Phillies beat writers reported last night that Phillies GM, Ruben Amaro Jr., plans to tender a contract to 1B/OF John Mayberry, Jr.
Actual quote on Mayberry “I would assume (we’d tender a contract). We haven’t made any final decisions. But I’d view him as a tender.”
— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) November 12, 2013
Mayberry is entering his first year of arbitration and by tendering him a contract, the organization would either agree on a salary with JMJ or, if they can’t reach an agreement, a salary would be assigned in an arbitration hearing. The Phillies could then either keep, cut or trade him, but if they cut him, they would still be required to pay him 10% of the agreed upon salary. For example, if an arbiter decided Mayberry’s salary should be $1.5M, the Phillies must pay him $150,000 even if they cut him before the season begins. This is relatively insignificant money in regards to baseball finances, but the decision to tender Mayberry a contract would have one other key impact on the Phillies this off-season: using up a 40-man roster slot. If extending his Phillies tenure, JMJ must remain on the 40 man roster this winter and, consequently, someone else would have to be left off that roster. This means a Phillies minor leaguer would be left unprotected and potentially be claimed by another organization. Is Amaro right to believe that a 30-year old coming off the worst season of his career might still be worthy of occupying a valuable 40-man roster spot?
On the surface, Mayberry’s career split lines indicate a solid platoon candidate with notable power, which is certainly a profile that could provide value to a Major League roster:
- Career: .245/.304/.430, .734 OPS
- vs. LHP: .274/.321/.526, .884 OPS
- vs. RHP: .228/.295/.373, .668 OPS
If Mayberry was in a position to truly serve in a platoon role and face left-handed pitching exclusively, that .884 OPS line is mighty attractive. Here’s the problem, Mayberry’s production has been on a steady decline in each of the three years he’s received semi-regular playing time. His slash line vs. LHP:
- 2011: 120 PA .306/.358/.595, .953 OPS
- 2012: 180 PA .271/.317/.494, .811 OPS
- 2013: 108 PA .240/.296/.460, .756 OPS
There are three possible reasons: his skills are declining, pitchers have figured him out, or it’s simply a matter of small sample size variation. Regardless of the reason, when a guy whose sole purpose on a team is to hit left handed pitching fails to do so, it’s safe to say that’s a substantial knock on his value.
I’m the first to say that JMJ’s struggles are not completely his fault. Due to injuries and poor management, Mayberry has been forced into roles that did not allow him to maximize his talents. He’s not a natural center fielder nor does he have the athleticism to succeed at the position, but he’s played 818 1/3 innings in center over the past two seasons. Additionally, injuries and a lack of roster depth forced him into an everyday starter role and caused him to face right handed pitching much more frequently than is optimal. To me, the most damning statistic of JMJ’s time with the Phillies is the percentage of his total plate appearances which came against left-handed pitching:
- 2011: 40.5%
- 2012: 37.5%
- 2013: 28.1%
Last season nearly three-fourths of JMJ’s 384 plate appearances came against right handed pitching. While this was a by-product of the failed Delmon Young experiment and Ben Revere’s injury, management should never have put Mayberry in that position. Setting up players to fail is inexcusable and irresponsible. A responsible organization would utilize his skills, put him in a position to succeed and, if he still failed to hit lefties, mercifully let him go. Oh that platoon-happy Oakland could’ve employed Mayberry but, alas, he was stuck with Philadelphia, an organization that did him terribly, terribly wrong.
The newly acquired Marlon Byrd is 6 years Mayberry’s senior, but there’s no doubt he slots ahead of JMJ in the right-handed outfield bat depth chart. With Byrd’s presence, a successful 2013 season by the right-handed 1B/OF Darin Ruf, and the likelihood of further outfield signings or trades, Mayberry no longer has a clear role on the Phillies roster and his stats are trending in a decidedly negative direction. In the worst case scenario for JMJ, it’s still likely another team will offer him a minor league contract in hopes he once again demonstrates an ability to dominate left-handed pitching and hopefully, for his sake, his new team utilizes him appropriately. Who knows, maybe when the majority of his at bats come against lefties he’ll regain confidence and once again be a valuable piece of a Major League roster. I genuinely hope that happens for him, but there’s no use pretending it’ll happen in Philadelphia. It’s time to set him free and find another poor innocent soul to protect on the 40-man roster.