.173-hitting Don Kelly is playing fist base and batting sixth for the Tigers on Tuesday night, and manager Jim Leyland is way optimistic:
“I’m hoping for Donnie Kelly to maybe get one hit and one RBI,” Leyland said. “If he does that, I’ll be thrilled.”
Of course, it would be bucking the odds a bit. Kelly has started 159 games as a big leaguer and had a hit and an RBI in 39 of them, which works out to 24.5 percent of the time.
Tonight’s start will be Kelly’s first since he rejoined the Tigers over the weekend. After three years of continuous service, he was finally dropped from Detroit’s roster last month after hitting .173/.265/.240 with one homer and seven RBI in 104 at-bats this year. He’s a lifetime .230/.282/.345 hitter.
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.