Three Reasons For/Against the Phillies’ Signing of Scott Podsednik

Posted by Mike Frohwirth

On Sunday, the Phillies announced the signing of veteran outfielder Scott Podsednik, to a minor league contract. It is anticipated that he will be assigned to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (AAA), but no associated roster move has been announced yet.´╗┐ Most of Podsednik's limited value comes from his speed, which has diminished with age, and as a result of recent foot problems. He was released from the Blue Jays' AAA squad, where he posted an unimpressive .254/.366/.356 split. Only four of his hits (in seventy-one AAA plate appearances) were for extra bases (two doubles/two triples).

Three Reasons For the Podsednik Signing:

  1. Podsednik comes cheap. No assets were sacrificed to acquire him, and his salary will be minimal.
  2. The Phillies' depth at the AAA level is horrendous. Delwyn Young, Cory Sullivan, and Matt Miller are not particularly viable MLB options, and may actually be only marginal AAA options.
  3. If the Phillies have a AAA outfielder opting out of his contract in the near future, Podsednik would be a decent AAA replacement.

Three reasons against the Podsednik signing:

  1. ´╗┐Podsednik does not provide much offensively. He is a singles hitter, with negligible power. He may provide a decent batting average, with sufficient BABIP luck (.297 average in 2010, aided by a .338 BABIP (lifetime BABIP: .322)), but it will be an empty batting average (wOBA in 2010 was a mediocre .323).
  2. Podsednik does not provide much defensively. Assuming that his foot is at 100%, which it probably isn't, he is a below/well below average fielder. He has a very weak arm, so he is a very poor choice for right field. When healthy, he has good speed, but his poor route-taking/defensive instincts render him a below average center fielder. Podsednik is pretty much a left fielder at this stage, a weak defensive left fielder. A singles-hitting left fielder, who is below average defensively, doesn't have much value. (As evidenced by the lack of interest in Podsednik, during his offseason free agency.) Podsednik's UZR/150 in 2010, as a left fielder was a -10.7, the 14th worst mark in MLB.
  3. If Podsednik is healthy, he is a fast baserunner. But he is also an incredibly poor baserunner. The break-even point for base-stealing is 70%. If you are not successful 70% of the time, you are better off not trying to steal. In 2010, Podsednik was successful exactly 70% of the time (35 SB/15 CS). In 2009, Podsednik was successful 70% of the time (30 SB/13 CS). So Podsednik's best ability is his baserunning, with which he adds nothing to the team? No, it's actually much, much worse than that. Many of Podsednik's caught stealings have been classified as "pickoffs." In 2010, Podsednik had five pickoffs, while in 2009 he was picked off eleven times. If you include Podsednik's pickoffs, he has been actively hurting his teams on the basepaths.

Who could Podsednik viably replace?

After Brandon Moss, who is the only adequate AAA outfielder, there is a mess of mediocrities (Delwyn Young, Cory Sullivan, Matt Miller). Podsednik fits right in with the mediocre group.

As for MLBers, Shane Victorino, John Mayberry, and Domonic Brown all provide more than Podsednik is likely to provide. Ben Francisco has been exposed in a starting role, but he is still a better option than Podsednik, at this point in their respective careers.´╗┐

On the other hand, Raul Ibanez has been a disaster in 2011. Ibanez has a .361 SLG, and a .295 wOBA, which are both horrendous, particularly considering his defensive position. As for defensive ability/range, Ibanez has none. In the last year of his contract, Ibanez' position in the starting lineup is certainly far from safe. While Moss would be a better choice than Podsednik for the MLB roster, Podsednik would also be an upgrade over Ibanez.

Ross Gload is, ostensibly, an outfielder. However, Phils' Manager Charlie Manuel appears to have no confidence in Gload's defensive ability. All of Gload's value comes at the plate, where he only has a .303 SLG (.271 wOBA). Moss and Podsednik would both be upgrades over Gload, who's contract also expires after this season.

Michael Martinez doesn't belong in MLB. His batting stats are too offensive to post on a family-oriented blog. As the second backup infielder, he isn't in danger of losing his roster spot to Moss or Podsednik (both of whom are far superior hitters). However, it was inexplicable that Martinez was retained over Pete Orr, and AAAers Kevin Frandsen, Ronnie Belliard, and Brian Bocock would also be upgrades over Martinez.

What was the point in signing Podsednik?

Depth. Insurance. Podsednik is a very flawed player, but the Phils' current reserve outfielders are also very flawed. Podsednik is a decent, cost-effective insurance policy. Hopefully, Ibanez and Gload will improve enough to keep Podsednik in the minor leagues.