Phillies Deal for Ty Wigginton

While Philadelphians were getting ready to watch Sunday Night Football between the Eagles and Giants, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. continued to add to the 2012 roster by trading for utilityman Ty Wigginton from the Colorado Rockies. Wigginton is entering the second year of a two-year, $8 million deal signed prior to last season, providing a cheap plug at the various holes the Phillies still have, particularly at first base and left field, as well as their need for a capable back-up infielder.

The Phillies had previously been linked with free agent Michael Cuddyer, formerly of the Minnesota Twins. Signs seem to indicate that Cuddyer is seeking a contract similar to the one the Phillies gave to Raul Ibanez prior to the 2009 season (three years, $31.5 million). By comparison, the Wigginton trade allows the Phillies to accomplish nearly as much while spending very little — various reports said the Phillies would be sending either a player to be named later or cash. Buster Olney reports that the Phillies are eating half of Wigginton’s remaining salary for the 2012 season. Wigginton also has an option for 2013 worth $4 million with a $500,000 buy-out. Essentially, the Phillies can get two years out of Wigginton if he produces, and if he doesn’t, they have a very cheap escape route.

On the surface, the Wigginton trade seems quite good, but there are a couple of red flags. The first is his defense. No matter what metrics you use, or even if you use your eyes only, there is just no way to speak highly of his defense. Versatile as he is, he does not play above-average defense at any position, infield or outfield. If you buy into UZR, he has been worth -77.3 defensive runs since 2002, or roughly -7.5 wins. His career WAR is 6.6. Essentially, if he had simply played average defense, he would be more than twice as valuable as he is currently. Even rWAR (Baseball Reference) speaks poorly of his glove work, putting him at four wins below replacement over the last three years, speaking solely about his defense.

Additionally, Wigginton’s offense has been nothing to write home about recently. Wigginton posted a .370 wOBA in 2008 with the Houston Astros which put him on the map. After signing with the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent, his wOBA dropped to .311 in ’09 and .316 in ’10. Wigginton signed with the Colorado Rockies last year, but he didn’t fare any better, posting a .322 wOBA while playing half his games at Coors Field.

The general consensus seems to be that Wigginton will spend some of his playing time — as much as half or more — at first base. If that turns out to be the case, Wigginton will have to improve with the bat to justify his playing time. The average National League first baseman had a .350 wOBA last season. However, even if Wigginton posts a .320 wOBA in 250 PA at first base, he will only be a half-win worse than a league-average first baseman given the same amount of plate appearances. Meanwhile, in 2011 the average third baseman posted a paltry .314 wOBA and the average left fielder was at .332. Wigginton at his worst is about average between the two positions. Depending on where he spends the remainder of his time, he can give the Phillies exactly what they paid for. At the price of $2 million, he only has to produce about a half-win above a replacement-level player to justify his spot on the 25-man roster.

Obviously, versatility is the big draw. It was specifically what drew the Phillies to Cuddyer as well. The Phillies have two items on their itinerary: find a shortstop and figure out Cole Hamels‘ future. With limited payroll flexibility, the Phillies also had to address the less-pressing needs with the roster, but the Wigginton acquisition can kill many birds with one stone. Not only can he play first base, perhaps as part of a two- or three-headed monster, but he can spell Placido Polanco at third base and play in left field. Of course, a Plan B in the event of an injury is also nice to have, so Wigginton is not a bad back-up plan in the event things head south the way they have in each of the past two seasons.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the trade is that it saves the Phillies from signing Cuddyer to a very ill-advised multi-year contract. As mentioned, the prevailing thought is that Cuddyer is seeking a contract similar to the one Ibanez got several years ago, which is too much money for an aging, one-dimensional (even if versatile) player. Wigginton is not as potent with the bat as Cuddyer, but the difference between being on the hook for $2 million for one year (potentially $6 million for two years) is a lot better than $30 million over three years.

Compared to other realistic options for the Phillies, the Wigginton acquisition looks good. He will not contend for the NL MVP award, but his cost relative to his production will be better than anything else the Phillies could have done. Chalk one up for Smuggy.

Leave a Reply

*

42 comments

  1. Danny

    November 21, 2011 08:09 AM

    I think you should have added his platoon splits. He will be able to complement Jim Thome off the bench and get spot starts against lefty pitchers.

    OPS 91 pts higher last year against lefties, about 50 points higher for his career. Getting that piece for $2 million in 2012 isn’t so bad, considering he can play the field more than Thome.

    Mostly bench and the occasional start is where Raul Ibanez should have played last year, and now Wigginton gets slotted into his appropriate role. Doesn’t add much, but might add a little if used correctly.

  2. Danny

    November 21, 2011 08:11 AM

    2011:

    vs. RHP: .235/.292/.413 in 319 PA
    vs. LHP: .259/.370/.426 in 127 PA

    Career:

    vs. RHP: .261/.313/.437 in 3238 PA
    vs. LHP: .274/.353/.461 in 1288 PA

  3. Brian

    November 21, 2011 09:53 AM

    I dont mind the move at all. We should forget about Cuddyer and go after a guy who has speed and can play the OF.

    Why overpay for players in a thin market? You cant make people appear who aren’t available.

    With ~19 million to spend, I would try to lock up Hamels, not overpay for Rollins, get a cheap speedy OF and two relievers (one being a LOOGY)

  4. JB Allen

    November 21, 2011 10:08 AM

    Seems like a decent move. Would the idea be to platoon Thome and Wigginton at first base until Howard returns, or is Howard still scheduled to return in April?

  5. LTG

    November 21, 2011 11:24 AM

    Platooning Wiggy and Thome at 1B would be great but I don’t think Thome can play the field regularly enough to do it as a strict platoon. He’ll only be good for a couple of starts per week, and the other games will pit Wiggy against RHP more often than not.

  6. Bliz

    November 21, 2011 11:56 AM

    This is mostly just out of curiousity, but does Thome really hurt you that much defensively at first base? Is there a significant difference between Thome and a healthy Howard defensively? For that matter, what is the actual value differential between the best defensive first baseman and an average one (or even a bad one)? I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine the difference is that huge.

  7. JB Allen

    November 21, 2011 12:24 PM

    Bliz – I’ve been wondering about this. How is it that Wigginton’s dWAR has been worse than Jeter’s? Not that I think Wigginton is a better fielder than Cap’n Jetes, but that I think a shortstop’s glove matters more. Is that not the case, or is Wigginton just plain awful? Or is it that Wigginton is really bad at the other positions he plays?

  8. Phillie697

    November 21, 2011 12:42 PM

    Just because a 1B’s glove isn’t the focus of most people and teams doesn’t mean a GOOD defensive 1B can’t save you a lot of runs. Would you discount the defense of a good 3B? Then why would you discount the defense of a good 1B? A 1B, when no one is on base, is essentially a 3B on the other side of the infield, except he doesn’t have to have a strong arm.

    The reason why traditional 1B have bad defense is because by the system of priority of putting your best defenders at the most important position first, you end up with some pretty crappy defenders at 1B, probably the least important defensive position on the field (well, other than pitcher). That doesn’t mean that if you happen to have a good defender that you can place at 1B, that player won’t be able to contribute significantly to saving runs. Put Polanco at 1B, I am pretty damn sure he’ll play some excellent defense there too and save some runs, except of course, we rather have his defensive skills at 3B, where he can save more runs.

    @JB Allen,

    Ahm… Exactly what is your question? If you think a SS’s glove matters more, then why is it a surprise that Wigginton’s dWAR is worse than Jeter’s? Jeter IS a shortstop last I checked, no? If you’re making some assumptions, make them clear.

  9. Phillie697

    November 21, 2011 12:55 PM

    @BB,

    I don’t know if I’d praise this trade as much as you do. Yes, nice to have a versatile player, but the point of Cuddyer was that by his offense alone he wouldn’t have been a drag on the team when he plays even if his defense sucks. Wigginton, not so much. If all we wanted was a versatile bench player who can’t hit, we can probably pick up a minimum-salary player nobody’s heard of who will probably be just as productive overall. A .310-ish wOBA is just awful, and that’s basically what he is for 3 years running now (factoring in a Coors Field discount). 2008 is a long time ago.

    Glad this means we won’t be wasting money on Cuddyer after wasting money on Papelbon, but to me that’s just par, not good. I’m not giving RAJ credit for not being as stupid as we thought he might be. I have objective standards, not subjective ones :P

  10. Bliz

    November 21, 2011 12:57 PM

    Phillie697 – in theory, of course what you are saying makes sense. However, practically speaking, what is the measurable difference between Ryan Howard and Jim Thome defensively? How many more runs does Howard save you over the course of a season? The reason I am asking is because I hear people saying that you can’t play Thome regularly at first base because of his defense. What I am asking is: what is this assumption based on? Is Thome’s defense that much worse than Howard’s (or Pujol’s or Fielder’s…)?

  11. Phillie697

    November 21, 2011 01:00 PM

    @Bliz,

    You’re forgetting one other factor… Playing Thome at 1B increase his chance of getting injured. He’s practically a grandpa in the game of baseball at this point. Whether or not he’s that much worse or not than Howard defensively, if he gets hurt, we’re even worse off. This was a concern for the Cards with Berkman this past year, hence why he was moved to RF. Well, that’s not exactly an option with Thome, since I think a turtle can move faster than Thome.

  12. hk

    November 21, 2011 01:04 PM

    Bliz,

    Thome hasn’t played defense in six years and while I can’t be sure of why others are assuming he can’t play defense, I assume they’re assumptions are based on the fact that, well, he hasn’t played defense in six years.

  13. Bliz

    November 21, 2011 01:08 PM

    Phillie697 – not sure the Cardinals anology works. Berkman not playing 1B probably had more to do with a guy named Pujols than injury concerns. For that matter, I would think you’re more likely to get hurt playing the outfield (running into the wall, diving for balls, etc) than playing first base. However, I agree that injuries are a concern for a 41 year old. I guess my question would become: how much playing time could/should Thome see at 1B this season?

  14. Phillie697

    November 21, 2011 01:17 PM

    @Bliz,

    The question at the beginning of the year, before they knew Freese is a stud, was whether to move Pujols to 3B, where he said he would be happy to move to (btw, this is one incident where a superior defender was NOT placed at a more premium defensive position; seems to have worked out well for the Cards). They decided that Berkman was better off at RF for injury reasons. You’d think RF is more dangerous injury-wise, but not to Berkman. He said for his back problems, he was more likely to get hurt at 1B than RF. Thome, coincidentally, has the same back problems :)

    Who knows how much Thome should play. I for one believes that he shouldn’t play everyday, but how much/little? I’ll leave that to people more in the know, except, well, I have no confidence in Charlie.

  15. hk

    November 21, 2011 01:21 PM

    Phillie697,

    Charlie and “the people more in the know” are mutually exclusive.

  16. Phillie697

    November 21, 2011 01:22 PM

    @hk,

    You have a point. Compared to Charlie, I just might be “a person more in the know.”

  17. Phillie697

    November 21, 2011 01:32 PM

    @hk,

    Oh to answer your question from the other post. Ty Wiggington wishes he is Rey Ordonez of corner IF. At least Ordonez can look fancy at times.

  18. hk

    November 21, 2011 01:39 PM

    My dreams of a value signing of Wilson Betemit have gone by the wayside.

  19. JB Allen

    November 21, 2011 02:28 PM

    Phillie697 –

    How about I’ll be clearer if you’ll be less condescening?

    If a SS’s glove matters more, than shouldn’t a bad SS cause a team to give up more runs than a bad 1B, unless that 1B is really a lot worse than that SS?

  20. KH

    November 21, 2011 03:26 PM

    Nothing anybody has pointed out so far supports Ty Wiggington as being a nice addition to the club. Being able to play several positions mediocrely to badly and being a mediocre to bad hitter, depending on where he is playing on the diamond is not enough for me at this point. I’m personally not chalking anything up for smuggy.

  21. Bill Baer

    November 21, 2011 03:40 PM

    I think the Phillies’ success over the last five years has warped some fans’ expectations. Just because Wigginton won’t hit 30 HR with 100 RBI doesn’t mean he’s not an adequate player, especially considering his cost. The Phillies don’t need to go out and get the absolute best players at every position to maintain their position in the National League.

  22. jauer

    November 21, 2011 04:11 PM

    “I think the Phillies’ success over the last five years has warped some fans’ expectations.”

    This.

  23. LTG

    November 21, 2011 05:09 PM

    My reason for claiming that Thome can’t start more than a couple times per week is that the articles about his acquisition said this and cited a source within the organization and gave the further reason that playing the field will wear him down. This is independent of defensive concerns.

  24. hk

    November 21, 2011 05:22 PM

    BB,

    What comments prompt your thought about the fans’ expectations? I think that those making negative comments towards this trade would have been outraged if RAJ had signed Cuddyer for $31.5M over 3 years. Actually, it seems to me that the two positives of the Wigginton trade are that it’s better than RAJ overpaying Cuddyer and that Wigginton is an upgrade over Michael Martinez. Are those really the bars against which we are measuring moves these days?

    Wigginton’s been worth -0.7 fWAR and -2.8 bWAR over the past 3 seasons and he’s at an age where we usually expect some degree of decline. While yes, I do prefer this deal to signing Cuddyer, I think they could have done better to wait and see who was non-tendered and tried to fill this spot through free agency.

  25. hk

    November 21, 2011 07:31 PM

    Other than signing Wilson Betemit from the free agent list, I would have liked to see RAJ wait until players are non-tendered. I wonder if the Rockies might have non-tendered Ian Stewart if they had been unable to trade Wigginton. I think Stewart would have been a worthwhile higher upside risk.

  26. Bill Baer

    November 21, 2011 07:43 PM

    Generally, I agree with being patient, but versatile players are a bit of an underpopulated market. By waiting, you don’t really increase your odds of getting a better deal or a better player. That’s why we’ve seen players like Jamey Carroll and Clint Barmes also get snapped up so fast.

    Stewart isn’t much better, if at all, than Wigginton and you’d have to assume his injury-plagued 2011 was just a fluke. He had recurring left knee and thigh problems early in the year.

    Also, I’m a bit skeptical about Wilson Betemit. He’s been quite good with the bat, but his BABIP was .361 in 2010 and .391 last year. I don’t see any indication in the batted ball data that he was making significantly better/harder contact.

    Over the last two years combined, Betemit has the highest BABIP of anyone in baseball. There were only four players within 20 points of him. If he’s not hitting, he’s not doing much as his defense is arguably as bad as Wigginton’s.

  27. Phillie697

    November 21, 2011 09:51 PM

    @BB,

    Even assuming you’re right about the relative scarcity of versatile bench players… What would have been the downside of waiting? Would the Rockies have been less willing to make the same trade, say, in Jan?

  28. Phillie697

    November 21, 2011 10:04 PM

    @JB Allen,

    When you’re not clear in what you’re trying to say, it’s hard for someone NOT to be condescending when they respond to you. They can either ignore you or try to point to what they don’t understand, which is what makes it condescending.

    But to answer your question now that I finally understand it… Majority of Wigginton’s playing time last year was at 3B, not 1B, so he’s had plenty more chances to “screw up” than you originally thought.

  29. Phillie697

    November 21, 2011 10:19 PM

    @BB,

    There is someone on that list who would be just as versatile (if not more) and probably cost the same, or maybe slightly more but I would be more than happy to pay for it:

    www.baseball-reference.com/players/i/infanom01.shtml

    About the same with the bat as Wigginton, but he’s at least competent as a defender. More than competent. He’s never played 1B before, but he’s played everywhere else, and I’m sure he can learn to play 1B if need be.

  30. Bill Baer

    November 21, 2011 10:35 PM

    Infante re-signed with the Marlins. Per Cot’s:

    2 years/$8M (2012-13)
    signed extension with Florida 9/27/11
    12:$4M, 13:$4M

  31. Phillie697

    November 22, 2011 12:39 AM

    Ugh.

  32. JB Allen

    November 22, 2011 10:29 AM

    Phillie697 –

    I’ll try to be clearer in the future. But just saying “I don’t understand your comment” or even “what the hell are you saying???” isn’t condescending. What you wrote was. Based on your previous comments, you’re smart enough to know the difference.

    Good point about where Wigginton played last year. Looking at Wigginton’s total zone fielding by position, he causes more trouble playing third than playing first. But even so, Wigginton’s career Rtot/yr at 1B is negative 11, while Jeter’s career Rtot/yr at SS is negative 8.

    I had read that Jeter was, at best, a below-average fielder who could go to his left about as well as Rush Limbaugh, which makes me think that either Jeter’s defense wasn’t so bad, or that Wigginton is pretty terrible. As I recall, you and others have previously pointed out Polanco’s value, noting that you have to take into account a player’s total skillset. Wigginton comes cheap, hits lefties fairly well, and can play several positions in a pinch. But if CM falls in love with Wigginton’s clutchy, child-delivering ways and plays him too much, I don’t think there will be a lot of savings with his contract.

  33. Phillie697

    November 22, 2011 11:27 AM

    @JB Allen,

    I do sometimes get a tad sarcastic. Comes from my scathing sense of humor. Meant no offense by it.

    In any case, as Utley and Rikpen and countless other great defensive infieders have proven in the past, great defense isn’t just about range. A lot of it has to do with positioning, i.e. being up on your scouting report about batters. Jeter may have terrible range, but perhaps he has decent positioning. All I know is, Jeter may not be an asset on the defensive side, but he’s not as much of a liability as most people think. Below average? Yes. Terrible? No, and he more than made up for it with his offense (over the course of his career, that is).

    As far as Wigginton… Like I said, I recognize his versatility, but a player can’t hit and can’t play even average defense no matter where we plug him doesn’t strike me as having much “total skillset.” To tell you the truth, I don’t know if he’s that much better than Michael Martinez, if at all. Martinez might be slightly worse offensively, but you figured he’s got to be better than he was last year, and Martinez plays decent defense, unlike Wigginton.

  34. hk

    November 22, 2011 01:06 PM

    JB Allen,

    I think that one source of your confusion may be caused by the fact that Jeter has won 5 of the last 8 AL Gold Glove Awards. Therefore, when you read criticisms of his defense, they are generally not saying that he is a horrible defender as much as they are saying that he is a below average defender who does not deserve to win the GG.

  35. JB Allen

    November 22, 2011 01:39 PM

    Phillie697 – I appreciate the response. My internets skin can be thin sometimes, but I need to get over it, as getting challenged makes me think harder. Catching snark from someone whose opinions I respect can be painful, even if (especially if) the snark may be deserved.

    hk and Phillie697 – Good point about Jeter. I do recall hearing about Jeter working to improve his positioning midway through his careers, and the baseball-reference fielding numbers seem to back this up.

    Any chance the Phillies could trade for Prado? According to Baseball Prospectus, he’s the National League’s Polanco!

  36. Phillie697

    November 22, 2011 01:56 PM

    @JB Allen,

    Well, considering that the Phillies are in the National League and Polanco is on the Phillies, I’m thinking Polanco is the National League’s Polanco.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist :)

  37. JB Allen

    November 22, 2011 03:22 PM

    Phillie697 – Yeah, the BP comment is a little outdated, but I still think it’s funny. Prado’s going to need a better glove and a year’s supply of Brain and Nerve Tonic to compare to Polanco.

  38. Phillie697

    November 22, 2011 07:42 PM

    @JB Allen,

    Well, all joking aside, Prado >>> Wigginton in pretty much every way. I would love to have Prado on the Phillies.

  39. JB Allen

    November 22, 2011 09:57 PM

    Phillie697 – I agree about Prado, although I don’t know what it would take. I’m guessing Brown, which doesn’t make sense for the Phillies unless Dom won’t ever get a chance to play full time.

  40. hk

    November 23, 2011 07:55 AM

    Bill,

    In the three seasons prior to last, Ian Stewart produced 3.8 fWAR / 2.9 bWAR in 1,236 PA’s (with a BABIP of .312). I would look past last year due to a combination of the injury, the small sample size (136 PA’s) and the .224 BABIP. If we expect a repeat of 2011, I agree we don’t want Stewart. If we expect some sort of results more in line with 2008 to 2010, which by the way were his age 23 to age 25 seasons, I would prefer a non-tendered Stewart (if he can be had for a comparable price) to Wigginton.

    For what it’s worth, Bill James projects a .331 wOBA for Betemit, a .329 wOBA for Stewart and a .315 wOBA for Wigginton in 2012, so being that Stewart is 4 years younger than Betemit, who’s 4 years younger than Wigginton, I do think there are (were) better options worth at least pursuing.

Next Article"Ty Wigginton Performs Under Pressure"