Ryan Roberts was perhaps the most pleasant surprise in Arizona’s pleasantly surprising 2011 season, taking over as the team’s third baseman and finishing with 19 homers and 18 steals in 143 games.
Alas, an encore was not meant to be. The 31-year-old Roberts, who lost his starting job last month, was designated for assignment Tuesday after hitting .250/.306/.357 in 252 at-bats this season. The move made room for fellow infielder John McDonald to return from the DL. Given that Roberts had never shown so much power in previous seasons, the decline wasn’t much of a surprise. Plus, even during his breakthrough season, he hit a modest .249.
A trade is likely forthcoming. Roberts is due only about $900,000 over the rest of the season and he offers plenty of versatility (besides third base, he can play second and both corner outfield spots), so a few teams could be interested in bringing him in. The Rays and A’s would be among the logical destinations. The Tigers were also known to want him, but that was before they acquired Omar Infante yesterday.
Update: Roberts told MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert that the Diamondbacks informed him a trade is already on the one-yard line. It sounds like it could happen within the next 24 hours.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.