Shortstop Brian Dozier got the bad news after riding the pine for the second straight game Tuesday; the Twins sent him down and called up Pedro Florimon following the loss to the Tigers.
The timing is decidedly odd. There was plenty of reason to send Dozier down a month and a half ago — I even wrote an entry calling for it — but his play had improved a bit since. He was hitting .225/.249/.306 and had committed 11 errors in 45 games as of my writing. In 39 games since, he hit .245/.297/.364 with six errors.
Obviously, that’s still not the kind of performance the Twins were hoping for, but since it’s mid-August and rosters expand in 16 days anyway, it’s hard to tell what Minnesota’s motivation was here, unless maybe there was an off-the-field situation that factored into the thinking.
The switch certainly has nothing to do with Florimon’s performance. He’s hit .231/.274/.295 in 78 at-bats since the All-Star break for Triple-A Rochester, which is even worse than his overall .251/.308/.345 line in 307 at-bats for the season. He’ll be an upgrade defensively over Dozier, but he’s never going to hit. Odds are that he’ll serve as the backup to Jamey Carroll at shortstop.
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.