On December 18, the Phillies announced through their transactions page that they signed Tony Gwynn, Dave Sappelt, Lou Marson, and Sean O’Sullivan to minor league deals. On that day, they also quietly signed RHP Chris Bootcheck and re-signed LHP Greg Smith to little fanfare. The news was first reported by Matt Eddy of Baseball America over an otherwise quiet holiday. Let’s take a quick look at what to expect from Bootcheck and Smith.
Bootcheck, 35, returned to the Majors in 2013 with the Yankees after missing the entire 2010 season and most of 2011 with injuries. After spending time in Triple-A Toledo in 2012, Bootcheck was converted back to a starter after signing with the Yankees and started 20 or more games for the first time since 2005. Bootcheck posted a 3.69 ERA with a 1.288 WHIP with a 10-7 record for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Bootcheck gave up one earned run on June 14 in his only appearance with the Yankees.
Smith, 30, was an outside candidate for an improbable call-up with the Phillies last year as a starting pitcher. Smith was signed on May 6 for depth at Reading as the Phillies scrambled to back-fill for Tom Cochran and Hector Neris, who both saw time at Reading and Lehigh Valley. Smith was quickly promoted and pitched well, going 8-4 with a 3.31 ERA with a 1.286 WHIP in Lehigh Valley. Smith nearly cracked the roster toward the end of the season when injuries took their toll on the Phillies rotation.
In terms of depth signings, there are very few ways to do it wrong. I really like the Phillies bringing Smith back into the fold – he pitched well in Reading and Lehigh Valley and is great depth to have with the Phillies thin rotation. Bootcheck is a little older and really struggles with walks (4.00 BB/9 IP in 148.1 MLB IP) – he will be fine minor league depth but I would not expect him to crack the Major League roster. Neither deal has a Major League camp invite, which is sort of surprising for Smith, so both players will spend most of camp on the minor league side.