After hitting .256/.311/.430 in 1,573 at-bats over seven seasons with the Tigers, Ryan Raburn had to settle for a minor league contract in the offseason. A few charmed months later, he’s now making guaranteed money through 2015, courtesy of the two-year, $4.85 million extension he signed with the Indians on Wednesday.
There’s no denying that the 32-year-old Raburn has been one of the league’s best role players this season; he’s hitting .277/.370/.565 with 13 homers and 38 RBI in 184 at-bats. He’s not just doing it against lefties, either; he’s hit .257/.347/.523 with eight homers in 109 at-bats against right-handers.
Still, there’s little to suggest this has been any sort of real breakthrough for Raburn. His strikeout rate is a bit higher than his career average. His line drive rate is, too, but only a bit. He’s been more selective than ever before, and it’s helped his walk rate. But much of his success is built on every one of his four flyballs leaving the yard, and that’s just not sustainable. According to hittrackeronline.com, Raburn is one of two players in baseball to have four “lucky homers” this year. His last two homers, coming Aug. 1 against the White Sox, were both wind-aided and wouldn’t have left the yard under normal conditions.
This is also my least favorite type of contract: multiyear deals for part-time players go bad far more often than not. Ask the Cardinals about Ty Wigginton and the Phillies about Laynce Nix. It’s not even about the money; often it turns out to be a waste of a roster spot on a player who doesn’t deserve it.
All of that said, I don’t have much of a problem with the Indians’ signing here. I don’t believe that Raburn will keep this up in 2014, but he’s been a good part-time player more often than he’s been a bad one in his career. Also, the Indians always figure to have use for him with left-handed hitters Michael Bourn and Michael Brantley due to occupy starting spots in the outfield for the next few years.
Little good can come from extending a player at the peak of his value, and that’s exactly what the Indians did here with Raburn. But the money is so modest anyway that this mostly comes down to whether Raburn will still be worth a bench spot in 2015, the final year of the deal. I’m guessing he will be.
Domonic Brown went 3-for-5 with a homer last night in his first (and it turns out last) minor-league rehab game. Today the Phillies activated him from the seven-day concussion disabled list.
Brown has been sidelined since hitting his head on the ground going for a diving catch on July 23 and just started swinging a bat again Thursday, but passed multiple concussion tests within the past week.
Brown was having a breakout season before the brain injury, hitting .271 with 24 homers and an .847 OPS in 99 games at age 25 after failing to appear in more than 60 games for the Phillies in any of the three previous seasons. To make room for his return the Phillies designated Laynce Nix for assignment with two months remaining on his two-year, $2.5 million deal.
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, dealing with an ailing knee for quite some time, has at long last been placed on the disabled list. To fill his vacant space on the 25-man roster, the Phillies have recalled Darin Ruf from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Both pieces of news come via Matt Gelb on Twitter. Ruf is expected to join the team at some point during the game tonight, and as a result, Laynce Nix will get the start at first base tonight against Braves starter Tim Hudson.
Howard hit a home run yesterday but was visibly struggling to move, both while circling the bases and while playing at first base and it has been an ongoing problem all season long. Nevertheless, he has hit well at times and is overall comfortably above the league average with a .784 OPS.
Ruf, after leading the Eastern League (Double-A) with 38 home runs last season, has struggled for most of the 2013 season in Triple-A. He has hit just seven home runs and posted a .752 OPS. His last home run came on June 19 against the Toledo Mud Hens.
The Phillies defeated the Marlins 2-1 this afternoon behind a strong start by Roy Halladay. The right-hander allowed just the one run on five hits and a walk with just two strikeouts. Laynce Nix pinch-hit for Halladay in the top of the 9th and broke the 1-1 tie with a solo home run, putting the veteran in line for his 200th victory. Jonathan Papelbon nailed down the save, allowing Halladay to become the 112th pitcher in baseball history to earn 200 or more career victories.
Halladay struggled in his first two starts, allowing 12 runs in 7.1 innings of work, but was able to right the ship at least for one day against the Marlins. All along, Halladay has insisted his problems were mental and not physical, despite mechanical changes, a drop in velocity, and an altered approach.
Always businesslike, Halladay was in no mood to celebrate the milestone:
Delmon Young has been playing extended spring training games and could be cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment as soon as this weekend, according to Adam Berry of MLB.com.
Young, who normally does anything he can to avoid giving useful quotes to anyone, actually talked to Berry a little bit about his status coming back from ankle surgery:
I felt fine, glad to get back out there. It’s extended [spring camp] and everything, but it’s fun. It brings a lot more out of you, even though you’re not using to playing in 1 o’clock games every day outside spring training.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was in attendance watching Young, but this time he was the one who declined to give any comments. Either way, Young is seemingly pretty close to joining the Phillies’ lineup and he’ll be playing right field whenever that happens, which will mean reduced playing time for Laynce Nix and John Mayberry.