When I was a young, impressionable teenager watching SportsCenter, there was a phrase often uttered by Stuart Scott, and later repeated deadpan by Kenny Mayne: “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” I had no idea what that meant and, if we’re being perfectly honest, I still am a little shaky on the meaning. Since I have gotten a little more responsibility on the site recently, maybe it is now my responsibility to know what that phrase means.
Either way, there was a lot of uproar yesterday over the two moves that the Phillies made yesterday. In the first move, the Phillies signed sometimes starter, sometimes reliever Chad Gaudin to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Gaudin, 30, comes with significant recent recent baggage, but is coming off two of the best seasons of his career, including career lows in ERA and WHIP.
The other signing was 39-year old Bobby Abreu. Abreu, unlike Gaudin, hadn’t played in the Majors since 2012. Abreu, who played with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. on the 1998 Phillies, is seemingly in the twilight of his career. Sure, there is very little financial commitment, Abreu can opt out if he’s not on the Phillies by March 26, but the fact remains that Amaro signed one of the Phillies’ top, albeit unpopular, players from the years 1998 through 2006.
A lot of folks expressed their dismay of both signings on our Facebook page and our Twitter feed, placing the blame solely on Ruben Amaro Jr.. To those folks I say, don’t hate the player hate the game: yesterday’s moves weren’t half bad.
Let’s start with Gaudin: Gaudin turns just 31 and comes to a team void of a solidified fifth starter. The team currently features Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, and… well, that’s where it gets hazy. It’s not entirely clear what the plan is beyond those three. Sure, the team signed Roberto Hernandez and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, but to expect anything specifically from those two would be taking a shot in the dark. Meanwhile, it is unclear if Jonathan Pettibone will be healthy for the entire season. There were absolutely worse choices than Gaudin available.
Abreu, on the surface, provides less upside than Gaudin. But the veteran Abreu can provide value if he makes the team. A quick look at the Phillies current bench, which will likely be comprised of some sort of combination of Wil Nieves, Lou Marson, Kevin Frandsen, John Mayberry, Darin Ruf, Cesar Hernandez, and Freddy Galvis, reveals that the Phillies lack anyone who primarily hits left-handed. Abreu, in his worst season, had a higher OBP than any Phillie last year. There’s reason to believe that Abreu the pinch hitter and sporadic starter will be able to perform just as well.
While fans and observers alike have much reason to question the direction of the Phillies in 2014, these two moves represented a cunning shrewdness. As my colleague Corey Seidman pointed out over at CSN, if Gaudin and Abreu make the team out of camp, they will make less than John Mayberry.
So as you read through this, hold your frustration for one day. Both of these signings have the potential to improve the Phillies for 2014 and worse, if neither make the team, do nothing at all. The Phillies, at this point, don’t really have any young players that either player would be taking time away from in Spring games. These moves weren’t half bad.