Tuesday, January 10, 2006

All Tuckered Out

If you're reading this, chances are you already know that Michael Tucker was signed by Jim Bowden yesterday. I'm only 23 hours or so late to the party.

I'm not thrilled with the Tucker signing, but it's a lot like most of Jim Bowden's other signings. They're like finding a penny on the street corner. It's great that you've found something, and it's great that it's free. But when it comes down to it, it's probably not even worth your time to bend over and pick it up.

Tucker's contract is for one year, and it's non-guaranteed -- just as Jamey Carroll's is. I don't think I've really seen a non-guaranteed deal before, but essentially (and thanks to NFA for looking this up), it means that the team can cut him in spring training while only being on the hook for 30 or 45 days worth of pay (depending on the timing of the release). Teams can do that with arbitration eligibles, as well.

Tucker's not a wretched player. But he just had a miserable season. That instills confidence, huh? The gamble will be whether his crappy .239/ .318/ .362 season (wow, that sucked more than I thought!) is the beginning of the end for the not-so springy chicken, or whether it was just a fluke. The Nats will have spring training to decide.

Offensively, Tucker should never face a left-handed pitcher. In fact, he shouldn't even gaze in the direction of one from the comfort of the dugout. Over the last three seasons, he's hit just .223/ .290/ .336 against them. (That's roughly what Cristian Guzman batted against right-handed pitchers)

But against righties, he's a beast -- assuming you can stretch "beast" to within an inch of its life. .262/ .349/ .427 ain't much, but it beats the green kindling that was our bench last year. Put him in a platoon (and I'm only advocating this if Ryan Church gets hit by a bus)with Marlon Byrd, who hit .290/ .343/ .416 versus lefties in that same period, and you actually have a little bit of production out of an outfield slot.

Defensively, Tucker can play center. He's not especially good, but if you have to throw him out there when Church gets suspended for a week for ticking off some religious group, he won't kill you. He's capable (read: meh) at the corner slots.

All things considered (can you read that without hearing NPR's godawful jingle?), he's a pretty good fifth outfielder.

But, and there's always a but on this team, how does he fit in? He's another left-handed bat on a bench that already has Marlon Anderson and Robert Fick coming off it. The aforementioned Anderson and Fick, as well as Byrd, Jackson, and the Ladson-pimped Brandon Watson all can play the outfield.

What is Tucker adding that any of those aren't already providing?

The bench, after Sledge went down, was tremendously bad. I recently did a replay of the Nats season with Diamond Mind, and I had to use all my will power to not use Livan as a pinch-hitter. There were days that Cristian Guzman and Jeffrey Hammonds were literally Frank's best choices. There's no telling how much better pinch hitting could have meant to the Nats. Not all pinch hits would come in meaningful situations, but the Nats had so few real big PH ABs, that even a marginal improvement could've meant a few more games in the standings, or some relief on a gassed bullpen.

The bench that Bowden has assembled is versatile -- perfect for the National League. And it provides a decent amount of power, and is flexible enough to give the team some options in the late innings for optimal matchups.

In that thought, Tucker isn't a bad signing. But, again, it's Michael Tucker. Like the penny, is he really worth bending over for?


  • Jim Bowden has used the non-guaranteed contract before. On 12/11/02 Jose Guillen was signed by the Reds to a non-guaranteed contract

    By Blogger Brian, at 1/11/2006 7:52 AM  

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