After three seasons in Washington the Nationals weren’t interested in bringing back Willie Harris and he apparently didn’t get any major-league offers thanks to a .183 batting average last year, so the 33-year-old utility man has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets.
Prior to falling apart last season Harris was a very useful spare part for the Nationals and Braves from 2007-2009, posting a nice .352 on-base percentage in 1,208 plate appearances while stealing 41 bases and playing everywhere but catcher and first base defensively.
Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com calls Harris “a decided favorite to make the team” despite being on the minor-league deal, but he’ll have to compete for a bench spot in spring training with guys like Chin-lung Hu, Luis Hernandez, Justin Turner, and Russ Adams.
Washington is expected to pursue Jerry Hairston Jr. as their utility man replacement for Harris.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.