By weighted on-base average (wOBA), Darin Ruf (.354) out-hit every Phillie except Chase Utley (.356). PECOTA, the projection system found at Baseball Prospectus, projects Ruf to be more valuable than All-Star Domonic Brown in 2014. And yet, most are expecting Ruf to start the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
It makes logical sense. The Phillies’ outfield is secure with Brown in left, Ben Revere in center, and Marlon Byrd in right. First base is also spoken for with Ryan Howard. Catcher Wil Nieves, infielder Kevin Frandsen, and outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. account for three of the likely five bench spots. Manager Ryne Sandberg sounded confident in giving infielder Freddy Galvis a spot on the bench, and GM Ruben Amaro has talked about his preference for a left-handed-hitting outfielder capable of backing up Revere in center. The Phillies also have 10 position player non-roster invitees. You can understand how it might be hard for the Phillies to find room on the roster for Ruf.
As Matt Gelb writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sandberg has thought about ways to use Ruf:
Ryne Sandberg has promised to use his bench players in an effort to keep everyone sharp while securing important rest for his aged regulars. When asked whether he could find 300 plate appearances for Ruf, the manager said: “That’s possible.”
He added: “I like him at first base depending on how things go. If we need a righthanded bat against lefthanded pitching, we have the lineup for that. That could be Ruf in left field. He could be at first base.”
Howard has for years been an ideal platoon partner given his proclivity to punish right-handed pitching and his abysmal — and continuously declining — performance against lefties. Ruf mashed lefties in the minors and, despite a small-sample fluke in 2013 where he hit right-handers well and lefties poorly, would be a good partner in crime at first base with Howard. Ruf’s defense is well below average in the outfield, so the Phillies have to try and limit his defensive opportunities as much as possible.
Gelb suggests the Phillies could cut Mayberry during spring training. Mayberry and Ruf on the same roster is redundant, but because Ruf has options and Mayberry doesn’t, Gelb argues this is one reason why the Phillies may prefer to have Ruf start the season at Triple-A.
Last summer we posted about Rafael Palmeiro coming out of retirement to play for the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters. The reason: to play a game with his boy Patrick. In that game the elder Palmeiro went 2-for-4 with an RBI, a walk, and a run scored. His son, who is now 26, went 2-for-4 with a grand slam.
Did that serve as an audition for Patrick? Possibly, as Jon Meloi of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles just signed him to a minor league deal.
As Meloi notes, it’s certainly just an organizational depth move, as Patrick is no prospect. And it’s actually likely something of a coincidence that it’s the Orioles who signed him, as Palmeiro doesn’t have any real contacts with the Orioles baseball operations people, all of whom are different folks now than back in his day.
This may not be the last of the Palmeiros, by the way. Peter Gammons tweeted this morning that Patrick’s younger brother, Preston, is a first baseman at North Carolina State who could be drafted this june. Gammons says he has a swing “remarkably similar to dad.”
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.
Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.
The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.
Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.
Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.