Today, we have a first in Phrontiersman history, a tortured metaphor that gets stretched over 2 posts. Last time, we were all about how my $25 dish chair from college was a good investment, just like discount-rack free agents would be for the Phillies.
Well, now I’m here to tell you about my Jason Mraz hat. And also baseball.
You know the little pork-pie hat that you see Jason Mraz wearing all the time? Well, I was in Target with Paul about a year ago and I came across a similar, though not identical hat. Now, I’m a big Jason Mraz fan. Not really because of his music; I just like the idea of Jason Mraz.
He’s just a sort of normal-looking guy with a wicked falsetto who sings about fun things with catchy melodies. I think he’s an excellent lyricist, one of the most clever (if not deep or particularly incisive) lyricists of our age. Let’s put it this way: if I had to answer the question of whose music I like more, Mraz or Win Butler of Arcade Fire, I’d say Win Butler. Who’s the better musician? Probably Win Butler. Whose career arc would I (Assuming I made it big as a rock star) like to emulate? Win Butler. But if I had to hang out or have a beer with one of the two, I’d take Jason Mraz every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
So, anyway, I think he’s all cool and froodlike, and Paul and I are standing in front of a hat similar to the one that he’s made his trademark. And I just sort of pick it up and put it on and say, “This is cool, but there’s no way I’m buying it.” Just for fun, I check the price tag. It’s one of those bargain-7th level of Hell orange tags for $3.76. So “No way” on the impulse purchase turned swiftly into “Fuck and Yes.”
Now, like the dish chair, it was cheap and really not all that important, but the Jason Mraz Hat was just a fun, nice thing to have.
The baseball analog of this hat is the minor league free agent (HT to FanGraphs for alerting me to the availability of such players). The minor league free agent is someone who’s washed out before making a serious impact in the major leagues. You invite them to training, give him a number in the 60s and see what happens. He never goes on the 40-man roster and if he sucks, you just cut him loose. Low risk for someone who could potentially be your fifth starter or utility infielder.
You can find a list of such people here (There are 536 in all, including three different Majewskis.) On the list you’ll find some interesting names: former Rutgers ace Bobby Brownlie; 2008 Olympians like Mike Koplove, Blaine Neal, and Terry Tiffee; and Nomar Garciaparra’s brother Michael. A few familiar names like Sal Fasano and J.D. Durbin. Also left-handed pitcher Jonathan Coutlangus, who is in no way historically significant, but his last name sounds like something else. About a third of these guys are people who had one or two good years and flamed out. Another third are prospects who never even made it to the majors, and the rest are Crash Davis types who star for years in the minor leagues and, for whatever reason, don’t get the call up to The Show. I’d wager that out of 536 minor league free agents, at least one will be a productive major league player next season.
So with so many players to choose from, on whom might the Phillies want to take a flyer?
Well, here are a few ideas.
Jolbert Cabrera–UTIL: Best known as Orlando’s big brother. Jolbert isn’t half the player that his kid brother is, but he can play every position on the field and hit better than Eric Bruntlett. After coming up with the Indians, Cabrera has been a journeyman, spending time in Japan. He was last seen in Cincinnati in 2008, dropping a .252/.310/.400 over 48 games, a better-than-replacement-value return, if only slightly. Those numbers are right in line with his career totals. Entering his age-37 season, he’s probably a one-year backup at best, but the Phillies aren’t after a star; they just need someone who’s better than Eric Bruntlett, which Cabrera is, and then some.
Orlando Mercado–C: You’ve probably never heard of him, but the Phils are in need of a backup catcher, and this guy OBP’d close to .400 in the high minors. He’s only 25, so there’s still room for improvement, but best of all, as a hitter, he’s an exact clone of Carlos Ruiz, with maybe a little more potential to hit for a high average. Why is this a good thing? Because it eliminates the temptation to platoon Chooch with Paul Bako, whose offensive ineptitude only went unnoticed last year because of the galactic scale of Eric Bruntlett’s suck. There, I’m going to make an Eric Bruntlett reference in every paragraph.
Chris Capuano–LHP: This guy you’ve heard of. Yes, it’s that Chris Capuano, the one who won 18 games for Milwaukee in 2005, then was never heard from again. That’s because in the spring of 2008, he had his second Tommy John surgery and has only pitched six professional games, all in rookie ball, since. In his prime, Capuano was a slider-change-up pitcher with just enough fastball to keep hitters honest.Good pickoff move, struck out between 7 and 8 per 9 innings, K/BB never below 2, FIP always a little over 4. Now, the Phillies only need a starter as Moyer insurance and to keep the seat warm for Kyle Drabek. While I’d rather have Scott Olsen, Capuano’s another low-risk guy who was undone by injuries and a rising BABIP and could pitch well if he’s healthy.
Now, in this day and age, Tommy John surgery, even two of them, is not a death sentence for a pitcher. For the cost of a hotel room in Clearwater and a few pairs of red socks, we could find out if he’s still capable of pitching effectively. Also Eric Bruntlett’s gone and I’m thrilled.
Tagg Bozied–1B/OF: Yes, since you asked, this is 110% because his name is awesome. But when you’re in the business of winning pennants, having Ben Francisco (or Eric Bruntlett) as your right-handed power bat off the bench is simply unacceptable. This dude, in the past 4 years, all at AAA, has never OPS’d below .800 and hit 24 and 26 home runs in his last two full seasons (he spent part of 2009 playing in Taiwan). This man is as spectacular as his name would suggest: he’s married to a pro volleyball player, he homered on his birthday three straight years, and he’s from South Dakota, my favorite state in the union (that’s a long story that will probably wind up as an extended metaphor at some point). The point is, he’s a right-handed power hitter who can play first base and take a walk. Now there are some players who go gangbusters at AAA and can’t make the jump to the majors, and others who hit at AAA and would hit in the majors if given a chance. I think this guy could be the one to give Ryan Howard the odd day off against lefties. And if he isn’t, you’re only out a few pairs of red socks and a hotel room in Clearwater.