Remember when Juan Pierre was battling with Scott Podsednik to win the fifth outfielder spot on the Philadelphia Phillies’ 25-man roster in spring training? Remember when, at times, it seemed like Podsednik had a slight edge?
Well, after batting .308 in 97 games and eclipsing his stolen base total from last season in 54 fewer games, Pierre has arguably been one of the Phillies best offseason acquisitions.
But what happens after this season?
Pierre signed with the Phils prior to the start of spring training with a one-year, $800,000 deal.
As he draws closer to becoming a free agent once again, should the Phillies attempt to re-sign him to fill a similar bench role next season?
According to an article by Todd Zolecki on the Phillies’ website, manager Charlie Manuel thinks that the entire National League could have a place on their roster for Pierre next year.
“Juan Pierre is a very special player for you,” the manager said. “There are a lot of things you can do with him. He really plays big up in the National League. I think he’s a bigger National League player than he is in the American League. The older he gets, the more his age gets. He can definitely play longer being a National League player, I think.
“I can see a spot for him next year, yes sir. I can see a spot for him on about every National League team.”
At 35 years old, Pierre is batting .308 with 93 hits and 29 stolen bases in 97 games, but has batted .188 in 48 at-bats against left-handed pitching.
Pierre is another left-handed bat in the Phillies’ lineup, and does not have the strongest arm in the outfield. However, his consistency at the plate combined with his speed on the bases and leadership in the clubhouse make for attributes the Phillies’ roster could welcome next season.
After trading Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton, and with Placido Polanco potentially becoming a free agent, the Phils could have multiple new faces on their roster next season as they try to return to their winning ways.
So, should they attempt to re-sign Pierre in order to have another veteran presence in a clubhouse with new faces?
Pierre is a versatile player at the plate and on the base paths, as he can bunt for a hit and steal his way into scoring position. However, the Phillies have limited options for their batting lineup when he starts.
With Jimmy Rollins essentially locked into the leadoff spot (he’s batted .216 in74 at-bats from the three-spot), Pierre has batted primarily from the two-hole in the Phils’ lineup. From 2009-'11, Pierre had 1,507 at-bats from the leadoff spot and just 62 at-bats from the two-hole.
Rollins has batted .215 against left-handed pitchers this season, meaning that with Pierre in the lineup, the Phillies would have two very similar players at the top of the order.
Furthermore, where does Pierre fit in the Phillies’ outfield?
If Domonic Brown, Nate Schierholtz, Laynce Nix and John Mayberry, Jr. all return, and at the major league level, that would only leave one available outfield spot. However, chances are very high that the Phillies will try to acquire at least one, if not two outfielders during the offseason.
If the Phillies add two outfielders, it could be hard to find a roster spot for Pierre. If just one is added, the team may have to decide between Mayberry, who can also play first base, and Pierre for a final outfield spot.
However, a transaction involving Mayberry, Nix or Schierholtz could easily result in the Phillies having an open roster spot for Pierre, if he chose to re-sign.
Having an experienced player whose strikeout and walk totals are nearly identical, and less than 20, would give the Phillies’ bench another great advantage next season.
Pierre’s performance this season has made him more than simply a bench player. Rather than a player who can pinch hit or run late in games or serve as spot-starter to give someone a rest, Pierre has proven he can fill in for extended periods of time should an injury arise, while starting three to four times per week regardless.
A lot could depend on the money he is looking for, as well as the other roster additions the Phillies make.
Pierre has already gone from a player who was signed just prior to the start of spring training, to someone who is already on the Phillies’ radar before the offseason even begins.
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