In danger of overthinking third base, perhaps the answer is right under the Phillies' noses.
Late February is usually the toughest time to generate interesting content. Hot stove season is over. The reports suggest Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phils are done tinkering. Games haven’t started. Players are doing jumping jacks and shagging balls. So the challenge is to generate thought-provoking content based on nothing in particular. The papers spend hundreds in travel and lodging expenses to solve this dilemma. Here, we spin the dial. Today, it lands on Greg Dobbs.
Dobbs is caught in a Catch 22. As the league’s premier pinch hitter, he’s extremely valuable off the bench. At the same time, his .846 OPS against righties – who the Phillies face 70-80 percent of the time – is awfully tempting to unleash in a more robust way at third base. Dobbs, 30, signed a generous two-year, $2.5 million extension in January, a salary that honestly goes beyond that of your ordinary bench player, especially one who was arbitration eligible for the first time. So as the Phillies figure out what to do at third base if Pedro Feliz isn’t ready, perhaps the best solution is to offer more starts to Dobbs, who didn’t exactly hurt the team when he started many games during the 2007 season. In fact, the Phils posted a rather good winning percentage in his starts.
Dobbs isn’t as one-dimensional as he seems. Before 2008, I would have said “dead-red fastball hitter,” but that may not be entirely accurate. According to the Phillies 2009 Annual, edited by yours truly, Dobbs was a .476 hitter when pitched a curveball last season. (The Annual is spectacular, by the way. More information on that later).
In other words ... you pay this guy a guaranteed $2.5 million. He hits when given a chance. He won’t murder you defensively. Is it worth giving him more than just 10 plate appearances a season against left-handed pitching, rather than settle for lightweights like Miguel Cairo, Eric Bruntlett, or even start the clock on Jason Donald, who’s unproven at the position?
Links: Check out my spring training pitching preview here.