In 2021, when Didi Gregorius spent so much time on the injured list for pseudogout, the team was put in a tough place. They didn’t really have much depth in the minors that was ready to contribute at the big league level, their top prospect at the position was still a year away and their major league bench options were “shortstops” in name only. Forced to choose, the team gave Nick Maton a shot at the job, but Joe Girardi’s allergy to using younger players to which the only cure is a steady diet of “professional hitter veterans” meant Maton had a short leash. When he wasn’t able to convince the team, they were then forced to try out Ronald Torreyes at the spot. All he was able to give the team was a 68 wRC+ and an OPS that barely broke .630.
When Rhys Hoskins went down, they luckily had players like Brad Miller available, but he was also being used in other positions as well. J.T. Realmuto was an option at first, but that meant Andrew Knapp was getting regular plate appearances. Put it all together and the team saw a weakness that had to be addressed this offseason.
They had to have players capable of giving them major league quality plate appearances at different positions without being trapped by sub replacement level players. With the lockout in place and transactions being frozen, the team cannot add players to put right onto the major league roster, but that hasn’t prevented them from giving out minor league deals in the hopes that something might come of them.
The past two days has seen them give out minor league deals to Yairo Munoz and Josh Ockimey, two players that it wouldn’t surprise if they saw some time in Philadelphia this coming season.
First, Munoz. The big question with him, as well as Johan Camargo (who was signed earlier this offseason) is: can they play shortstop? That’s usually the quickest and best way to snagging a bench position since it’s really hard to find. They both had very good minor league seasons at the plate, so that question isn’t really the one that needs answering.
Camargo (AAA Gwinnett): 436 PA, .326/.401/.557, 19 HR, 72:47 K:BB
Munoz (AAA Worcester): 374 PA, .308/.340/.444, 8 HR, 53:17 K:BB
Can they handle shortstop if something were to happen to both Gregorius and Stott?
Obviously, that’s the nightmare scenario. Something happens to Gregorius - ineffectiveness, injury, etc. - and he no longer becomes tenable there while at the same time, something catastrophic happens to Stott - injury, regression, etc. Having players like Camargo and Munoz, though not earth shattering, helps the team give protection to themselves in case these things both happen. They aren’t Carlos Correa- or Trevor Story-type level signings to shore up the shortstop position, but they are the kinds of signings that make a team good, the ones that give them the depth to withstand just about anything.
Ockimey is a different story. His 2021 season in Worcester wasn’t as good as Munoz, but he did provide 15 HR in 360 plate appearances for them, giving the slightest whiff of upside since he’s still only 26 years old. He strikes out a ton (a whopping 117 in those 360 PA), but with the DH likely coming to the National League in 2022, he at least gives them an option to turn to if something were to happen to Rhys Hoskins this year.
Again, these aren’t moves that make a team a contender. They are moves that simply give the team more options. The positive about them is that these are the moves that we didn’t see the past few years, the ones that lengthen the roster. We hope they aren’t given too many major league plate appearances since that would mean something has gone very wrong. But at least there isn’t the same dropoff like there has been in the past.