In the summer of 2005, I was shopping with my dad for things I might need for my dorm in my freshman year of college. One afternoon, we were in Target and found a dish chair that was big enough to use as an easy-chair, but it folded almost completely flat and was light enough to carry around. We bought it for, I think, $25. Now, in terms of things I needed for college, that was relatively minor. My guitars were a bigger deal, as was my laptop, and my Xbox. Really, I’d say that there were about 15-20 bigger or more expensive things that contributed more to my collegiate experience than that dish chair.
However, because the dish chair was useful and easily moved I still use it every day of my life to this day. It’s this kind of spur-of-the-moment, low-cost purchase that could be the difference between another pennant for the Phillies and watching the Revenge of the Mets next year.
You see, the Phillies are going to college, and Chase Utley’s their laptop, Ryan Howard is the microfridge, and Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth are the TV and Xbox. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are the guitars, becuase they’re noisy and a lot of fun. Ryan Madson and J.A. Happ can be the extra-long bedsheets.
But which scrap-heap free agent is going to be the dish chair? MLBTradeRumors.com (thanks for the link and bump today, btw) published a list of potential non-tendered free agents. These guys are going to be availiable and cheap this offseason, so instead of making that big trade, why not pick up one of these guys?
Scott Olsen, LHP–I know it’s probably bad juju for the two-time defending NL champions to go after a guy who got non-tendered by the Nationals. Olsen’s a guy I’ve liked for a long time. He’s essentially J.A. Happ with no luck and no control: a tall, fastball-slider lefty who gives up more fly balls than ground balls. Olsen, who will only be 26 on opening day, has essentially had two good years and two abysmal years in the major leagues, and 2009 was one of the latter. He spent half the year in the minors and the other half giving up 11 home runs in 62 2/3 innings with the Nats, good for a 6.08 ERA and a 0.1 WAR. But remember that part about the no luck. In his two abysmal years, Olsen’s BABIPs were .350 and .348, respectively. Now, Cole Hamels had a BABIP of about that this year and pitched much better, but we’re not talking about Cole Hamels. We just need someone to come and keep the 5th starter’s spot warm until Kyle Drabek comes up either next year or in 2011. Now, Olsen can most likely be had for a minor-league deal, and as Jamie Moyer insurance, I can’t think of a good reason not to sign him.
Maybe playing for a winning team with a great offense in front of him and a great defense behind him will inspire Olsen to recapture the form that allowed him to win 12 games and strike out 166 batters in 180 innings in 2006 for an awful Marlins team. If not, what has it cost us?
Mike Fontenot, INF—I’ve argued in this space before that trading for Fontenot wouldn’t be a half-bad idea, mostly on the basis that he’s not Eric Bruntlett. But the Phillies need a guy who can back up all 3 non-1b infield positions to spell an aging Utley, Rollins, and whichever AL player winds up manning third next season. Where Bruntlett was a mediocre defender and the worst offensive player I’ve ever seen, Fontenot is, well, not. Career OPS of .761 in 968 plate appearances next season for a guy who plays mediocre defense. And while he did hit .235 with a few (but not many) walks and no power last year, he is only one year removed from OPS-ing over .900 in 119 games in relief of Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez, good for a 3-win season. I’d like very much for the Phillies to employ this man next season, particularly if he can be had on the cheap. It’s been…well, since Mariano Duncan since the Phillies had a utility infielder who was worth a crap.
Jusin Miller, RHP—Now, the Phillies need another reliever or six, and I think that while closers and 8th-inning guys are worth shelling out for, the Chad Durbins, Clay Condreys, and Tyler Walkers of the world are more or less interchangeable. I really wanted Bill Bray, the lefty out of Cincinnati, but he’s on the scrap heap for a reason: he’s just not very good. Though it would have been cool to hand off from someone named after something that a donkey does (Bray) to a guy named after something that a car does (Park). The Phillies bullpen could have traced the evolution of transportation. Miller’s another guy who’s been around the block. He even had a brief spell in the Phillies’ farm system in 2007 before landing with the Marlins and, ultimately, the Giants. Miller was awful as an up-and-coming cuy in Toronto, but in the past three seasons, he’s never pitched fewer than 46 2/3 innings and never had an ERA of over 4.24.
What is worrying is that last year, when he posted a 3.18 ERA in 56 2/3 innings in San Francisco, he somehow had a 4.91 FIP and was below replacement level. In fact, in the past 3 years, his FIP has gone from 3.08 in 2007 to 4.91 in 2009, and his K/9 has been cut nearly in half. Since he’s 32, this could be the beginning of a decline, but Bill James projects him to bounce back somewhat, to a 4.42 FIP and 7.74 K/9.
The biggest reason to sign Miller, however, is that he is required by Major League Baseball to wear long sleeves on the mound at all times. The reason: his arms are so tatted-up that the tattoos distract the hitter. Pretty badass, huh?
So keep poking around for that big-name Figgins or Halladay appearance, sportsfans. I’ll be looking at the non-tendered free agents, because one of them might be the best $25 the Phillies ever spent.