By now you've probably heard that the Phillies acquired veteran outfielder Michael Tucker from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for 19 year-old pitching prospect Kelvin Pichardo. The move represents a slight upgrade on the current big league bench, but a strong case can be made that Ed Wade passed up a better in-house option by not recalling Shane Victorino from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Tucker is a 34 year-old lefty hitter who has mostly struggled this year, batting .240 with a .689 OPS. He has done well in a pinch-hitting role, with 10 hits in 29 at-bats (plus four walks; Pat's and Geno's might sell vegetarian cheese steaks before you see Endy Chavez draw four pinch-walks). For his career, he's just a .252 pinch-hitter, but given that Tucker was more or less a full-time starter between reaching the big leagues for good in 1996 and 2004, this doesn't necessarily mean anything more than the good work he's done in the role this season. He can play all three outfield positions, though considering this is also true of Chavez and Jason Michaels, it's hard to see how this gives Charlie Manuel much added flexibility. (Indeed, it might just confuse him.) Finally, Tucker is finishing out a two-year contract; he'll be a free agent this November, and with a number of Phils outfielders (Victorino, Chris Roberson) ready for the majors, he presumably won't be back.
I don't know enough about Pichardo to offer any insight as to whether the Phils gave up too much to get a marginal guy like Tucker. I do know that I'd rather see him coming off the bench late in the game than Tomas Perez, who has been even worse as a pinch-hitter (6 for 33, .182 avg, .452 OPS) than he's been overall (.250, .595 OPS). But I'd rather have seen Victorino recalled than either of them. A switch-hitter, the 24 year-old Hawaii native is hot right now with an active 22-game hitting streak. Through Saturday, Victorino is batting .310 with 24 doubles, 16 triples (!!!) and 18 homers as well as 17 steals. That's a .911 OPS in his first full season at AAA.
The most frustrating aspect of Phillies phandom is the team's ongoing fixation with "veterans." No matter how many times David Bell falters, no matter how many Tim Worrells and Terry Adamses demonstrate they've got nothing left, and no matter how well green rookies like Ryan Madson in 2004 or Robinson Tejeda this year perform, the default thinking of Ed Wade is always that the guy with the smaller type on his baseball card is a better choice. The success of the Braves, with their rookie-laden roster, or the Marlins' winning it all two years ago with Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera in key roles at age 20, just doesn't seem to register.
FREE SHANE VICTORINO!!!