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JUAN for the Money…25 for the Show…

Posted By Christopher Rowe On Jan 27 2012 @ 3:42 pm In Philadelphia Phillies | 2 Comments

Well, the Phillies first move of the offseason was a huge splash – signing Jonathan Papelbon to the tune of $50 M/4 years. Ever since then there have been a succession of more obscure, lesser marquee names inking deals (Jim Thome, Dontrelle Willis, Ty Wiggington, Lance Nix). Philadelphia’s real Dream Team seems to be taking shape and will debut in the shadows of the failed Eagles 8-8 2011 season. Between now and Opening Day lie two months of Spring Training and whittling that roster down from 40 to 25.

Parlez-vous français, Juan Pierre?

The Phillies have officially signed speedy veteran OFJuan Pierre to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Pierre will likely compete with Lance Nix, Ty Wigginton and John Mayberry for the starting left fielder spot. Look for a lot of action for Pierre, Nix, Wigginton and Domonic Brown in Spring Training. Ruben Amaro claims this should be his final free agent acquisition barring injury or major mishap, as the team is nearing its $179 million luxury tax threshold

Juan Pierre, 34, batted .279 as the everyday leadoff hitter and left fielder for the White Sox last season – playing . He hit 2 HR, stole 27 bases and was thrown out 17 times with 80 runs scored in 711 plate appearance. In 2010, Pierre stole 68 bags for Chicago in 86 attempts and averages 51 thefts over his 12 year career. Also appealing is Pierre’s durability, averaging 695 plate appearances per season over his career. The Phils allowed Raul Ibanez to depart as a free agent this offseason, and it appeared at the outset that John Mayberry Jr. would inherit that spot in left field based on his .309 AVG with 10 HR and 34 RBIs in his last 149 at-bats of the season.

The exodus has also included Roy Oswalt, Ryan Madson, Ross Gload and Brad Lidge, who recently signed a deal to play in Washington with former teammate Jayson Werth. Earlier this week, recently re-signed Wilson Valdez was shipped to Cincinnati in exchange for lefty reliever Jeremy Horst. Valdez will join Ryan Madson who signed a one year deal for $8.5 M.

Incumbent Mayberry still has the inside track for the open left field spot (there was speculation that Raul Ibanez might return), but the competition for playing time just became more difficult. While talented-but-raw 24-year-old Domonic Brown may very well have a full season at Lehigh Valley (AAA) to polish his skills, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently that Brown could still play his way onto the big league roster with an impressive spring. If that is true the home dugout at Citizen’s Bank Park may need to be expanded to accommodate all the solid bench players.

Amaro also signed veteran OF Laynce Nix, who has been used primarily against right-handed pitching throughout his career. Jim Thome will play some 1B and be a late-innings pinch hitter after Ryan Howard returns from injury, while Mayberry, Wigginton, Brian Schneider and Michael Martinez would round out the bench.

The addition of Pierre adds another wrinkle to the outfield platoon situation and potentially gives manager Charlie Manuel several lineup options that will benefit his veteran team. Pierre has 554 career stolen bases, the most of any active player, and ranks 26th on the all-time list, three behind Davey Lopes. In the last 11 years, Pierre has 1,958 hits, fifth most among all players. He would be able to spell Shane Victorino in center and could also add speed to the top of the order when Jimmy Rollins has a day off.

Pierre has not been a role player before, sporting a streak from 2001-2007 where he missed a grand total of just 15 games – and played in all 162 from 2003-2007). That 2003 season included a Florida Marlins World Championship which meant 17 additional games. In 2008 and 2009, Pierre’s Dodgers faced the Phillies in the NLCS en route to Philadelphia’s World Series appearances. It is likely that Pierre will be given every chance to win the starting left field spot as this would ensure Domonic Brown a full dose of Lehigh Valley. It also could speak to the organization’s dissatisfaction with another former White Sox, Scott Podsednik.

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