Ruben Amaro Sees Value in John Mayberry

The Phillies tendered contracts to a handful of arbitration-eligible players yesterday, including outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. It wasn’t all that surprising even though some were suggesting he should have been non-tendered. Mayberry earned $517,000 in 2013 and is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, meaning the Phillies will have a relatively affordable right-handed bat with power for up to three more years.

Per Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, Amaro took the opportunity to praise Mayberry even though he has posted a sub-.700 OPS in each of the past two seasons while playing below-average defense and providing very little in the way of base running.

“He’s a lot more valuable than I guess people think,” Amaro said. “Part of the equation is whether he’s viewed as an everyday player or not. Well, I don’t believe he’s an everyday player. I see him as fill-in-in-a-pinch guy. He’s got versatility. He can play first base and all three outfield positions. That versatility and the fact that he’s got some power are all things in our estimation that are pluses. He can be a role player on a team that can win.

“And it’s not like he’s an expensive player in this day and age. There is value in a guy who makes $1.5 million or something in that range.”

Everything Amaro said there is accurate. Mayberry is not starter-caliber; he is an ideal platoon partner in the outfield or at first base. The only problem is that the Phillies had some ideal situations to use Mayberry in specifically that way and Amaro either did not realize it or ignored it. The Phillies could have tendered Nate Schierholtz a contract prior to the 2013 season and paired him with Mayberry in right field. They could have spelled Ryan Howard against left-handed starters by starting Mayberry at first base. But instead, the Phillies gave Delmon Young a starting job in right field and continued to let Howard fail against lefties.

The percentage of plate appearances in which Mayberry has had the platoon advantage (in other words, faced left-handed pitchers) has declined since he became a part-time player, dropping from 41 percent in 2011 to 38 percent in 2012 to 28 percent this past season. Mayberry posted a .626 OPS against right-handers in 2012 and .646 last season.

Unless the front office has had some “Eureka!” moment as it pertains to platoon philosophy, it’s hard to imagine Amaro’s defense of Mayberry being anything more than lip service. Mayberry could be a legitimate 1 WAR player getting 200 plate appearances per season mostly against left-handers, but based on recent history, the Phillies would counteract any good Mayberry does against southpaws by also giving him a comparatively significant amount of playing time against same-handed pitchers, dragging his value down to replacement level and below. Since 2011, Mayberry has been worth 1.1, 0.6, and -1.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference. That, by definition, is not value.

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