscope: Stop Devaluing Your Bench

When it comes to filling out his team’s roster with depth, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro proves once again he’s too shallow to understand who has “the goods.” For the second consecutive offseason, he has overlooked a veteran presence in the clubhouse, a guy who can get on base, play a variety of infield positions well, is considered a “gamer” in the eyes of many MLB analysts and who, by the way, fits nicely in the Phillies budget.

Ryan Theriot remains on the free agent market as of January 31st. In mid-January, CBSSports.com said the Phillies were among the teams to show interest in Theriot. Ruben’s signing of free-agent infielder Yuniesky Betancourt to a minor league contract on January 28th pretty much eliminates the possibility that Theriot will be a Phillie in 2013.

For comparison’s sake, here are two sets of statistics. If you were a GM, which set of statistics would you rather have on your team as a bench / reserve player:

  • .281/.341/.350 (Career)
  • 17 Career Home Runs (0 in 2012)
  • 95 hits in 104 games played in 2012
  • 5-for-18 as pinch hitter in 2012
  • .984 fielding % 2B in 324 games played (Career)
  • .972 fielding % SS in 530 games played (Career)
  • .710 stolen base percentage (Career)
  • 2012 Salary: $1.25 Million

  • .266/.290/.392 (Career)
  • 67 Career Home Runs (7 in 2012)
  • 49 hits in 57 games played in 2012
  • 1-for-5 as pinch hitter in 2012
  • .980 fielding % 2B in 55 games played (Career)
  • .969 fielding % SS in 949 games played (Career)
  • .500 stolen base percentage (Career)
  • 2012 Salary: $2.00 Million

The first set of statistics belongs to Ryan Theriot; the second belongs to Yuniesky Betancourt. Aside from the power numbers, Theriot’s body of work is better than Betancourt’s. Theriot is due for a raise this year and, in that scenario, he would still make less than Betancourt’s 2012 salary.

Hindsight is 20/20 though, right? That proverb works if it happens once. This offseason was the third time that Ruben said “thanks but no thanks” to Mr. Theriot. The second time Ruben passed over Theriot was just before the 2012 season. MLBTradeRumors.com reported the Phils’ interest in March. The Phils ended up signing another Giant, Mike Fontenot, in May. While he hit .289 for the Phils, he also committed a total of 5 errors in 29 games filling in at second and third base. It was hard for him to find playing time after that stretch. The above MLBTradeRumors.com posting has some interesting, though not surprising, bits for Phillies fans:

“Theriot, 32, will earn $1.25MM this season while the 31-year-old Fontenot will make $1.05MM …The former LSU teammates both have experience all over the infield, though Fontenot hits for more power while Theriot is a batting average, stolen base guy.”

So again Ruben chose the cheaper, better power hitter over the slightly more expensive contact hitter with better-than-average glove, and he lost. The Phillies released Fontenot while Theriot helped the Giants to their second World Series title in three years.

The first time Ruben passed over Theriot was coming off the 2011 season when he was a member of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. If Ruben was at least half-awake during that postseason, he would have remembered Theriot for his 4-hit game against his Phils in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.

Theriot went 6-for-10 against the Phils but had only 2 hits in his final 23 at-bats of the postseason. Given his impending free agent status and his series against the Phils, though, Ruben should have at least engaged in a conversation with him and his agent to see where they were stood regarding a new contract.

But this is what Ruben does: he’d rather make a big free-agent splash than do some advanced scouting. Sure, it would be great to field an entire team of only Ryan Howards and Chase Utleys, but that’s not reality. I’m not a GM but I know you also need scrappy guys who play the game with heart, with a chip on their shoulder, like they know they could be sent to the minors tomorrow in favor of a younger, hungrier rookie ready to make his mark on the game.

Signing Mike Fontenot does not qualify as a free-agent splash and I’m not implying if he chose Theriot over Fontenot that the Phillies would have won the World Series in 2011 or 2012. Theriot was merely a role player on two different teams already loaded with offensive superstars: Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, David Freese, Pablo Sandoval, Aubrey Huff, and Buster Posey among them.

What I am saying is if Ruben keeps passing over gritty, contact hitters for the bench in favor of swing-and-miss sluggers, what else can he expect but failure? I’ll wait to see how it all plays out but signing Yuniesky Betancourt to any baseball contract is not an indication Ruben knows who has “the goods.”

What do you think? Do the Phillies need to upgrade their bench? Would Ryan Theriot be an upgrade to the bench? Are you satisfied with the current bench players heading into Spring Training? Leave a comment below.

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One thought on “Under the Amaroscope: Stop Devaluing Your Bench

  1. Pingback: Better Gauge Players’ Value To Avoid Overpaying | Section 426

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