Mike Sweeney to Fill the Howard Void

Todd Zolecki, via Twitter:

Phillies acquire first baseman Mike Sweeney from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Since Ryan Howard was placed on the disabled list, Sweeney’s role is to help the Phillies bridge the gap. At one point in his career (1999-2002), Sweeney was an extremely productive hitter but chronic back problems and two knee surgeries limited him to under 1,000 plate appearances from 2006-09.

This year, in 110 PA with the Seattle Mariners, Sweeney hit for a 118 OPS+ which is exactly at his career average. His ISO is as high as it has been since 2005 with the Royals and his walk rate is as high as it has been since ’06. But wait, there’s more! Sweeney has been tearing it up for Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma. Last night, he had three hits in four at-bats, including two home runs and four RBI. Overall, he has a 1.054 OPS in 50 PA during his rehab assignment.

Defensively, Sweeney likely leaves a lot to be desired as he has almost exclusively been a designated hitter. Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner, who has watched Sweeney since the start of last season, doesn’t see Sweeney working out too well at first base. Via Twitter, he wrote:

With no malice intended towards Sweeney, do Phillies really think he can play the field? He hurt himself every time he tried this year.

He physically can’t do it. Not kidding – he plays the field, the next day he’s unavailable.

Given the Phillies’ rash of injuries, the addition of Sweeney could potentially add more heartache to a rough season.

Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports via Twitter that Charlie Manuel intends to use Sweeney as the everyday first baseman. Sweeney does not have much of a platoon split: .824 OPS against left-handers and .864 against right-handers. I have seen a lot of people wondering why there won’t be a platoon with Sweeney and Ross Gload, but it won’t make much of a difference. Gload is actually hitting lefties much better this year and his career OPS against right-handed pitchers is a lot lower than Sweeney’s.

All told, this is a low-risk (virtually no-risk) move that could end up rewarding the Phillies greatly. Even if Sweeney does not emulate Ryan Howard — and no one is expecting him to — he is a solid upgrade over Cody Ransom and Greg Dobbs, the two other options aside from Gload who could play first base.

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12 comments

  1. Mike P

    August 04, 2010 04:57 PM

    Additionally, assuming he survives his stint at first base, Sweeney could be a useful bat off the bench down the stretch.

  2. Phylan

    August 04, 2010 04:59 PM

    Right, but he’s not really an upgrade over Gload, so I just don’t see the point.

  3. Bill Baer

    August 04, 2010 05:03 PM

    Think about it this way: He’s a lot better than the worst guy on the bench. So he’s pushing Cody Ransom (or more likely John Mayberry) out. If we put them at, say, a .725 OPS and Sweeney’s an .800 OPS guy, that’s a decent upgrade, especially for almost no cost.

  4. Mike P

    August 04, 2010 05:16 PM

    @ Bill

    Now that’s a line of thinking I can get behind. The DH could be him, or it could be that mysterious Dom Brown guy you occasionally hear about in the Phillies blogosphere :)

    That is, of course, assuming that the rest of the team gets and stays healthy. These days, that feels like a big assumption.

  5. Racci

    August 04, 2010 10:15 PM

    The Phillies have needed a righthanded bat for several years now. Even during the world series championship year. If he survives at 1B for 2 weeks we will be glad we have him.

  6. Nate

    August 05, 2010 02:27 AM

    Great points Bill.

    The reality is that this team has faced an insane amount of adversity through injuries this year but they just keep bouncing back. Despite Charlie’s weaknesses, he knows what buttons to push and I think he knows that the Sweeney would relish an opportunity to play in October (and November depending on Bud Selig’s mood).

  7. wes

    August 05, 2010 10:58 AM

    lol this guy is not gonna play in the playoffs

  8. Lee

    August 05, 2010 12:26 PM

    Who is this Dom Brown you guys keep talking about?
    Seriously though, I think all this hype and hoopla might be bad for Dom…

  9. CH Phan

    August 05, 2010 12:28 PM

    Wow, with the Domonic Brown stuff. He isn’t the savior everyone wanted him to be, and he couldn’t be. He doesn’t hit everything, he’s made an error or two in RF & his accuracy is a bit off. But he’s fine & will likely be great. Do you think he’s going to stay humble & cheap? Uh, I don’t think so.

    I understand what you’re saying about Sweeney, Bill. My question is why spend any money when the FO has made a real issue of saying ‘we don’t have the money’ so often? We couldn’t get where we’re going w/o spending on this iffy guy? Is everyone so afraid we won’t have the full team, or a full healthy team in order to make it past Atlanta or beyond?

  10. dino

    August 07, 2010 01:54 AM

    I know it’s only his first game with the Phillies, but I was pretty amazed at how well Sweeney played tonight. I knew he was a line drive hitter with a sweet stroke, but his base running in the 8th when he went to 3rd on the soft single to center seemed to change that inning. And, he made a great play in the field on that grounder in that gap. Smart player, great instincts- Phillies need that !!

  11. David

    August 08, 2010 02:46 AM

    If Sweeney stays healthy he should be remain useful by giving Howard days off and making sure that Howard doesn’t re-injure himself.

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