Welcome to another edition of Ruben Tuesdays: A weekly look back at the greatest moves made by the Phillies’ former general manager Ruben Amaro. While we still wait and hope that the team signs a major free agent, today’s move reminds us that sometimes less-heralded free agent signings can work out well.
Coming off a 102-win season, the 2012 Phillies had more holes than you might expect, one of the more prominent being left field. Raul Ibanez had departed as a free agent, and while John Mayberry, Jr. was given first crack at replacing him, the Phillies rightfully wanted a few other options. While not all of the players they brought in that offseason (Remember Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton?) were successes, one of the moves did work out pretty well.
Juan Pierre was a 12-year veteran best known for his speed. He had led his league in stolen bases three times, and at age 34, he was still regarded as one of the fastest players in the league. Amaro signed him to a one-year deal, figuring that his speed would be a solid addition to the team’s bench.
As the season progressed, Pierre’s role became larger than expected. Mayberry got off to a slow start, and soon, left field became a platoon situation. Pierre received the majority of at bats against right handed pitchers, and performed more than adequately. He batted .307 with a .351 on base percentage, and even chipped in a game-winning hit:
There are mixed reports on how good his defense was (FanGraphs is especially negative), although it blows my mind how a player as fast as Pierre could be so bad defensively. Ben Revere often took poor routes and had a weak arm, but he compensated by covering so much ground.
Amaro had a reputation for not being able to adequately fill in the margins of a roster, but Pierre was a clear exception. If he had joined the team a year earlier, he’d likely be regarded as a solid supporting piece of a division-winning team. But with so many injuries at the top of the 2012 Phillies roster, Pierre was ultimately a largely forgotten part of a disappointing team.