Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mixed Signals

The Phillies signed Jayson Werth, traded Jeff Conine for nobody and nothing, and signed Rod Barajas.

Werth will be OK in the minor role they signed him to play. He can play all 3 outfield spots, run a little, and pop an occasional homer. For under a million bucks, that's a good deal.

Bringing in Barajas makes sense, too. He's an OK number 1 catcher, and will be pretty effective splitting the job with Carlos Ruiz.

Both of these moves provide further indication that, despite earlier pronouncements and various warning signs, the Phillies intend to compete for a playoff spot in 2007.

So why get rid of Conine? He's a good bench player whose strengths complement some of the weaknesses in the lineup. He plays all four corners at least adequately, and the Phillies are really going to struggle to be adequate defensively at the corners. In fact, he's a very good firstbaseman and could really make a difference there as a defensive substitute. He's a decent righthanded hitter who can get on base, and he's the kind of guy who will accept a role as a reserve. These are all small advantages, but when a team is seemingly obsessed with pitcher fielding, you'd think they would seek out any marginal improvement available.

Overall, the absence or presence of Conine isn't likely to be worth more than a game or two in the standings. But for under $2 million, why throw him away just because Jayson Werth can do some of the same things? The two players they got for Conine won't help at all in 2007, if ever, so why make the team weaker if the goal is to win this year?

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