The 2012 Phillies were not devoid of talent. Stars like Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz were still around and playing at a high level. But if you’ve got good players at the top of the roster and are still just a .500 team, that means you’ve got some bad players at the bottom weighing things down.
The Phillies had no shortage of bad players in 2012. Nate Schierholtz, Dom Brown, John Lindblom, B.J. Rosenberg, Joe Savery, Chad Qualls, and the incomparable Michael Martinez all spent time on the 2012 roster, putting up negative wins above replacement. Sadly, some former positive contributors like Ryan Howard, Joe Blanton, and Antonio Bastardo were also in the red. But none of those players led the team in negative WAR.
Who did “lead” the team in that regard? Readers with any sense of inference will know by the title of this article that it was utility man Ty Wigginton. That’s right, Ty Wigginton, at -1.4 WAR was less valuable than Michael Martinez, mostly because Martinez’s defense was rated as adequate, while - as I’ll mention later - Wigginton’s was not.
As part of the offseason quest to replace Howard’s production in the lineup while he rehabbed from injury, the team traded for Ty Wigginton in exchange for the ever-popular cash considerations.
At first glance, it was a reasonable move. Wigginton was a ten-year veteran who made the All-Star team in 2010 and had hit 20+ home runs in four different seasons. He was also versatile, with experience at third base, second base, first base, and the outfield. That seemed valuable with Chase Utley’s status in doubt, and Placido Polanco showing his age at third.
Phillies get quality bench depth for Howard and Polanco in acquisition of Wigginton from Rockies in Sunday deal and how bout them Cowboys!— Jim Bowden⚾️ (@JimBowdenGM) November 21, 2011
Sounded good in theory. But let’s just say that Wigginton didn’t make the All-Star team in 2012.
He put up a slash line of .235/.314/.375 which was rather underwhelming from a player who was supposed to help replace Howard in the lineup. And then there was his defense. Wigginton is one of those players who is considered versatile because he can play multiple positions on the diamond, but unfortunately, he can’t play any of them well.
His outfield defense wasn’t great, but there’s only so much damage you can do in left field. But when he played third base, he was downright dreadful. In 22 games at third, he committed eight errors, a rate which almost makes Alec Bohm’s 2021 season look decent.
The strangest part of Wigginton’s 2012 season was that he did have some positive moments:
Last time a Phillies 3B & SS homered in the same inning? You'll never guess. Jimmy Rollins and...Ty Wigginton! (6/6/12 - 5th inning vs LA)— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) June 4, 2017
Harper on Sunday: 2B, HR, 2 BB— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) April 1, 2019
He’s the 3rd Phillies hitter to have all of that in a single game since 2007. The other two? Phillies legends Tommy Joseph (2017) and Ty Wigginton (2012)
Ty Wigginton - Phillies pic.twitter.com/unUKG8woGg— Random Philly Athletes (@PhillyRandom) March 8, 2021
Wigginton actually helped produce the Phillies’ lone run on Opening Day. But those good moments were isolated oases in the dessert of despair that was the majority of his season.
You might think that a -1.4 WAR season at age 34 would have been the end of his career, but after the Phillies declined to pick up a team option for 2013, the Cardinals signed him. (“Versatility” is a heck of a drug.) After he batted just .158 in 47 games, the Cardinals sent him packing as well. He was invited to Spring Training by the Marlins the following year, but failed to make the team, marking the end of his Major League career.
After his playing career ended, Wigginton moved on to coaching high school baseball. His versatility should allow him to teach his wards how to play multiple positions. For their sake, let’s hope that some of them can play those positions better than their coach did.